Note: All Bible quotes taken from the Good News Bible; Today’s English Version.
Some time ago, a large parcel of property was donated to our church on which to construct a new worship center. Surveyors were hired to lay out the boundaries of the property. They peered through their instruments, waved their arms at one another and recorded numerous measurements.
Finally, they pounded several long, colored wood stakes into the ground and informed us that the survey was completed. They handed the building chairman a preliminary report, saying that the survey would be recorded and stamped by city, county and state officials, after which several copies would be mailed to the church. They also advised us not to remove the survey stakes, since doing so would require another survey, should we or adjoining property owners again need to assess the exact boundaries of the property.
The Biblical definition of the word "landmark" is that which we generally understand by the word. It is a boundary marker. According to Webster, a landmark is any mark or fixed object used to designate the boundary of land. It could be a marked tree, a stone, a ditch, or a heap of stones. In Israel, for someone to remove them was a violation of the Law of Moses. The term “landmark” is used five times in the Bible, each time attached to statements underscoring that landmarks were not to be moved. They were considered sacrosanct. A curse was pronounced on those who dared move them.
The Old Testament empathically prohibited the removal of a neighbor's landmark. Moses commanded Israel, "Do not move your neighbor’s property line, established long ago in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 19:14). So sacrosanct did Moses consider landmarks that at the crossing of the Jordan River, he issued a directive that the Levites were to loudly proclaim among other things "God’s curse on anyone who moves a neighbor’s property line” (Deuteronomy 27:17). Many generations later, the author of Proverbs reinforced this prohibition declaring, "Never move an old property line that your ancestors established” (Proverbs 22:28). The ancient Romans also considered landmarks sacred. Anyone convicted of moving one was executed.
Job’s Lament Over the Removal of Old Landmarks.
Job is the quintessential biblical model of an almost infinite patience in suffering. Though he faithfully endured all the afflictions God permitted Satan to heap on him, some 1,520 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, he lamented that some were removing the old landmarks. In Job chapter 24:2 the removal of old landmarks heads the lists of sins Job attributed to his generation. He charged, "Men move property lines to get more land; they steal sheep and put them with their own flocks.” He followed this accusation with an inventory of the sins of his generation: violence, robbery, oppression of the poor, murder, and many other heinous crimes. Nonetheless, so sacrosanct did Job consider old landmarks that he headed his list with the sin of their removal.
The Importance of Landmarks.
Though landmarks are important because they define boundaries, they do more than that. In a free definition of the word the term also is used to define locations. As we travel, we use landmarks as points of reference to prevent loosing our way.
For example, "To get to Darnel McStranger's house, drive down Town Line Road to the third crossroad. There's no road sign there, but you can't miss it. Just look for a large, red barn on the left corner. You'll also notice an old, rusty tractor parked in the field next to the barn. On the other side of the road you'll see a boarded up, dilapidated, one room schoolhouse. Make a left turn into that road and go three miles. The McStranger's house will be on your right. It's a beige house with green shutters and right across the road is a convenience store."
We have just set directional landmarks for the traveler who is looking for the McStranger residence.
When I was studying for the ministry, the students often sang a favorite chorus, the first line of which is: "I'm traveling to my home way up in heaven and Jesus travels by my side." God's people indeed are spiritual travelers; therefore, Jesus posted ancient directional landmarks for us to follow to insure we travel the right road. To assist us He also warned that the correct road that leads to eternal life is entered through a narrow gate, while the gate opening into the wrong road that leads to destruction is a wide one (Matthew 7:13 14).
Old Landmarks that Identify the Road Leading to Life.
1. The road leading to the eternal life is entered by a gate, but so is the road leading to destruction. Matthew 7:13 14: "Go through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it."
2. Jesus directed us to the narrow gate as a directional landmark (Matthew 7:13 14).
3. Jesus directed us to enter the landmark narrow gate (Matthew 7:13 14).
Some ancient religions employed priests who were called "gate keepers." They supposedly held the keys to the mysteries of those religions. Spiritually, those gates were wide because the rituals were licentious, full of lust and carnality. Even today, there are many gate keepers pointing to the wide gate under the direction of their master, Satan. Jesus stated that many are entering through Satan's wide gate. It's a popular and well used one.
During the Second World War, English speaking Germans soldiers disguised as American military police, switched road signs and then stood at the road junctures directing Allied troop traffic and sending them in the wrong direction. As intended, this caused confusion among the Allied troops until the ploy was discovered and remedied. As stated in Scriptures, Satan sometimes disguises himself as an angel of light with the intent of deceiving God's people into taking the wrong road – the wide one. We must be aware of this ploy.
The pastor of a mega-church once stated, "If we want large churches, we must sacrifice quality. We can't make demands and set requirements on people."
There also has been an increase in ads from churches claiming to conduct "seeker sensitive" worship services. A national, secular magazine published an article vaunting one such "seeker sensitive” church. In some five years, the church mushroomed from an approximate attendance of 200 to over 10,000; however, the church takes no doctrinal stand. It gives people what they're comfortable with hearing and doing. It calls for no commitment. It attempts to bring no conviction. It demands no change of heart or life. It's the religious version of the computer axiom: "garbage in; garbage out." The idea is to get people to attend church without concern of being uncomfortable; that is, without fear of being convicted of sin, though conviction of sin is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit one of the old abandoned landmarks of some churches.
Jesus, knowing His time on earth was limited, informed his disciples that one of the duties of the coming Holy Spirit was to convict the world of sin. "And when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right and about God’s judgment. And they are wrong about sin, because they do not believe in me . . . and they are wrong about sin because the ruler of this world [Satan] has already been judged" (John 16:8 10). Convicting humanity of sin is among the Holy Spirit's most essential duties here on earth. It is a church's obligation to allow Him to fulfill this task. When we attempt to make sinners spiritually comfortable in our services, we are endeavoring to widen the narrow gate, an impossible accomplishment. In such a scenario, what a church actually is doing is making it easier for sinners to continue down the wide road to destruction.
John Bunyan, the poverty stricken, Puritan tinker, penned his classic, "Pilgrim's Progress," while languishing for twelve years in a squalid, polluted Bedford, England jail for the sake of his faith. In his masterpiece, Bunyan described Pilgrim’s arrival at the gate of the Heavenly City. Not only did Pilgrim find that the gate was narrow, it also was extremely low. Above it was inscribed the word’s, "They who enter here must stoop," exemplifying that humility is a crucial landmark on the
road to the Heavenly City. If sinners are unwilling to stoop to enter the narrow gate, no number of seeker sensitive gimmicks will prevent them from severely bruising their pride when vainly attempting to pass through, for the narrow gate is Jesus Christ, himself. He declared, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me (John 14:6).
They who choose to come to the Father through Jesus must humbly stoop as the Lord Jesus did when He condescended to take the form of a man and endure the cross for our redemption.