Stand At the Crossroads—Jeremiah 6:16-17
When Harry informed me that today was the 95th anniversary to the exact date when the congregation of Centenary United Brethren in Christ Church, then located on East Decatur and what is now Martin Luther King Boulevard, met at the old sanctuary and marched to their new location where we today worship as the congregation of Central United Methodist Church, the Lord led me to our text in Jeremiah 6:16 as an appropriate text for such an occasion as this:
“Thus says the LORD:
‘Stand at the crossroads, and
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies: and
walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.’”
If those saints who built this house of worship on the site of the 1908 Billy Sunday Crusade could speak to us from God’s Word and challenge us today as we look to the future, I think this might be a text they would share, one they would encourage us to claim as a promise to claim and a commandment to obey as we march into future ministry.
Crossroads always call upon us to make a decision. In what direction are we going to go? I have shared this with you in previous messages. Some of you may remember that I have appreciated the poetry of Robert Frost since first reading his works as a junior in high school. One of his poems that is usually included in high school American Literature textbooks is the one entitled “The Road Not Taken”:
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as far,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
[--Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.
Whenever we are traveling and come to a crossroad, we have a decision to make. Which direction are we going to go?
In late March I had to drop by a friend’s house in Pawnee, Illinois, to pick up the cross I now wear daily around my neck. Now I had never been to Pawnee prior to this trip, but I thought I knew how to get there. The Pawnee-Auburn Exit from Interstate 55 is Exit Number 82, just south of Springfield. This is the Crossroads or Intersection of Illinois 104 with the Interstate. I had passed it many times prior to this trip but never taken the exit. I had always assumed that Pawnee was to the west on Illinois 104, and that is the direction I turned, but I soon realized that I was headed instead toward Auburn. I had to turn around as quickly as possible and head in the opposite direction. I had made the wrong decision at the Crossroad.
Crossroads remind us of the continuous choices must make each day. Our text in Jeremiah also addresses the urgency of our life decision. As a disciple of Jesus Christ all my decisions need to be rooted in Him and directed by the Holy Spirit. Notice who is speaking in our text. It is the Lord Himself, and in speaking to us He gives us four commandments: stand, look, ask, and walk. If we but let Him, the Holy Spirit will guide us in every area of our lives. That is what He is inviting us to let Him do in our text, and I believe it is what the saints of 1910 would challenge us to let Him guide our lives forever and ever.
The Lord calls out to each of us, “Stand at the Crossroads, and look.”
To Whom are we to look? This is God’s invitation to us to turn to Him for guidance and direction in life; or in the words of Hebrews 12:2 keep “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of£ the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God [--NRSV]. As the hymn writer prays:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the Light of His glory and grace.
[--Helen H. Lemmel, 1922. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/t/u/turnyour.htm]
We stay on the right road only as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
I was pleased to find that the daily devotional in THE UPPER ROOM for yesterday, Saturday, April 23, 2005, was along these same lines. The author was Jack Zavada from Streator, Illinois. For Jack the crossroads became a choice between following Jesus or traveling the highway of materialism—buying into the lie of Madison Avenue that “we become whole as we drive an expensive car, live in a big house, and wear fancy clothes! Jack shares his personal conviction and testimony, “We find fullness of life through Jesus Christ, not through anything we can buy or through any of our achievements.” He sums it all up in one sentence: “Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can make us whole” [--THE UPPER ROOM, Saturday, April 23, 2005.]. I hear the same call to us today from the saints of 1910.
“Stand at the crossroads, and ask for the ancient paths.” The word “ask” is reputedly used in Scripture to express making a personal request for God’s guidance. Many individuals did that in Scripture, but many times the nations of Israel and Judah faced divine judgment because they continually failed to ask for God’s guidance. In I Samuel 23:1-2 David asked for God’s guidance before going to battle against the Philistines. The Scriptures tells us: “Now they told David, ‘The Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are robbing the threshing floors.’ David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ The LORD said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’” David was victorious because he did not run ahead of God in his own strength and power but sought the Lord’s guidance through prayer. Whenever I wait upon the Lord and seek His direction, I am never disappointed, but whenever I run ahead of God and do it “my way” I always mess things up. At all your crossroads in life, “Stand still, and ask God to guide and direct you in all your decisions before you take any action.
When God has given you guidance and direction, in obedience simply continue to “walk in the good way.” This is a simple call to always “walk in the ways of the Lord.” Ours is the same calling Moses laid before the
Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 28:9, “The LORD will establish you as His holy people, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.” In other words, once we are on the right track, we must keep on obeying the Lord through the direction of the Holy Spirit and the guiding light of His Word, the Holy Scriptures.
Andrew Murray sums it up so well in his With Christ in the School of Obedience: “The true pupil of some great musician or painter yields his master a wholehearted and unhesitating submission. In practicing his scales or mixing the colors, in the slow and patient study of the elements of his art, he knows that it is wisdom simply and fully to obey.
“It is this wholehearted surrender to His guidance, this implicit submission to His authority, which Christ asks. We come to Him asking Him to teach us the lost art of obeying God as He did. ... The only way of learning to do a thing is to do it. The only way of learning obedience from Christ is to give up your will to Him and to make the doing of His will the one desire and delight of your heart” [--Andrew Murray in With Christ in the School of Obedience. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 13.]. This is how we “walk in the way of the Lord.”
How will I benefit when I “Stand at the Crossroads, look to Jesus, ask for His guidance, and Walk in His ways?” It is then and only then that I “find rest for my soul.” I experience peace of mind and freedom from worry. No matter the trials, hardships, difficulties hurts, pains, sorrows, or problems I face, still I can sing along with Horatio G. Spafford:
Though Satan should buffet,
Though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
[--Horatio G. Spafford, “It Is Well with My Soul," 1873.].
“THUS SAYS THE LORD:
‘STAND AT THE CROSSROADS, AND
AND ASK FOR THE ANCIENT PATHS,
WHERE THE GOOD WAY LIES: AND WALK
AND FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.’”
I would like to paraphrase in closing a couple of lines from Robert Frost. My version, and perhaps that of the saints of 1910 as well, would end:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one CHRIST traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
May that be our testimony for all eternity.