[forthright] Ancient Landmarks

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2007 18:38:07 -0300
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

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Ancient Landmarks
by Michael E. Brooks

  "Do not remove the ancient landmark which
  your fathers have set" (Proverbs 22:28).

We have added land to our Khulna Bible College
property in Bangladesh on two separate occasions.
In both cases we brought in official government
surveyors to set corners and mark lines so as to
ensure that our neighbors' borders were honored,
and also that we actually received the land for
which we were paying.

A major part of the process of surveying was to
seek out the older men of the community and
question them about the historically established
and accepted boundary marks. Several current
residents have been here in this village for many
years, some for several generations, and knowledge
of land ownership and boundaries is an important
part of their village identity.

This reminds me of the Biblical stories of setting
up heaps of stone to mark one's inheritance, and
of the penalties for moving or tampering with such
markers. Moses gave instructions to the people to
invoke a curse upon all who might do this when
they entered the land of Canaan and it was divided
to them as an inheritance (Deuteronomy 27:17).

An ancient landmark is nothing more or less than a
type of tradition. It is the record of where one's
property begins and ends, as set in the past. In
our world of constant and sudden change traditions
have become scorned by many. Yet tradition may be
simply a synonym for history, and history serves,
among other things, to establish what has been
agreed upon and made valid. Without the authority
of historical record society cannot function.

The symbolic value of the proverb cited at the
beginning of this article is obvious. It is not
just property markers that are important.
Standards of conduct, historical records, and
articles of faith all depend upon (or are
themselves) "ancient landmarks." We remove them at
our own risk, and any careless removal brings with
it great and negative consequences.

Speaking of Christian faith and practice, based
upon the “ancient landmarks” of Biblical teaching,
there are reasons why we live as we do and why we
believe what we believe. It is easy, and popular,
to question those values and beliefs and to reject
them as obsolete and irrelevant to our modern age.
Yet they have stood the test of time, weathered
the changes of many generations and have proven

Obviously, the age of a landmark alone does not
prove its accuracy. Fraud and deception were
practiced hundreds and thousands of years ago,
just as today. There must be other criteria of
proof besides mere longevity. Yet the burden of
proof is always upon the one who would move the
marker. It does not have to prove its right to
remain unless challenged by sufficient evidence
to bring legitimate suspicion. A marker that
has stood for generations is presumed to be
established and authentic.

This is a logical and Biblical standard by which
to treat doctrinal and moral markers as well. If
they have been believed and practiced since
ancient times, and if they are shown to be
effective and to work, one needs sufficient
reason before questioning them.

Unfortunately there are those to whom innovation
is, or seems to be, everything. That which is new
is exciting. That which is old is boring and
commonplace. Markers are moved for no reason other
than to provide variety, stimulate controversy,
and add excitement. Yet when a marker is moved
one's inheritance may be reduced, or it may vanish
altogether. This is as true of spiritual and moral
boundaries and eternal inheritance as it is of
real estate. Let us respect ancient landmarks.

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