In today's world we see a world that is constantly looking for "new" and exploring alternatives from the old paths and patterns found in God's word. However, Jeremiah 6:16 instructs us to seek the ways of old which are the good ways and we will find rest. Today, instead of carefully adhering to the patterns we see in God's word and consulting it with an attitude of caution not to deviate, we see an attitude of liberty to do whatever men can reason to be acceptable. Reasoning that would justify their actions, giving them grounds to argue the ability to do things a different way. In other words, man's reason verses God's word. Not human reason used to interpret God's word, but human reason to get around God's word. Let's consult God's word and see how those who came before us, and who are our example, treated and handled God's instruction and patterns.
We all immediately remember the instruction God gave Moses when it came to creating and constructing all aspects pertaining to the Old Law. Those instructions and patterns were always given with the further admonition to do exactly as the pattern (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5). This admonition came directly from God so we can see what God's expectation is when he gives a pattern. He expects careful duplication and compliance.
On the other hand, we see by example what happens when man chooses to interpret God's pattern to benefit himself. King Saul tried that approach and found himself at odds with God because he deemed it necessary to adjust what God's pattern was and deviate from it. He tried to craftily violate one pattern given him in 1 Samuel 15 by trumping it with another pattern given by God relating to sacrifice. In other words, another pattern that better fitted what he wanted from the situation. This was not in full accordance with the pattern given him pertaining to the Amalekites and caused a conflict. God does not have conflicting patterns, man causes them to conflict when he tries to use one to allow him to deviate from another.
Some may say, "But that was in the Old Testament and pertained to the Old Law." So it begs the question, "Does God's character transcend to the New Testament today?"
The same admonition to stick closely to the pattern was extended to those of the early church as well. Paul warns Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13, 14, "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us." Paul also mentions in Romans 6:17 that the church at Rome had correctly obeyed a certain form or pattern of doctrine. He further warns in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 to withdraw from those would choose to walk disorderly or out of order to that pattern. Christ Himself made it clear in Matthew 7:21 that only the ones who adhere to the will of the Father will be found acceptable. The whole matter is clearly summed up by the instruction given to the Galatians in 1:8-9, that if anyone or anything preach anything other than the gospel given them, they are to be accursed. That is, anything other pattern other than that pattern of sound words he encouraged Timothy to adhere to in 2 Timothy 1:13-14. Patterns are important to God and binding on us.
It's important to remember that God's word does not need to be deviated from or changed by man, because God does not change (Malachi 3:6); nor, does what He want change made to his patterns by us. The only thing that changes in man's relationship with God is man and what man wants. 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:2 reminds us that everything we need is in God's word if we follow carefully the patterns within it. It's when we decide to expand or alter things according to our own desires that we find ourselves leaving the familiar paths in God's word and walking in paths were God's word is not there to guide us, or paths that conflict with God's.
So let us learn from the ones who came before us. Moses, Abraham and a host of others displayed an attitude of fear and respect to God's patterns (Hebrews 11). The Apostles and a host of others in the early church did as well. Always erring on the side of caution not to leave God's patterns. When we consult God's word for guidance, we should follow the example set by those of old by following the patterns of God without question and without change. When we find ourselves desiring something different, or the paths of old seem lack-luster and too confining, we need to take inventory of ourselves for change that has occurred within us. Never investigating for a new path around God's patterns.
- Marc Hopkins