“Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).
There is a legend in the world of blues music. The story goes that sometime in the 1930’s, at the modern intersections of U.S. Highways 61 and 49, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent. Eric Clapton understood this to be a metaphor. He said, “the crossroads is about choosing which path to go down. It’s about the moral decisions you make everyday” (What Eric Clapton Thinks About Robert Johnson’s Devil Legend by Rafael Polcara, rockandrollgarage.com). Another theory is that the story was created to explain how Johnson went from being a mediocre blues player to a highly skilled blues musician in a short period of time. Johnson died in 1938, at the age of 27. Let us understand that nothing is worth one’s soul (Mark 8:36-37).
The text in Jeremiah is about a crossroads. Judah was at a spiritual crossroads. The LORD tells them: (1) Stand in the ways and see. They needed to carefully consider which direction they would travel. (2) Ask for the old paths, where the good way is. God has a plan for how man is to walk (cf. Psalm 17:5; 23:3). They were to “ask for,” that is, seek God’s ways. (a) It is called “the old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16; 18:15). God had long ago by Moses told them how to conduct themselves as His people (Jeremiah 7:23). (b) It is called “the good way” (Jeremiah 6:16). It is the way that God promised the bless and not curse (Deuteronomy 28). (3) Walk in it. This refers to obedience (Jeremiah 7:23). They were not to direct their own steps, but they were to allow God to direct them (Jeremiah 10:23). (4) Then you will find rest for your souls. Spiritual rest is found in following the way in which God leads (Jeremiah 6:16 cf. Matthew 11:28-29). Adam Clarke comments, “A traveler is going to a particular city; he comes to a place where the road divides… (he) gets proper directions -proceeds on his journey – arrives at the desired place – and reposes.” There is a rest to come for the faithful (Revelation 14:13).
Alas, Judah refused to walk in the ways of God. They said, “We will not walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16). Wayne Jackson comments, “One writer notes that God had provided three incentives to walk in the old paths: History (v. 16); Prophecy (v. 17); the Law (v. 19), but the people rejected the testimony of all three” (Wayne Jackson, Jeremiah and Lamentations, p. 19). The consequences of their rejection did not bring rest. The LORD declared, “Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people – The fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it” (Jeremiah 6:19).
We face many choices in life. Some of these choices have spiritual consequences. Consider: (1) Stand in the ways and see. Do we thoughtfully consider which way we should go? (2) Ask for the old paths. Do we consider what God’s word says? Do we consult the scriptures? (3) Walk in it. Do we seek to order our lives according to His will? (4) Then you will find rest for your souls. Are we following a path that will lead us to heavenly rest?
Consider: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119: 105). “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by in. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 cf. Luke 13:23-24).