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.’
Also, I set watchmen over you, saying,
“Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, “We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, you nations,
And know, O congregation, what is among them.
As I was reading this past weekend, I stumbled across a reference to this passage made by Athanasius, the 4th century Alexandrian Bishop, which pointed to John 14.5-6. In John’s Gospel, we find that Christ is speaking about the Eternal Life that Christ has brought.
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
So, I started to look at the passage in a manner suggested so many times by the Patristic writers, as if every word was dripping with a reference to Christ.
The Speaker is God (the same LORD in Joel 2.28; Acts 2.21; Romans 10.9-13).
The old paths are those paths of long duration, those unchanging paths from eternity.
The rest for our souls is that Rest which Christ brought to us. (Hebrews 3-4)
We find that the People of God, here the audience, is a type of those of every generation, nation, and person, who has become as insolent children – We will not! they declare. Here, God calls the people of Judah to return to Him and not to break the covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; they hear, and they refuse Him.
He responds: I have set watchmen, sentinels, pastors, leaders, kings and priests, over you – blowing the warning shofar. Listen for it!
The people, as a chorus, refuse to even be warned.
God is a righteous God, slow to anger, but He has promised that a disobedient People will break the Covenant. It is not He that annulled the marriage contract, but the People. So, He turns to the Gentiles, the nations round about Israel with no god, to become their Lord.
We read of Paul, in Acts, tellings the Jews that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was now being preached to the Gentiles:
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city assembled together to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and they began to contradict what Paul was saying by reviling him. Both Paul and Barnabas replied courageously, “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have appointed you to be a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13:44-48 NET)
When they opposed him and reviled him, he protested by shaking out his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am guiltless! From now on I will go to the Gentiles!” (Acts 18:6 NET)
So they began to leave, unable to agree among themselves, after Paul made one last statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘Go to this people and say, “You will keep on hearing, but will never understand, and you will keep on looking, but will never perceive. For the heart of this people has become dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have closed their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”‘ “Therefore be advised that this salvation from God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen!” (Acts 28:25-28 NET)
Now, the Gentiles hear and the nations rejoice at the Word of God!
Christ said that He was the Way, but they did not listen. He sent out the Apostles with the trumpet of the Gospel, but they would not listen. Then, He turned to the Gentiles, and they listened.
This is not to say that individual Jews do not respond to the Gospel – after all, Jeremiah and a remnant escaped – but the nation as a whole was blinded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.