Lately I’ve been thinking about this verse in Jeremiah: “This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls….” (Jeremiah 6:16)
A couple thoughts immediately come to mind. God says we will come to a crossroads, not if we come to a crossroads but most assuredly we will find ourselves at life changing turning points and have to make a decision as to which way to go. When we do Jeremiah, a Prophet of God, exhorts three things.
First, “stand and look”. You and I instinctively know that we can’t mindlessly continue down the road we are on when we’ve reached a crossroad. In fact those who do are usually taken out in the intersection. They didn’t see that truck coming across and wham! So it’s a good thing to “to stand” at the crossroads “to look”. But should one build a house there? Is the crossroads to be the destination or just a point at which one must make a decision?
Secondly, Jeremiah exhorts, “ask where the ancient and good way is”. Ask who? Is the LORD saying stop and wait for a guide to come along who will tell you which way to go? Maybe we should ask Google? Perhaps a trusted friend? Or maybe it’s more like Isaiah 30:21?
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)
I don’t think the LORD expects those crossroads to take any longer than necessary. I think He has already given us the answer but we need to take time to remember the route we are supposed to be on. Following those ancient and good paths may not excite us like that “new way” but God promises the ancient path ends in a much better place. It is a place that we will find “rest for our soul”.
Jesus beckoned those weary on the journey to, “28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
This doesn’t mean that the road will be smooth but in the end it leads us to the best place. And so the LORD exhorts us to choose to walk that ancient path rather than always being enticed to set off in the wrong direction. I think when we are at that crossroads it behoves us to STOP, look each way and then do something that many seldom do, “ask” before we proceed and don’t proceed until we have heard “this is the good and ancient path” walk down it.
Keep asking until you remember the path you started down after hearing God call you. “Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NLT). Are you stuck at a crossroads? Remember the cross!
Remember when started down that path how excited you were because you knew it was God directing you, this was your destiny? At first you began down that road with great joy and you even jogged, perhaps ran a little, but then as the journey dragged on you grew weary. Hey who doesn’t?Even Ironman contestants when they’ve run the race are exhausted long before the finish line. But they don’t choose to take a short cut if they hope to finish the race and receive their reward. And along the good path they find places to refresh themselves; and so they should less in their weariness they stumble and fall. But then they continue down the path to the finish line.
So when you grow weary on that ancient path it’s OK to pause and refresh your soul. In fact the ancient path when followed always has aid stations along the way for that very purpose. We may be tempted to bypass them thinking we’ll get further ahead if we just keep trudging on but how wise is that? Pause, refresh, remember, look, ask, and then, most importantly, continue. “Walk in it”
And that was Jeremiah’s third exhortation from this verse. You’ve stopped, asked for the ancient path, found the good way now continue trusting in God to bring you to the place of rest for your soul.
Sadly, as I reread Jeremiah 6:16 I was struck once again how it ends. It isn’t at “find rest for your souls” where we often stop reading but rather it ends with “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ We’ll build our house at the intersection. Or we will choose our own path. We are the captain of our own destiny. It’s my way or the highway but either way it’s not the ancient way for me.
We know from HIStory the outcome of that decision in Jeremiah’s time. You can read all about it here. Like you they were free to choose which way to turn at the crossroads. And so they did. Spoiler alert! Suffice it to say it lead to a dead end.
“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…” (Jeremiah 6:16). Let’s end there by walking in it and finding rest that comes from reaching the finish line.