“We are modern people, and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule, small thoughts of God” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God).
In my regular job, I recently worked with a couple in their 80’s, and as I concluded my last bit of business with them, I asked if there was anything else I could do for them. The husband responded, “We’d like a phone book. Do you know where we could get one?” I replied that I didn’t, since so few people have home phones anymore, myself included. He said, “I know we can look up anything we need on our cell phones, but we’re old. We like doing things the old way.”
The interaction got me thinking about the “old ways,” and I fear that we modern humans have lost something with the overuse of technology. And let’s be honest, very little of what’s found online is in any way edifying.
Jeremiah 6:16 reads, “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 of your souls.’”
Jeremiah lived at a time in Judah when the Israelites had lost their connection to God. They had become involved with the pagan nations surrounding them, and instead of teaching those nations to follow the one true God, the people of Judah had embraced the pagan idols. They were even burning their children in sacrifice (Jeremiah 7:31)! God sent Jeremiah to condemn their sin, call them to repentance before God, and to warn them of the coming destruction and exile at the hands of the Babylonians as a consequence of their sin.
They didn’t listen. Instead, they reviled Jeremiah, and everything happened just as he told them it would.
If we consider God’s interactions with His people through the Bible, it’s interesting to note how it changed. God walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8). He spoke directly to Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). Noah “walked with God,” and God spoke to him (Genesis 6:9, 13). God also spoke directly to Abram, later known as Abraham (Genesis 15), to Isaac (Genesis 26), to Jacob (Genesis 32:22-31), and to Moses (Exodus 3), and He physically led the nation of Israel out of Egypt and across the desert to the promised land, appearing as a pillar of cloud by day and a column of fire at night (Exodus 13:21,22).
Later came the Judges and the Prophets who were the intermediaries between God and His people. Finally, Jesus, the Son of God Himself, came and lived among men (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and then after His death, He appeared on the road to Damascus and spoke to Paul (Acts 9), and that was the last time God spoke directly to humans.
So, why did God withdraw from us? He didn’t! We withdrew from Him. Incrementally, as we grew more sinful and got further and further from the perfection of the Garden, we pushed God away. We acknowledged and sought Him less and less. We became distracted by our own selfish desires and by the glitter of worldly pursuits. We plugged our ears against His voice, the voices of His prophets, and the voice of His Son. God didn’t change. We did.
But there’s another theme in the Bible, the theme of God’s redemptive love, His unfailing grace, and His infinite mercy, which tells us that no matter how hard we try to shut Him out, He keeps reaching out to us. From cover to cover, the Bible tells the story of a God so faithful and loving, that time and time again, He provides a way of escape for His people from coming destruction.
So, how do we hear His voice in a world deafening in its attempt to shut out God? How do we find Him in a world that screams, “God does not exist! Do what you want! Live as you please!” and whose diversions and distractions have become so technologically advanced and easily accessible? How do we find our ancient, immutable God (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) in our modern, fast-paced world which seems to change daily and overnight?
We find a quiet place. We shut out the world, put away the phone, seek the old ways, and “look…for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it.”
Father God, we praise You for Your unchanging nature! We thank You for being our constant and faithful God in a world of instability. Please help us to seek and find You amid the cacophony of the modern world's attempts to drown You out. Help us, Lord, to find the ancient path to You. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.