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“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.’”
Jeremiah 6:16

Can you remember a crossroads in your life, a time you came to the meeting of the ways and had to decide which way? That crossroads might have been a decision about marriage, education, career, place to live, and for what purpose you would live the rest of your days. We think of crossroads in our lives as critical moments, as turning points. We feel the weight of choosing, knowing that whichever way we choose to go, life for us will never be the same.

The nation of Israel stands at the crossroads in today’s scripture. The prophet Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet”, grieves the direction he sees the nation headed. Compelled by the Holy Spirit, Jeremiah must speak out. He cannot remain silent. He calls out again and again for his people to stop! To consider the direction of their lives! “Stand at the crossroads, and look”, he pleads. Do not rush ahead, but look! Pay attention to what is happening around you!  

Jeremiah weeps, seeing his nation as a traveler having lost it way, and he cries out: “ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it.” Yes! The “ancient paths”, the netivot olam, or, the “eternal paths”, the tried-and-true-ways of God! Nothing new here! Not the newest, latest, and fashionable, but the eternal ways in which the patriarchs, the judges, and the prophets walked, all directed by the Word of God.

Jeremiah knows that God never leaves His people wanting for instruction or warning, but has marked out for them the way leading to life: “walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” Tragically, the weeping prophet writes the postmortem for his generation with his next words: “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” The rest is history!

What will they write of our nation’s history as we too have come finally to the crossroads? We do not need opinion polls to tell us that our country is headed in the wrong direction. Just look at today’s news again, filled with stories of rage, violence, antisemitism, degenerate spending, and boasts of no morals. Surely God is calling us to pause! To pay attention! “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths.”

Jesus has picked up God’s grand story of the right paths, the right way, declaring “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Thus, those faithful ones who first followed Jesus were called “followers of the way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23). We remember them for their devotion to Master Jesus, mindful of His warning, “the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it” (Matthew 7:13).

Which way will we take personally as well as a nation? Will we ask for and follow the ancient and eternal ways of God, tried-and-true? The words of poet James Russell Lowell on the eve of America’s Civil War surely speak to us now: “Once to every man and nation/Comes the moment to decide.”

This is the moment for us to decide. We have arrived at the crossroads. By the grace of God let us take up the prayer of the persecuted Christians of old India:

“I have decided to follow Jesus.
Though no one joins me, still I will follow.
The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back.
I have decided to follow Jesus”

There is no other way!

A fellow traveler,

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