Tag Archives: Ancient

Ancient Paths

Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16 (NRSVCE)

Along life’s journey one encounters a number of crossroads. Take the easy route, or the road less traveled. Follow the crowd, or strike out on one’s own. Often I have found that divergent paths lead in seemingly opposite directions, yet there is no clear direction where each will lead and precious little guidance with which to make a choice. It is a faith journey, after all. I choose, and I live with both my choice and my path’s destination.

I find myself at times weary of living in a culture running hell-bent and headlong towards any and every new horizon. The whole world seems to chase after that which is trending. I find it easy to become addicted to the breaking news of the moment and the latest buzz getting pushed, tweeted, and incessantly notified on any number of devices. It’s so easy to begin fearing that I’ll miss out on the latest, the most recent innovation, the next great thing.

My soul is increasingly weary of keeping up. The next thing is always replaced by the next, and the next, and the….

I hear my soul whispering at each new crossroads to look, and to seek ancient paths. Rather than chasing after that which is new I find myself more and more compelled to seek and discover that which has been forgotten. What great wisdom has been cast off as worthless ballast in order to speed us on our way in pursuit of the endless and unsubstantiated promises of technology and fortune?

In today’s chapter the prophet Jeremiah called on his generation to look back, to seek the ancient ways, and to seek the restful fulfillment of soul over the insatiable, momentary fulfillment of the senses. His generation chose differently as will mine, I expect.

In the quiet this morning I’m reminded of Jesus’ words:

“…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Nevertheless, I think I’ll endeavor to head that way with each new crossroads. It may seem lonely at times, but at least I can count on there not being any traffic jams.

Ancient Law; Modern Application

You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.
Deuteronomy 25:4 (NRSV)

The mission statement of my company contains the phrase, “…by applying the principles of God’s word to our lives and work….” When Mr. Wenger began the company there were certain decisions he consciously made in structuring the way we did business to adhere to specific biblical principles. For example, while incorporated like any other company he chose to call us a  “group” not a “company” because he wanted each member to know that, like the body of Christ, we are all in this together and what each one of us does affects the others.

One of the other principles by which our group does business is tied to a verse from today’s chapter. “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” In the days of Moses grain was usually milled by placing it between two huge, round millstones. In the featured photo of this post you can see me pushing an ancient olive press in Nazareth which operated in a similar fashion. In milling grain, an ox was yoked to the stones and walked around and around and around in circles, turning the millstone which milled the grain. The floor of the mill would be covered with grain and farmers found that the ox would naturally bend down and eat grain off the floor as it worked. Farmers began to muzzle the ox so it could not eat the grain as it worked. The law of Moses said that the ox should be allowed to eat grain freely and benefit directly from the work it was doing for the farmer.

So it is with our group that no member, from the owners down to the newest contract employee is paid a salary in which we get paid a lump sum no matter how much or how little work we do each month. Rather, each member is paid directly from the specific tasks we do on each job for each client. We’re not going to muzzle anyone. The more a member wants to work and the more work we have to do, the more opportunity we have to increase our income. If we choose not to work as much, or we don’t have as much work to do, then our income is going to drop accordingly.

Today, I’m thinking about the fact that many of these laws of Moses which were written thousands of years ago for an ancient culture far different than ours still have relevance today. In fact, many of our own modern laws still trace back, in principle, to the laws Moses chiseled out in ancient times.

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Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 1

“If the offering is a Whole-Burnt-Offering from the herd, present a male without a defect at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting that it may be accepted by God. Leviticus 1:3 (MSG)

My grandfather was a court bailiff and as a child I spent my spring break with him at the courthouse. I still remember the long bookshelves, stacked floor to ceiling with an important set of leather bound books entitled “Code of Iowa.” It was the “book of law” for the state of Iowa. Call it the rule book for our society. It prescribes the rules by which we live together and on which our judicial system judges those who break the rules.

Leviticus is not an inspirational book of song lyrics (like Psalms). It is not a devotional book of wise sayings (like Proverbs). It is not a biographical story (like Matthew). Leviticus is an ancient book of law. Like the Code of Iowa sitting on the county courthouse shelf, Leviticus is the “Code of (ancient) Israel.”

We also have to remember the time and historical circumstance in which the book of Leviticus was given. A couple of million Israelites had just left slavery in Egypt. An entire nation with their flocks and herds now found themselves wandering in the desert together. There was no system of government. There wasn’t an agreed upon set of rules. It was a law-less nomadic society; Imagine the entire population of the state of Iowa (complete with farmers taking their livestock) grabbing everything they could carry and making their way on foot toward Canada [Canadians will appreciate that I made them “the promised land” in this metaphor]. Leviticus was God’s attempt to provide some basic rules for life and worship to an ancient people whose daily life we can scarcely imagine in a time and culture very different from our own.

Besides being mindful of the historical context, there are two things I always try to keep in mind while wading through the Code of (ancient) Israel. First, the common link we have to that people is our sin nature. We all blow it and fall short of God’s holy perfection. The sacrificial system prescribed by Leviticus is an initial attempt in history to deal with the core spiritual problem: man is sinful, separated from God, and therefore stands condemned to die.

Second, God is a God of metaphor, so the Code of worship and conduct prescribed in Leviticus is going to provide word pictures and foreshadowing to the larger story God is authoring. For example, the first sacrificial offering prescribed is a “male without defect.” Picture Jesus, God’s own Son, a male without defect, dying on the cross. Two thousand years before Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross, God was trying to give people a word picture of the ultimate plan in the sacrifices He prescribed.

Today, I’m mindful of an epic story of grand design which is still being authored, of which I am a part. And, I’m thankful for a God of detail who has a master plan, even though my finite mind can’t completely comprehend it.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and rachael voorhees

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 16

But the old bronze Altar that signaled the presence of God he displaced from its central place and pushed it off to the side of his new altar.2 Kings 16:14 (MSG)

We live in the culture of the "new and improved." We don't build things to last. We build things to be disposed and replaced with the "new and improved." My grandparents had the same television for twenty years. The "new and improved" HD television I bought seven years ago was out of date in less than five. Before we even have a chance to get used to our iPod or cell phone, there is a new "generation" to displace it. Even the government gives people [borrowed] cash for clunkers so that we will dispose of the old car and buy the new.

Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with new things. Even Jesus said he came to make all things new. I simply wonder how much of our dispose and displace culture creeps into the living out of my faith. The things of God are ancient. The things of God are eternal. They don't rust and wear out. And yet, I'm conditioned by my culture to distrust, displace and dispose of the old. I'm conditioned to yearn for something new and improved and trust that it is better, stronger, faster, quicker, more efficient, and more enviromentally friendly.

How easy is it for me to feel that faith of my fathers is old and outdated when I haven't even scratched the surface of its depth and truth?

I don't want to displace God from the central place in my life. I don't want to push Him off to the side. Instead of falling into the unconscious trap of dismissing the ancient things of God simply because they seem old, I prefer to spend my early morning hours digging in and plumbing their depths. Interestingly enough, I find that they are faithfully "new every morning."