Thus says the LORD:Jeremiah 6:16, The Bible
“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.
Ponder. What a lovely word that is! To ponder means to think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. And that’s exactly what these writings from Jeremiah ushered me into. The specific subject of the ‘pondering’ was the phrase “old paths”. When you look it up in the original language (Hebrew), you’ll come upon this : old – ôwlâm, o-lawm’; or עֹלָם ʻôlâm; from alam; properly, concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; generally, time out of mind (past or future).
So the ‘old path’ literally means the path that began ‘time out of mind’ in the past and winds its way ‘time out of mind‘ into the future. In short it’s the path that exists beyond the ‘vanishing point’ of visible earthly reality! What a spectacularly meaningful picture of eternity!
Lets dig a little deeper into this lovely imagery. The dictionary defines the vanishing point as a point of disappearance, cessation, or extinction. Yet we know too well that the road only appears to disappear from view and in fact winds on long past ‘the vanishing point’. It struck me that, that’s so much like what death is like -a point on the horizon where we disappear from ‘sight’ but in reality continue on. In truth, the road (our journey) stretches out on both sides of the vanishing point (much longer on the far side, truth be told!); yet we tend to have eyes only for what is in immediate view! (Ponder..)
Now in these writings of Jeremiah, we engage with a God who is pleading with us to seek out these old paths, that we may find life and rest for our souls. Imagine with me if you will a loooong stretch of road extending from the eternal past to the eternal future with our microscopic lives sandwiched somewhere in between. God’s entreaty to us to seek out this path implies that we cannot assume that the road we’re presently travelling on is the ancient one, the good one that’s existed time out of mind! We are implored to turn our feet towards it from wherever we are!!
This made me see the moral teachings of the Bible in a fresh light. These are not just a set of good principles constrained to our lives in the here and now. Rather they belong to the ancient well-traversed path that existed well before we ever came into being and that will continue on well after our individual ‘vanishing points’. So when we align our lives with them, we bring ourselves back into sync with timeless truth, not time-bound ones. (Ponder again..)
And one final pondering.. In art a vanishing point or point of convergence is a key element that allows one to create drawings, paintings, and photographs that have a three-dimensional look . Without it, every picture would be rather dull and two dimensional. Now that’s a principle that’s as true to art as it is to life! Without the inclusion of ‘the vanishing point’ in my own big picture of life, my existence would cease to have meaning and fullness! I am increasingly finding that it’s only eternity that can satisfy my hungry, easily bored soul! No endeavour on earth however big, important or potentially life-changing can fill this listless soul’s insatiable demand for MORE. It is only the eternal perspective – i.e. the knowledge that some of what I’m putting my heart into will last forever (and conversely that some things are simply not worth the time, energy and gripe I’m expending on it) that gives my life the rich, three-dimensional fullness it was designed to take on!