Age gets a bad rap these days. We tear down old buildings, we throw out old things, we’ve stopped reading old books, and we’re constantly looking for new ways of doing things. But sometimes old is exactly what we need most.
The prophet Jeremiah was given the daunting task of convincing Judah that, in their case, turning from the old ways meant sinning against God. And so he became God’s mouthpiece to call his people back to him: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jer 6:16 ESV). Notice the value of age here: the path is good, and full of rest.
The word here for “ancient” is pretty cool too: olam. In Hebrew it doesn’t just mean “old,” but also “lasting, enduring, forever.” So when God calls something olam, he’s not just talking about how old it is; he’s saying it’s timeless, even ageless.
Which is why, in our Bibles, the word olam is more commonly translated “everlasting.” Like at the end of Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (139:23-24). Reading Jeremiah alongside the psalm, we might even say that looking into Scripture and asking for the old paths points us on our way to eternity.
I think of this often when we sing the acapella version of Michael W. Smith’s song, “Ancient Words” (2002), especially in its chorus:
Ancient words, ever true
As the song reminds us, the words of the Bible are ancient, but always true, they give us guidance “for our walk in this world,” they “give us strength, help us cope.” “In this world where e’er we roam / ancient words will guide us home.”
So what follows is a bit of a journey home. For me it started four years ago, with a simple change in my daily devotional. But that helped me ask better questions about how God uses his word to shape our lives. We’ll start where I wish I had—with Jesus—and then we’ll take a look at the early church to unpack how they communed with God daily through his word. So let’s get started… with Ancient Words.