"Thus says the LORD: 'Stand in the ways and see, and
ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will
find rest for your souls.' But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'"
- Jeremiah 6:16
This simple verse provides all kinds of insight into how we might learn to
be pleasing to God. Consider:
"Stand in the ways and see." If you want
to learn anything, you have to go where the information is - to "stand in
the way" where that knowledge travels. If you were interested, for example,
in improving your math skills, signing up for an English class at the junior
college would not be the best means of going about it. English class is not
the place to stand if you want to learn about math. You have to enroll in a
math class, because that's where math knowledge is being distributed.
Once in the right place, you have to "see," to open your eyes to the
instruction. Most of us learn very little by osmosis - that is, by simply
absorbing knowledge into our brains out of the thin air around us. If you
wanted to learn more about math, just being in a math class would avail you
little unless you opened the textbook, studied the lessons, and did the
homework exercises contained therein. That's how you learn.
"Ask for the old paths." Learning is
almost always facilitated by getting instruction from someone who has been
studying the subject longer than you have. You might be able to teach
yourself mathematics, but you'd gain knowledge much more quickly by studying
with a knowledgeable math teacher, or perhaps even another student who had
already taken the class and would be willing to tutor you. And fortunately
for you, mathematicians have been kicking numbers around for thousands of
years, so everything you want to know about math is already out there in
"the old paths" of math instruction - you just need to ask someone to show
you where to look.
"Where the good way is." Here's where
matters get complicated. If you want to learn math, even enrolling in a math
class, studying diligently, and making use of the available instruction
isn't enough. The problem is, there are excellent math teachers and poor
math teachers. If you get tutored by someone who knows as little about math
as you do - or even worse, "knows" a great deal that is incorrect - you
could find yourself no better off than you started, or worse, hopelessly
You need to seek out a good math teacher, someone who really knows his or
her stuff, who understands the subject material backward and forward, and
will teach you "the good way" as it pertains to mathematics.
"And walk in it." Your long-term success
in your math studies depends upon your putting into action what you learn. I
took two years of algebra and a year of geometry in high school, and another
semester of algebra in college. Can I work an algebra or geometry problem
today? No - a math textbook reads like hieroglyphics to me today, because I
haven't used any higher math in a quarter-century or longer. I didn't "walk
in it," so the learning all those years ago did me no practical good at all.
The Spiritual Application
What is true of mathematics, as we've been discussing the subject here, is
even more true of spiritual truth. If we want to know more about God, we
have to "stand in the way" where the knowledge of God and His will exists,
and "see" what is there to be discovered. We can't make it up as we go
along; rather, we must "ask for the old paths" and be instructed in what God
revealed long ago in His word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We must make certain we
are taught in "the good way," and the only way to do that is by comparing
what we are taught with the scriptures (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1). As we learn
from God's written word, we must implement the wisdom we learn, and "walk in
it" (Luke 11:28; James 1:22). When we apply ourselves to this plan, we will
truly find rest for our souls.
Used by Permission of the Writer.
By Michael D. Rankins
From Expository Files 12.2; February 2005