Sometimes folk ask, “Why Waymark”? The following article was published in the first issue of this magazine 15 years ago, and it explains the name, and also establishes our position in seeking to be of help to those who may yet seek to learn the Gospel Truth.
SETTING UP THE ANCIENT WAYMARKS
“Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart towards the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel … How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter?” (Jer 31:21,22).
At the time when the prophet Jeremiah spoke these words of the Lord to his people, the virgin daughter of Israel had defiled herself to such an extent, that she was on the brink of the Lord’s Judgement by the hands of the Babylonians. The great and faithful King Josiah was the last of the just rulers, who attempted to re-establish righteousness in the land by force of Law. He purged Jerusalem and Judah from every vestige of visible idolatry, and repaired the Temple for use in Divine Worship (2 Chron 33). He emulated the earlier example of Hezekiah, in holding a great Passover, commanding all who could be found to observe it (2 Chron 34), and “made all that were found in Israel to serve, even to serve Yahweh their God. And all his days they departed not from following Yahweh, the God of their Fathers” (2 Chron 34:33).
But good and righteous though his laws were, Josiah could not legislate the thoughts and desires of men’s hearts, and so following his death when the restrictions he imposed were lifted by his idolatrous sons, Israel slid back to her ways of idolatry and corruptness: “The virgin Israel has done a very horrible thing … my people have forgotten me, they burn incense to false gods; they have stumbled in their ways, in the ancient roads, and have gone into bypaths, not the highway, (Jer 18:13,15 RSV). They forgot Yahweh their God who redeemed them from Egypt, and the “ancient roads” of righteousness along which their fathers had walked, and sought out other, new ways – ways centred around the vanities of the heathen. Thus it was, that Jeremiah exhorted them to repent, to “turn again” to the way of life, which would lead, ultimately to the bestowal of Immortality, and therefore rest from mortal labours: “Thus saith Yahweh, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jer 6:16).
MARKING OUT THE WAY OF LIFE
These “old paths” collectively form “the good way”, styled by our Lord, the “narrow way” (Mat 7:14) which leads to life, – the “highway” to the Kingdom, traversed only by the faithful few who find it. But as we read in our opening quotation, this Way was to be clearly defined and preserved by the setting up of “waymarks”, and the raising up of “high heaps”: “Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart towards the highway, even the way which thou wentest” (Jer 31:21). These are words which find their ultimate fulfilment in the future, when the returning exiles shall travel down “the way of holiness” (Is 35:8) to the restored land – yet which also formed part of Jeremiah’s exhortation to his generation, and ours. The allusion here, is to the practice of travelling companys of merchants, who would raise up waymarks, “pillars, or pointed heaps of stones, to mark the way through the desert against their return”, (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown), referred to by a number of commentators. After this example, the people were exhorted to set up markers, to make “The Way” plain for the benefit of those who desired to turn away from the vanities of the world back to the “old paths” of the faithful, that they might ultimately partake of the glories of the restored Kingdom.
In Jeremiah’s day, this work of raising up “waymarks”, was the work of the prophets, as they cried aloud and spared not (Is 58:1, cp Jer 6:17) to show the Lord’s people the folly of their sins. Even immediately prior to their judgement for the abundance of their iniquities, “Yahweh God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of Yahweh arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2Chron 36:16). All of the prophets, like Jeremiah, diligently sought to make all classes of Israelitish society hear the call to repent so that none were without excuse – “The Way” was clearly defined in their expostulations for all to enter it, if they so chose. “But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jer 6:16), and instead clung on to the vanities of the heathen, drawing their sins behind them (Is 5:18) as they wandered blindly towards the Day of Recompense – the end result being, as Hosea lamented, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6). They rejected the cry of the prophets, they spurned the knowledge of the True Way, and preferring instead to follow the dictates of their own evil desires, they reaped the inevitable result – destruction through Divine Judgement.
Similarly, in the days immediately prior to the Ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, the prophet John was entrusted with the task of making plain “The Way of the Lord”. Coming “in the way of righteousness” himself (Mat 21:32), his central mission was to prepare a way of understanding in the hearts of the people, which the Lord could access upon his appearance: “for this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mat 3:30). And although a lone voice, crying out in the spiritually barren deserts of Israel, John’s work was instrumental to the work which was to follow – not that the multitudes would hear, for they never have throughout all of human history, but rather for benefit of the remnant, the faithful few who had ears to hear, and courage to act upon the urgent calling they received. These received the sayings of Christ and His Apostles, and entering “the strait gate”, commencing their sojourn towards the promised Kingdom. By contrast, the majority condemned, and crucified the One who proclaimed himself to be “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jno 14:6), and judged themselves unworthy of that life by rejecting the Truth he preached (Acts 13:46). Thus it was that just as the Babylonians were brought against those who persecuted the prophets, even so the Lord Almighty brought the Roman Forces against His Son’s murderers in AD 70, (Mat 21:41) and effected the greatest period of affliction and exile Israel has ever experienced.
A PARALLEL WITH OUR DAY
But in our day, the circumstances in which we labour are no different. The time is nearly upon us when the Son of Man shall be revealed to establish his Kingdom upon the ruins of the fallen kingdoms of men. And as with previous generations, there is a vital need for the faithful to cry aloud against the inroads of false worship, clearly marking out the only true Way of Salvation, as revealed in the Holy Oracles of God. The brotherhood faces many challenges in these last days, as the toleration of Apostasy become increasingly evident as each year goes by. Why should we suppose that our generation is any better than previous ages? As with Israel of old, false doctrines abound, being tolerated, accepted and openly promulgated in some quarters. There are those who deny the total inspiration of Scripture. Those who deny both the Promises to Abraham, and the central role of Israel in the accomplishment of the Purpose of Almighty God. The Truth concerning the Atoning work of our Lord as believed by Christadelphians for 150+ years is disbelieved and ridiculed. Scripture teaching concerning the role of Sisters is openly denied – and that by increasing numbers. There are those who claim to have possession of the Holy Spirit, claiming Divine Guidance by this means in their thoughts, words and actions. Others who claim that the Kingdom of God is now present in men’s hearts – still others who claim that we should study the apostate churches around us, from whence these delusions are derived, because “there is much we can learn from them”. And inevitably, there are those who claim that we are “too exclusive”, and should abandon, or modify our Statement of Faith, to allow those of other persuasions to join with us. The list could go on. Truly, these are unpleasant realities, which many choose to avoid and ignore – but realities they are and there is a dire need for us to take heed to the warnings of previous generations. We are on the threshold of the Kingdom of God – and the judgements which will precede it. We need to face up to our responsibilities, both to ourselves and to others. Are we ready to stand before the Lord at his coming? Are we as a community, any better than Israel of old? Shall the Lord find the faith upon the earth when he comes (Luke 18:8)?
In the face of increasing toleration of the vain speculations of men, which are growing up around us as thorns and thistles obscuring the True Way of Salvation, there is a great and pressing need for those who “sigh and cry” for the abominations committed within the Household (cp Ezek 9:4) to “cry aloud and spare not”, as in previous ages. “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Rom 13:12). “The sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (Eph 6:17) must be wielded without respect of persons to cut away every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2Cor 10:5), that “The Way” be not obscured by the traditions of men, but clearly marked out for all who seek it to find. The apostolic injunction is to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), and distasteful though that work may be, to neglect it is to neglect a command of God. The faith must be lovingly contended for at all costs, regardless of the consequences, for it is only the Truth that saves, and out of love for our brethren and sisters being exposed to – and in some cases being drawn away by – the errors of the heathen, the inroads of apostasy must be strongly resisted – this is the responsibility of all who love the Truth, and the brethren and sisters for whom our Lord died.
THE WORKS OF OUR EARLIER BRETHREN
So it is, that in these “perilous times” which the Apostle prophesied would come (2Tim 3:1), the need to mark out, and defend the Way of Life is as great as it ever has been. But in our day, the work of setting up “waymarks” to define and proclaim the True Way has largely been done for us already. Although uninspired, our earlier brethren, particularly Bre. John Thomas and Robert Roberts devoted their entire lives to shoveling aside the rubble and waste of apostate trash, laying bare “the ancient paths” in their faithful expositions, which are readily available to all of us. Their works, although uninspired in themselves, are wholly based upon a kind of deep and prayerful reflection and study of the Wholly Inspired Word, which is so greatly lacking in today’s generation.
It is true that ultimately, we must recognize no other authority but the word of the Most High God, following the prophet’s direction: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is 8:20). But the essential principles of that “law and testimony” were expounded and promulgated by our pioneer brethren, who did speak “according to this word”, and these principles form the basis of the fellowship of Christ’s servants in these last days, being accurately summarized in the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (BASF). These works of our Pioneer brethren amply fulfil their intended purpose of drawing attention to the Way of Scripture, in contrast and in opposition to the ways of the heathen – and so stand before us as Waymarks of monumental importance which, in such an age of loose thinking and expression, we cannot afford to neglect. The Christadelphian Waymark is wholly committed to the continuance of their work, encouraging all who seek to walk along the highway to the Kingdom to heed those ancient waymarks, left for our benefit by those who have gone before. Not because of any mistaken belief that these brethren were either inspired, or infallible, but rather in the spirit of seeking to uphold and defend the principles of Scripture they so ably expounded, in the face of those who denigrate these beloved brethren, that they might teach their own “views”.
In these last days there is a dire need for us – like Israel of old – to take stock, to “stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein” (Jer 6:16). And it is our earnest prayer, that The Christadelphian Waymark will be a help to that end. Not that we are simply set out to oppose falsehood, but rather we seek to “strengthen the things that remain” (Rev 3:2), seeking to kindle a living flame in the hearts of those who desire to hear the Truth faithfully expounded in these last days. We do not write for the majority who are happy to wander aimlessly through life, tolerating, accepting and even endorsing the great abundance of “views”, “opinions” and “perspectives” with which our age is plagued: rather we are wholly devoted to the uncompromising defense and proclamation of the Word of Truth, that those few with ears to hear might be encouraged to faithfulness in preparation for the coming Kingdom.
And this regard, we firmly believe that our work will be short lived. The signs in the political heavens and earth clearly demonstrate the nearness of our Lord’s Return. So it is, that as we attend to the task of producing this first issue, we pray earnestly that if it so pleases our Father in Heaven, our labors shall soon end with the rising of the Sun of Righteousness to illuminate this benighted world in which we sojourn, with the brilliance and splendor of God’s Glory (Mal 4:2, 2Cor 4:6, Hab 2:14). In those times of refreshing (Acts 3:19), the evils of this present age of wickedness shall become but a fading memory, as every work and shadow of darkness shall be dispelled and, and those who have endured faithfully to the end shall be caused to “shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan 12:3).