By Evan Pyle

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths,
where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
But they said, We will not walk therein.
(Jeremiah 6:16)


In our era of moral relativism this cry from the prophet is especially fitting. The Western church, in particular, long ago abandoned the “old paths,” seeking to put forward a gospel that is relevant to modern life. But in so doing she has cut her moorings to the unchanging truths that serve as our anchor of the soul. And so the Church finds herself adrift, seeking an identity that was lost beyond the horizon. In seeking to remove restraints to the moving of the Holy Spirit, she has instead removed the rule of God and replaced it with doing what seems profitable, exciting and “now.” Instead of walking in godly freedom, the flock is led to walking in the false freedom of rebellion.

2 Peter 2:10:
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

The unfortunate state of the Church has led sincere individual Christians astray. They, too, have drifted from the old paths into something seemingly contemporary. Believers do not want to be restricted in their worship or in their personal relationship with God. And so they find themselves dictating the grounds and terms for having their personal relationship with the Almighty. Moses, though, walked in the old paths when he met with the Lord. In their relationship, it was the Lord who dictated the grounds and terms on which they would meet.

Exodus 3:5:
And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

What are the “old paths” to which the prophet is calling us? It is that first love of the heart of every Christian. Do you remember the purity of how you began in the faith? You were free at last from the bondage of sin, exhilarated by Jesus’ love and walking with your feet ten feet above the ground. As the hymn declares “All the world seemed to sing of a Savior and Lord when peace sweetly came to my heart.” Blessed peace! That elusive thing that always escaped you no matter how hard you tried, now flooded your being. Yet, in time, your feet returned to earth and over time, ever so gradually, your love for Jesus grew cold. Even though the Lord is just a prayer away, he somehow seems so far away and unreachable.

Jacob had an encounter with the Lord when he was in fear of meeting his brother Esau. The great change that God wrought in Jacob’s heart was indicated by the angel’s announcement. “And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). Yet, Jacob strayed from his calling. Through Jacob, the Bible paints a beautiful picture of returning to the old paths.

Genesis 35:1-4:
And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.
4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

Returning to the old paths involves putting away those things that have stolen away our worship of God. It’s not too late to make the change now. Jacob had a personal encounter with the Lord, received a mighty call of God, yet his household had turned to worship other gods. Given Jacob’s history and his failure to live up to the call of God, one could easily conclude that he had thrown it all away and was no longer fit to serve the One True God. But like a Good Shepherd, the Lord knows those who are his and he patiently and insistently calls them back to the right way. Our challenge as Christians is how we are going to respond to this call. When Jacob returned, the first thing he did was to get rid of the unclean thing. He commanded his household to be clean and change their garments.

Isaiah 64:6:
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Isaiah 61:10:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

Adam and Eve attempted to make for themselves coverings or garments of their own hands. Though they were of fig leaves, to the Lord they were as filthy rags. Only by the hand of God and the shedding of blood can we be clothed in a robe of righteousness. God is constantly calling his own to repentance. To walk humbly before God, admitting our sins and seeking true cleansing for our sins is to return to the old paths.

1 John 1:8-9:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

By confession and forgiveness must the saints of God be washed and properly clothed in Godly garments. Only then are we truly free to serve God fully out of the abundance of what he’s given us. May we walk a walk of humble repentance, following those old paths that have been made clear by the steps of Jesus, Paul and many other saints who have gone on before us.



From the December 2005 issue of The Vine & Branches