This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Jeremiah 6:16 ‘But they said, we will not walk therein.’

 This Week’s Focus Passage: Jeremiah 6:16

‘But they said, we will not walk therein.’

Jeremiah 6:16 contains one of the most beautiful exhortations in the whole of the Word of God. We read in that lovely and compelling exhortation here given.

This has been a blessed direction for many over decades and centuries, and more; it  is most certain. “Stand in the ways, and see.” What could be of concern over that guidance? And further, “Ask for the old paths;” that additional exhortation does not seem to bring any difficulties with it; sounds like a reasonable direction to suggest for someone looking for the way to happiness. We don’t see any particular reason for concern. “Stand in the way,” and, “Ask for the old paths,” has, for centuries, been a string guidepost for travelers seeking to make their way to that which is more favorable than any other options before them. 

    There is a problem with presumed simplicity; and it is this, it is not really all that simple. When a statement, and a short one at that, is taken by itself, it is more often than not, taken out of context. That, most assuredly, can lead to sorry mischief. This may be the unhappy result of many a ‘refrigerator magnet.’ Just a ‘magnetic’ few words on the surface of one’s refrigerator, or perhaps, in the form of a bumper sticker on a vehicle. We don’t doubt the hazard that may be hidden, as it were, in the briefness of a statement disunited from its context. And a statement like our couple of verses from Jeremiah, chapter six, seem perfectly harmless when all by themselves. Something of a parallel example may be helpful, at this time. One of the best known statements, from the Word of God, is that which is found in John 3:16. Now we know that the suggestions which are about to follow, may not strike the reader in the happiest was, but it is, a salutary example, because of its being famous. When John 3:16 is read by itself alone, and it is most usual for it to be read by itself, it is very probably the scripture verse, more that any other, that is deliberately found by itself, on refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers, and many, many other methods of dissemination. This glorious truth is trumpeted forth; this truth that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. This is, by many, many, professing believers, and many true believers, to be “The Gospel in a Nutshell.” And therein lies the problem. When it is said of anything, that it is in a nutshell, what is being implied, is that the thing, whatever it may be, is complete, that is what is meant, when it is contended that it is in the nutshell. It’s in the nutshell; nothing else remains to be added; nothing else is considered to be essential, or necessary. It is noteworthy, that the verse immediately preceding John 3:16, may be considered to argue the case for repentance, when it intones the historical matter concerning the wickedness of the people of Israel’s complaining “against God and against Moses.” Jehovah sent fiery serpents among the people, in response to their complaints, almost immediately, and the result was that they were brought to repentance. This is what was spoken of in John 3:15, where it is written, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up. This assault from the fiery serpents brought the desired result of repentance, causing the confession of sin from the many people. And the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, because we have spoken against Jehovah, and against thee. repentance is essential, but all praise be unto God, even as He gives faith at regeneration, so also He gives repentance [Acts 5:31]. So, we see the challenge truths are not kept in context. This lovely verse, Jeremiah 6:16, is to be found in the context of Israel, and the siege of Jerusalem, with its fall, and the further destruction from the North, bringing about that exhortation in verse 16; 

Thus saith Jehovah, 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. 

Stand in the ways and ask for the old paths, and they are told give up the old ways. They are pointed unto the right way; the way of repentance and the Word of God. Yet, sadly, we must read, in their madness. but they said, we will not walk therein. 

    Though they witness the promised destruction from the North, and in spite of being directed to the right way of walking in the old paths where is the good way, they would not. We are reminded again, that Salvation is completely of Jehovah. He must regenerate, He must grant faith, He must grant repentance, if any are saved. One may be reminded of Christian and Hopeful in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. We are told that, as they make their way to the Celestial City, “they had not journeyed far, as they durst not go out of the Way. Now the way from the River was rough, and their feet tender by reason of their travels. So the souls of the pilgrims were much discouraged, because of the way.” Wherefore still as they went on, they wished for a better way. Now a little before them, there was on the left hand of the road a Meadow, and a stile to go over into it. and that meadow is called By-Path Meadow. Then Christian said to his fellow, if this Meadow lieth along by our Wayside, let us go over into it. Then he went to the Stile to see, and behold a Path lay along by the Way on the other side of the fence. ‘Tis according to my wish, said Christian, here is the easiest going; come, good Hopeful, and let us go over. But Hopeful said, But how if this path should lead us out of the Way? 

    That’s not likely, said Christian; Look, doth it not go along by the Wayside? So Hopeful being persuaded by his fellow, went after him over the Stile. When they were gone over, and were got into the Path; they found it very easy for their feet: and withal, they looking before them, espied a man, walking as they did, (and his name was Vain Confidence), so they called after him, and asked him, whither that Way led? He said, to the Celestial Gate: Look, said Christian did I not tell you so? The rest of the story tells how Christian and Hopeful, caught in a downpour, tried to get some comfort and rest. To go on in Bunyan’s famous allegory, we learn how these travelers were captured by Giant Despair, led to Doubting Castle, and placed in a dark dungeon, from whence they feared never to escape. They were beaten again and again, until they despaired of life. They longed for a key to the dungeon door until, all at once, Hopeful remembered that he had a key in his deepest pocket, and the key was called Faith, so they were able to gain their freedom, and escape for their very lives. There is much more excitement for these travelers, but suffice for our purposes to say that the easy way, or that which looks easy, is many times not the right way. 

To return to Jeremiah, we are reminded, sadly, of how many hear the Truth that would set them free, but refuse to walk in the way of that Truth. They continue their search for an easier way. They refuse to search for the Old Paths wherein is the good way, and walk in that way. Jesus says, follow me, but they say, we will not. How many households have the map of the Old Paths right before them but they refuse to even look at that map; always imagining that they know an easier way.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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