I’m a Word Guy (I know, that rhymes with “Nerd Guy,” and there’s probably a reason for that). I like puns more than is good for my social life, and etymology fascinates me. As a preacher, words are my friend. Maybe that’s why I smile at the double-meaning of a word in the Old Testament that has become important to me.
In Jeremiah 6:16, while rebuking Israel for disobedience, God says “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls.”
Sabbath observance is one of the “ancient paths.” The command about weekly rest was given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai over 3400 years ago, but finds its roots in the 7th day of creation. It doesn’t get more ancient than that.
The double-meaning comes from the practice by which I’ve chosen to become a Sabbath-keeper. I walk the ancient path by walking on modern paths in the hills and mountains around north Los Angeles County. Jeremiah 6:16 has become the appropriate theme of my Sabbath hikes – I tend to recite it at the trailhead each week. True, there are lots of ways to observe the Sabbath that don’t include a backpack – my wife Murf has been enjoying home-based Sabbaths. But I love my hikes.
What do I love about them? I’ve spent time on my last two trails exploring that question. Here is a partial list of the answers that I’ve come up with:
1) I love that the Lord meets me there. It’s a regular, undistracted worship walk with the God who loves me. Loves me! How’s that for an idea that boggles the mind?
2) I love walking on and among things that He has made, rather than things that we have made. For some reason, pine cones and butterflies are especially significant to me.
3) I love the occasional whiff of danger. I’ve had a tree fall near me, a rattlesnake rattle at me, and been on trails where falling to the downhill side would be…shall we say… “interesting.” Life shouldn’t always be safe.
4) I love the praise music that I bring on my iPod, but I also love the praise music I discover there – the wind rustling in the branches of an oak tree, birds that seem to take noisy and melodic offense to my presence, creek water splashing into a natural pool.
5) I love the unexpected health benefits. I’ve lost over 30 pounds since I started hiking and eating right, and have stopped taking three kinds of medication. Frankly, I didn’t see that coming. But I’ll take it.
6) I love the refreshing brush of a cool breeze on the back of my neck. Yeah, that always makes me smile.
7) Most of all, I love the rest that I find for my soul, the kind that Jesus famously offered in Matthew 11:29. My Bible indicates that He was quoting Jeremiah 6 when He made this offer of rest.
If you’d like to explore this further, and you live in the Santa Clarita area, can I invite you to a gathering? On Sunday afternoon October 7, Murf and I will be teaching about Sabbath rest at our church’s Immanuel Fellowship. The Bible study will be followed by an optional semi-guided Sabbath hike – a short and level stroll that will simply give a taste of the experience. See the first comment below if you would like to join us.
Modern life can get crazy, but ancient paths are restful to the soul. I hope there’s a path in your life that causes you to nod your head and smile at that sentence. If not, come discover one with me.