MICAH LYLE, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
God desires to make manifest ancient realities in the lives of people today. After all, it was said of Jesus, “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old.” God gives a very particular command to His people in Jeremiah 6: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.’”1
Well, ancient is something that’s very old, and that points back to the beginning, to the Garden in Eden, where God walked with man. My proposal is that the ancient paths are the paths God reveals to his people to take them back to the beginning, to the Garden of Eden, to the place of unhindered and daily fellowship and communion with God.
What I want to show you is that, in a world where people are constantly looking for new technology, new innovations, and new ways of doing things and living life, the best kind of life is not found in something that is new or innovative, but rather found in something ancient, found in walking an ancient path that is available to anyone.
Before we start looking at what the ancient paths are, let’s get some historical background of how the ancient world viewed time and reality. For the Hebrew culture (the culture the Old Testament of the Bible was written to), time was not linear (like most Americans would think of it), but was rather circular. Hence the beginning would match the end. Therefore what is ancient is also what is going to be in the future, and I believe that’s what Solomon was touching upon.2
What is it in the beginning, in the ancient way that holds the key to the best kind of life? Well, it was in the beginning that the Lord walked with Adam, and Adam got to live every moment in complete joy, peace, and love. Adam was created and then put into the “Garden in Eden.” Eden means delight or pleasure. Adam is not just the name for a man, but also the proper name in Hebrew for mankind. There’s an incredible yet profound design to be gleaned from this: God created man to live in pleasure, in delight!
Consider Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”3 Fullness of joy, pleasures forevermore, might sound more like a fantasy than real life to most people, sometimes even especially Christians who have been taught that the Christian life is mostly about suffering, self-denial, crucifixion, and perseverance. While it’s true those are all large components of the Christian life, they’re actually all gateways back to the beginning, to these simple words: Pleasure, love, and delight. Suffering may be part of the path, but the destination is Eden.
So, how do we begin to walk this path? We must begin with how we got off the path in the first place. It was only after Adam rejected God’s rule over his life out of a desire to become “wise” and “like God” by his own actions, that he fell into corruption. However, God already had a plan for redemption, for restoration of humanity, through His son, Jesus. Jesus was “life, and that life was the light of men.”4 Jesus came to give us “eternal life,” and the Bible says that eternal life is to intimately know God, and his Son Jesus.
So when we go back to the beginning, we’re going back to eternal life. Jesus is “The alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.”5 So the beginning is encoded not in a time frame, but in a person, whose name is Christ, the expressed image of the invisible God. In order to go back to the beginning, you must go through the Person who IS the beginning. Through receiving salvation through Jesus, being co-crucified with him, we die to this world, and the other world, the world from the beginning, the world we lost because of sin and corruption, is the world we get to enter back into through Jesus, to the reality and simplicity of fellowship with the Father. Jesus is the way to the Father. He’s the way back to Eden, back to bliss, back to pleasure and living life day by day out of relationship with God and constant fellowship and connection with the Father.
There are stumbling blocks and pitfalls that keep us from walking the ancient paths, though. Revisiting Jeremiah 6:16 with the end of the verse included: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’’”6 Why did they refuse? Reading a few verses before, we find that the people were greedy and full of deceit and wickedness. They were offered the “good way,” but they refused, because in their minds they already had their pleasure. They had their sexual immorality, they had their bellies full of food, they had plenty of possessions, and they wanted even more of what they already had (greed). They didn’t listen to the words of God and rejected God’s law, they took offense at the word of the Lord.
However, God’s laws were not given to the people just because God is God and wanted to throw in a whole bunch of rules so that people could please him. God gave the law to show his people how to live the best kind of life, and that by living the best kind of life, living a life that reflected the glory and nature of the creator, the other nations would see that and turn from their idols and Gods and serve the Living God.
It’s pride that refuses to even listen to another voice that points to a better way. The people wanted to rule and govern their own lives, and do what they wanted, and reach out to any worldly pleasure or gain they could get, when God was offering them a far greater pleasure, at the expense of their lordship of their own lives. They weren’t willing to walk the ancient paths, because they weren’t willing to leave the inferior and fleeting pleasures of sin.
The question is then, are we willing to leave the inferior and fleeting pleasures of sin and being lord of our own lives, and walk down the path of righteousness, holy and happy, to find the ultimate pleasure, that is God himself?