“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 you souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV 1984.)
Decisions and choices – we all have to make them. This verse in Jeremiah 6 is one which I had presented to me many years ago as I faced a decision point. The NIV translates it ‘crossroads’ to bring out the sense of choice, though the Hebrew word ‘derek’ itself is normally simply translated ‘road’ or ‘way’. In fact, it is the same word in the singular in Jeremiah 6:16 which is translated ‘way’ (‘the good way’). The reference to ‘ancient paths’ casts me back to Genesis 24 when the servant of Abraham was sent to find a wife for Isaac. The servant describes his journey – his path – thus:
“Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” (Genesis 24:27).
Such journeys are never easy. And yet, as disciples of Christ we walk this path of faith. Indeed, the early Christians were known as those who belonged to ‘The Way’ (Acts 9:2).
There is a passage in JRR Tolkien’s imaginative saga, The Lord of the Rings, which superbly captures how the hero’s path to destiny can be filled with a deep sense of weakness and agony. Tolkien writes of his hero, Frodo thus:
“Maybe Frodo felt it, not knowing it, as he had upon Amon Hen, even though he believed that Gandalf was gone, gone for ever into the shadow in Moria far away. He sat upon the ground for a long while, silent, his head bowed, striving to recall all that Gandalf had said to him. But for this choice he could recall no counsel. Indeed, Gandalf’s guidance had been taken from them too soon, too soon, while the Dark Land was still very far away. How they should enter it at the last Gandalf had not said. Perhaps he could not say. In the the stronghold of the Enemy in the North, into Dol Guldur, he had once ventured. But into Mordor, to the Mountain of Fire and to Barad-dur, since the Dark Lord rose in power again, had he ever journeyed there? Frodo did not think so. And here he was a little halfling from the Shire, a simple hobbit of the quiet countryside, expected to find a way where the great ones could not go, or dared not go. It was an evil fate. But he had taken it on himself in his own sitting-room in the far-off spring of another year, so remote now that it was like a chapter in a story of the world’s youth, when the Trees of Silver and Gold were still in bloom. This was an evil choice. Which way should he choose? And if both led to terror and death, what good lay in choice?” (The Lord of the Rings, ‘The Black Gate is Closed’).
As followers of Christ Jesus there may come occasions when we identify with such sentiments. Times when we find ourselves feeling weak, insignificant and overwhelmed with the choice that lies before us. But, remember we are followers of ‘The Way’. After all, we follow our Saviour who himself was in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as he prayed ‘Father,…not my will but yours be done’.
Indeed, here too lies our answer and our path. For while we are a people walking the path of faith…and ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,’ now we see the Way is Jesus. And that knowledge brings us the deepest security and assurance. So the writer to the Hebrews gives us this exhortation:
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured he cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2).