What a beautiful view from atop a butte in North Dakota! We could see for miles and miles. What caught my eye in the land below was the game trail crossing the stream in the center of this picture. Can you see it?
Herds of wildlife for generations have crossed at that very spot. How do they know to walk that way? It began when they followed the herd as young calves. As the years passed, they just kept taking the same route, and along the way other generations began following along.
Check out the side of this mountain from Glacier National Park:
Can you see the trail leading up the side of the mountain from right to left, just under the evergreen trees?
Can you spot a few paths up this grassy hill? They aren’t all the same, but the herd must go over this hill pretty often for the paths to remain.
Here’s a little path through a patch of growth near a water source:
Ancient paths can lead to a local watering hole, or to wintering grounds. Jackson, Wyoming is home to the National Elk Refuge, where an estimated 11,000 elk come together for the winter from as far as 60 miles away. They don’t all come from the same direction, but they all end up at the same place! The journey’s route has been passed down from generation to generation, and has become ingrained in their behavior. It’s just what they do!
The Bible speaks of ancient paths, and encourages us to follow them. “This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT)
“Oh, but that’s Old Testament,” you may say. “We’re living in New Testament times. What does that have to do with me??”
Jesus himself said, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” (Matthew 5:17) If we are Christ followers, we should be following his teachings, which inject new meaning into that which came before. In following his example, we will automatically be following those ancient paths.
When asked to identify the most important law given by Moses, Jesus responded, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Before Jesus came to fulfill the law, people had to keep a checklist of requirements and prohibitions. Now, instead of focusing on the letter of the law, we can focus on the spirit of it. We only have two things to hold all behaviors up against:
- Would this action or behavior be loving toward God?
- Would it be loving toward the people I am relating to?
There are times we just don’t know the answer. But, as Solomon, wrote, “Nothing under the sun is truly new.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) There are many godly folks who have followed these paths before, and we would be wise to listen to their counsel. If they show consistent fruit from a life of obedience to the Father, they have valuable insight to share! There are many lessons we can learn from those who have gone before us.
Now is the time to consider and pray about who might be a godly resource for you to go to when you get to a sticky spot in your walk with God. Don’t wait until you’re stuck to figure that out! It may end up not being your best friend from Kindergarten…it may be someone you would never even have considered. God can speak directly to us, but He can also use the voice of others in our lives.
So go ahead–“Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16) And soul rest is something I’d say we all need a bit more of.