Thus said the LORD, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein…
I. THE ADDRESS IS TO THOSE WHO ARE ALREADY WALKING IN A CERTAIN WAY. There is activity of the whole life, a conscious and chosen activity. We are sometimes spoken of as being asleep and needing to be awakened out of sleep, and even as being dead and needing to be renewed to life; but here there is rather an approach to the other extreme in the aspect of sinful man that is presented. One kind of movement in human life lies beyond choice. Man must move on, from birth, through time, into eternity. This is a movement which, as he does not produce it, so neither can he in the least retard it. But now we are called to notice another kind of movement, that which man chooses - emphatically chooses - and into which he throws oftentimes his whole energy. Thus there is no man but what is in a path which he has chosen. However much he may seem to be the sport of circumstances, yet it will be found, in the complete inspection of his heart, that he loves to have circumstances moving him rather than that he should do what he can towards controlling circumstances. Moreover, the address is to those who are walking in a wrong way. Evidently they are persisting in it. And it is not only wrong, but seriously, even fatally, wrong. Yet, though the address is to those in the wrong way, there is every reason why those who happily are in the right way should also consider the appeal. If it is very difficult to turn from the wrong way into the right, it is very easy to make some divergence, at first imperceptible, from the right way, and so become most dangerously entangled in the wrong one.
II. THERE IS AN APPEAL TO THOSE ADDRESSED, TO GIVE THE MATTER IN QUESTION MOST EARNEST CONSIDERATION. There is surely a great deal in these two words, see and ask. The difference between right and wrong is also the difference between the soul's highest bliss and deepest misery; but it is a difference only to be comprehended when the soul is thoroughly in earnest to get to the bottom of all that is involved in the difference Hence we are told to look; and we must be sure that we see as we ought to see. It is quite possible to have eyes and to look towards a thing, and yet to be practically blind, not discerning the real nature of it. A man's ways may be right in his own eyes; he may think the warnings of others, or the differing course that they take, to be mere scrupulosity, ending in nothing. Wherefore a man is to distrust his eyes, and add to what they may tell him the information to be gotten by the hearing of the ear. It is interesting to notice how sometimes the eye confirms the ear, and sometimes the ear the eye. Here the man is to make the tongue follow the eye, asking to follow upon seeing; so that he may get information on a matter of the utmost moment from authorities on whom he may depend with the utmost confidence. We must not dare to blame any one but ourselves if we make some gross error in the conduct of our life. God knows how easily the children of men wander; and so he expects them to do all they can by way of making sure that they are in the right road. Consider how alert some people are, in travelling by rail, lest perchance an omitted inquiry may send them in a wrong direction. A prudent man will never miss his way for want of asking. Yet these very people, who are reckoned prudent in such a small matter as finding their way from one place to another on the surface of the earth, are indifferent to an event which it is awful to contemplate, when they are told to see and ask if they be in the right way for eternity.
III. OBSERVE THE DEFINITENESS WHICH IS GIVEN TO THE LOOKING AND THE ASKING. Man is not sent out on a vague quest, with nothing to guide and to limit him. If he will look where God points, and ask the questions which God puts into his mouth, his quest will soon be at an end. The right path is indicated by infallible signs. It is the ancient one; the way which began to he trodden, not one or two generations back, but as far back as the record of human relations extends. The right way is older than the wrong. The way appointed for the first progenitors of mankind, when they stepped out where none had been before them, is the way for us. As to essentials, Christ points out no different way from that which Adam was set to travel. Adam's path was to be the path of strict attention, so that he might understand God's will; of strict obedience in doing the will when understood; and of perfect trust in God, feeling that his commandments for his dependent and finite creatures were the best, even though reasons for them might not be given. The most ancient of all paths prescribed for men is that of a willing handing over of one's life to the will of that wise, loving, and holy One who is supreme. All that Christ has told us, all he has done for us, is for the purpose of leading us into an effectual compliance with the requirement. Does not the experience of Enoch show that the right path is an ancient one? What more can be said of the most devoted Christian, rich in all the resources of grace, than that he has walked with God? What else can there be but true good and rest undisturbed when one is under the immediate influence of that God whose own peace knows not the slightest invasion amid all the commotion of the universe? Real rest, a rest to the heart, was wanted by these people of Israel, and all that was so much wanted would surely come if only the ancient paths were found and once more frequented. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD, 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. But they said, We will not walk therein.