Thus says the LORD: “Stand at the crossroads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not walk in it.”
“The city’s history museum has been closed and I have two boxes that belonged to your father, would you like them?” I hung up the phone delighted at the prospect of coming into possession of items once belonging to my father, but sad that by unanimous vote the history of a small town, now city, was to be forgotten.
I would not make too much out of something so personal to me, except that it seems symptomatic of a culture that proudly hails itself as “post-modern” and “post-Christian”. We live at a time in which the newest and latest is always best. We are beset by “chronocentrism” and the false sense of superiority that we have progressed to a greatness surpassing previous generations. We are left with life bereft of any anchor of lasting ideals and values. We are adrift!
After that phone call, I thought of today’s scripture from Jeremiah as he lived in a time which, in many ways, was similar to ours. Though calamity threatens on the horizon, false prophets and faithful priests assure the nation that everything will be okay! But Jeremiah warns: “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
In today’s scripture Jeremiah pictures a traveler, who like the nation, has lost its way. Now the nation stands at a crossroads, not knowing which path to take. So first, Jeremiah calls on the nation to “Stand at the crossroads and look.” He wants the people to stop and take time to consider where they are, and where they are going. He wants them to take inventory. Their new paths of idolatry and apostasy are leading them down the road to destruction.
Then, after taking time to stand and at crossroads and consider, Jeremiah calls on the nation to “ask for the ancient paths.” He wants people to ask for the ancient paths that the patriarchs walked, the judges, the sages and the prophets before them. The “ancient paths” are not newly made or newly discovered, but very old. Many people have walked along those paths for many generations. Jeremiah then adds, “the ancient paths” are “where the good way lies.” They are the proven good way. The Lord has not left them without instruction, without guidance as to the good life.
After stopping at the crossroads to consider, asking for the “ancient paths”, God’s prophet says, to walk in that good way and “find rest for your souls.” If they will only walk in God’s way, they will find rest in a rest-less culture, and enjoy God’s lasting peace and prosperity.
Sadly, Jeremiah concludes today’s scripture with what became the tragic epitaph of his nation: “But they said, “We will not walk in it.” And the rest is history!
As America stands today at her own crossroads, let’s you and me pray that our nation choose to walk in God’s ancient paths, finding rest for our souls.
A fellow traveler,