Affirming Right-of-Way on Ancient Paths -- By: Ronald Barclay Allen
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Affirming Right-of-Way on Ancient Paths
[Ronald B. Allen is Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.]
[This is article one in a four-part series “On Paths Less Traveled: Discovering the Savior in Unexpected Places in the Old Testament,” delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 7–10, 1995.]
In the summer of 1994 my wife Beverly and I enjoyed a memorable vacation. We went on a week-long walking tour in Wales. Everything in this first visit of ours to Wales was a fascinating discovery.
We learned, for example, that England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are crisscrossed with a complex network of ancient footpaths. These paths are inviolable; they may neither be bought nor sold. The paths go through woods, they cross mountains, they traverse streams, and they follow the ridges of countless hills. The paths also go right through farmers’ fields, and they even pass between farm buildings. Moreover the paths cross fences—countless fences. At times there are gates to open and shut. Mostly, however, hikers climb over the fences on a style, a type of ladder.
Our home base in Wales was Machynthleth, a village with a difficult-to-pronounce name. Each day our international group of 10 people, plus one lanky Welsh guide, left from our hotel in a direction different from the previous day. We made radial journeys from the hub of our hotel in a wonderful variety of experiences of day-long, exhausting hikes. Only rarely did we need a bus to take us to a new starting point, or to bring us home from a day’s distant finish.
Our guide, Geoff Elliott, was splendid. He is a retired
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government clerk whose lifelong passion has been to walk the footpaths of his native Wales. Two aspects of his leadership have lingered in my mind.
The first was his sheer joy in walking. He said that despite all his years of walking in Wales, there were still paths on which he had not yet walked. Each time he leads a tour group, he adds to his itinerary a path that is new to him. In fact on one day with our group he kept saying with growing excitement, “This is my first time on this path. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” He had an incorrigible sense of adventure, a genuine love of the land, and a passion for what he did that was palpable.
The second emphasis was the necessity of continuing to walk on these old paths. We observed that mid-Wales is a place of far more sheep than people, and of far more fences than signs. Aside from the capital city, Cardiff, in the south, Wales is sparsely populated. ...
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