Author: Ron Graham
At the Crossroads
—“Stand in the ways... ask for the old paths”
There are times of challenge and change in your life when you will likely meet Jesus at the crossroads.
- Life stages. Leaving school, getting married, starting a family, starting a new career, entering retirement... all these and more can be crossroads where we must consider our future and make important decisions.
- Troubles and trials. Unexpected hardship, unemployement, long term injury or serious illness, legal or social entrapment, bereavement, seeing a loved one suffer... such crises can bring us to the crossroads in life.
- Just thinking. Sometimes even without any of the above, we may start thinking deeply about our lives, feeling the need for a critical change to stop our drift away from God and to bring about a closer walk with him.
- Your baptism. Dying with Christ and being raised to newness of life (Romans 6:3-4) surely is a major crossroads for you. It's surely a time to stand still in life and consider what change of direction your life should take.
Stand, ask, walk.
God’s Ancient Instruction. God’s advice, when we come to the crossroads, was written long ago, and never changes: "Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, wherein is the good way, and walk therein" (Jeremiah 6:16)
1 Stand in the ways and see
When God says, "Stand in the ways and see" (Jeremiah 6:16), what does he mean? He means that you should not go rushing headlong through life. Stand still and consider.
The Way You've Been. Consider not only the choice of roads ahead, but also, importantly, look back at the way by which you have come. See how God has thus far dealt with you. This helps to prepare you for choosing the right way ahead.
Samuel’s Ebenezer. When Samuel helped the Israelites overcome the Philistines, he took time to stop and reflect on how God had helped him. He built a monument from stone and called it "Ebenezer" which means "By God's help we have come thus far" (1Samuel 7:10-13).
When we "stand in the ways and see" (Jeremiah 6:16), we may be moved to say, "Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home". We may even want to make some form of Ebenezer ourselves —a time of prayer and perhaps fasting, a special gift or act of thanksgiving, or making some big change that will help you serve God better.
Standing Strong. There is another thing we may note in the instruction to "Stand in the ways and see" (Jeremiah 6:16). The first word, "Stand", implies strength. We don't fall down in the ways, but stand in them, strong in the Lord no matter what has befallen us. The scriptures often use the word "stand" in this sense (eg Ephesians 6:10-13, 1Corinthians 15:1-2, 1Corinthians 16:13).
¶“10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God. It will enable you to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
¶“13So take up that whole armor of God, so you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.14 Stand therefore...” (Ephesians 6:13).
¶“1Now brethren, I would remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and in which you stand. 2By that gospel you are being saved —if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, and you haven't believed in vain.” (1Corinthians 15:1-2).
¶“13Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.” (1Corinthians 16:13).
2 Ask for the old paths
When God says, "Ask for the old paths" (Jeremiah 6:16), what does he mean? He means that there are many changes in the world, many new paths recommended by the world, and the world confuses change with progress.
Not all changes, not all new things, are improvements. You might buy a modern mouse trap which you think is a great improvement on the old kind. However there's a lot of difference between a mousetrap and a path of wisdom and life. There is ancient, timeless, wisdom which cannot be improved upon. It shall always be the best path to follow.
The Lamp that Lights our Way. The Psalmist said to God, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalms 119:105). The paths where God's word shines may be old paths, but they remain the best paths, because they lead along the good way.
King Josiah’s Attitude. In the time of Josiah's reign, the book of God's law was discovered in the temple after many years of being lost. When Josiah was told of the find, he made his people go back to observing it (2Kings 22:8,13).
The Gospel Way. For us, the old paths are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although “Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 8:6, 9:15), it's also the oldest path of all because...
Jesus, his sacrifice, and his gospel covenant, were already in the mind of God “foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1Peter 1:17-20).
Note —THE WAY: As a matter of interest, we note that in the book of Acts, the teachings of Jesus are called "the Way" (eg Acts 19:9,23).
3 Walk in the good way
When God speaks of "the good way" and tells us to "walk therein" (Jeremiah 6:16) what does he mean? He means that it is not enough to "see" the good way. It's not enough even to recognize that it is good. You have to actually enter into that way and "walk therein" (Jeremiah 6:16). We have to follow that way and make it our way of life.
Walking in the Gospel. Many people regard the gospel as having little relevance to life. That's because it doesn't match their manner and philosophy of life. The gospel is certainly relevant to their lives. They reject it however, because they would rather continue to walk in their own way.
As Solomon truly said, "There is a way that seems right to people, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25).
Paul says that they "walk in the futility of their own mind, having their understanding darkened, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them" (Ephesians 4:17-18).
Walk Worthy and Wisely. The wise person does not ask whether the gospel is relevant to his life style, but rather whether his way of life is in accord with the gospel. Paul says, "walk worthy of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27). We conform our lives to the gospel and live in a manner that befits and exemplifies it.
Enter by the Narrow Gate Jesus spoke of this very thing when he said, "Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
Remember this when you are at the crossroads in life. Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, wherein is the good way, and walk therein" (Jeremiah 6:16).