crossroads: a point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching consequences.
For over 180 years, the prophets had been warning Judah and Israel what the consequences would be for unrepentant rebellion and idolatry. The people only seemed to listen if there was an enemy knocking on the door (such as Sennacherib and his Assyrian army). When that problem was solved (see 2 Kings 19:35-37 and Isaiah 37:33-38) the downward moral spiral would resume (presumably with God’s blessings).
One of the prophets who was actually alive to see the almost two-century-old warnings of his predecessors and his own words come to painful fruition was Jeremiah. In what seems like a last-ditch attempt to turn his nation around the prophet utilizes the metaphor of a traveler at a crossroads:
Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls (Jeremiah 6:16).
When you are at a crossroads in life (where the decision will have far-reaching consequences) God has some advice. Stand. Look. Ask. The very nature of being at a crossroads is that there is a great deal of uncertainty present. But you don’t get to that point without having traveled a lifetime. In other words, you will have inclinations (based on experience) about which way to go. Should you trust them? Competing against your inclinations may be the path most people take when they get to where you are. You are not the first person to be confronted with the dilemma before you. And most people may go a certain way. Does that mean you should?
One thing is sure: when you are at a crossroads in life it is not the time to guess at which way you should go. There is usually too much riding on the decision to make a guess and hope for the best. That’s why God says to pause (stand), get your bearings (look), and then ask. But here’s the thing, don’t ask if you aren’t willing to listen. God seldom says what you want Him to when you are at the crossroads. This may seem callous but God isn’t all that interested in your comfort or fleeting happiness. His interests in you always seem to be bigger and broader than the pain or uncertainty of the moment.
The way to find rest for your soul is rarely the way most people are going. Rest for the soul is often found on the other side of the valley of the shadow of death. God often points to that ancient path that looks both lonely and menacing when you are pausing at the crossroads. Will you take it?
Now, did you catch where God told Jeremiah’s traveler that the good road (right choice) lies? He directed him to take “the ancient paths.” I am reminded of Christian in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian and his traveling companion Hopeful are on the path that leads to the Celestial City. The path turns rocky under their feet and they see a bridge leading across a river with a much softer path in a beautiful meadow that seems to parallel the old ancient path they are on. To find relief for their feet they cross over the bridge into “Bypath Meadow.” It’s not long until they wind up in the dungeon in the castle that belongs to Giant Despair. The lesson is obvious. When the ancient path begins to turn rocky, painful, and bleak you must remember that it is still the path that leads to rest for your soul. Easier paths rarely, if ever, lead to fulfillment.
Now it is time to move from the general to the particular.
While we may certainly take what Jeremiah said about a traveler at a crossroads and apply it to our own personal life situations, it is easy to forget that the metaphor of the traveler is intended to be understood as a warning to an entire nation: Judah.
For nearly two full centuries their moral compass drifted ever so slowly down and away from God. The words of Jeremiah were their last warning.
I don’t believe we realize just how precarious our situation is in the good ole U.S.A. I’m not a replacement theology person. The church (particularly the western church) has not and will not take the place of Israel (including Judah) in biblical prophecy. However, the standard of biblical truth that we find in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) applies to all peoples and nations. If unrepentant rebellion was dealt with rather severely by God upon Israel and Judah, you can trust that we are not held to a different standard when it concerns faithfulness and obedience.
What took Israel and Judah almost two centuries to get to, we have managed in a single lifetime. Think about it. In about seventy years (or one lifetime) we have:
- Managed to ban both the Bible and prayer from our schools placing it in the same category of other things banned like weapons, alcohol, drugs, etc. There is no escaping the message to our children and youth that Christianity is vile, dangerous, and something they need protection from.
- Formally and legally sanctioned the murder of over 60 million unborn human beings. That’s the Holocaust times 10.
- Brazenly redefined the covenant of marriage that God instituted at the dawn of creation and civilization.
- Decided that science in general and biology, in particular, are less relevant to determining gender than one’s feelings in direct opposition to “male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27; 5:2, and Matthew 19:4).
- Abandoned the biblical concept of nations (Genesis 12:2; 17:4; Deuteronomy 32:8)
- Unleashed a torrent of justifications for a whole range of sins but sexual sins in particular with the same line the serpent used to confuse Eve in the Garden of Eden: “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1).
It took Israel and Judah a fairly long amount of time to do what we have done in one lifetime. When you consider the 60+ million children we’ve sacrificed to Moloch in just 45 years…we’ve far outdone the people Jeremiah was preaching to. Just a few sentences from the metaphor of the traveler at the crossroads Jeremiah spells out what the far-reaching consequences would be for choosing “Bypath Meadow” rather than the “ancient paths where the good way is”:
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it (Jeremiah 6:19).
If you think modernity and evolution have insulated America from God’s judgment you are mistaken.
We are just as much at a crossroads today here in America as Judah was when Jeremiah shared his heart with his people. There is still time to stop, look, and ask for directions to “the ancient paths where the good way is” but I am dubious that a people who refuse to even acknowledge the profoundly Christian roots and intentions of our Founders will suddenly choose the hard ancient path over the much softer and easier path through Bypath Meadow.
Maybe now you have a greater appreciation for the words of Jesus concerning His imminent return when He predicted,
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:37-39).
Whether you want to be or not, you are with me at a crossroads. You have to make a decision. There is time to stop, look, and ask but that time is very limited. The good way that God intends for you to choose is likely going to be the least favored from a strictly human perspective. It looks to be far more difficult than the more contemporary and modern choices. But choose you must…and very soon. Or, it will be made for you.