I worked at a toy store during my first years of college.
One day, I watched a little boy stray from his dad. Dad was feeding baby sister, and big brother was asked to wait on the bench with him. He promised his son they would go into the toy store as soon as sister was done eating.
Suffice it to say that waiting was just too tough for the four-year-old.
Eventually, he found his way to the Matchbox cars, just inside the door of the toy store. (Yes, we put them there to be a temptation.) The boy would glance back at his dad, then inch closer to the display. Once he got to the rack of cars, Dad was quickly forgotten.
I watched to see what the man would do. He picked up baby sister and moved to the side of the store where he could see his son, but his son didn’t see him.
A few minutes later, the boy glanced up to find he was alone. He stepped out of the store, looked around, and was scared. The little boy was about to burst into tears when Dad stepped around the corner. The boy rushed to his side.
The dad hugged his son, then promptly told him he wouldn’t be getting a new Matchbox car that day.
The little boy knew why.
In just a few moments, he’d taught his son a lesson about patience, self-control, temptation, and what it means to feel lost. He’d also taught him that his choices have consequences.
I thought, “I need to remember this for the time I have kids someday.”
Truthfully, I still need that lesson each day.
WE GET LOST
I love hiking—as long as there is a well-marked path. I want to know there is a beginning to the journey and, if I stay on the path, I will be able to get home.
I wish I were as careful with my spiritual journey as I am with my hikes.
I’ve taught the Bible for more than thirty years. I know the path is well-marked, but for some reason I don’t mind wandering occasionally.
Thankfully, one of the things I have learned is that when I realize I’m lost, I need to start looking for Dad.
He is ready to be found.
GOD’S ADVICE FOR THE JOURNEY
I found a verse in Scripture when I was a young Christian. It has literally come to my mind hundreds of times during my adult years. I have used it for making important decisions and for parenting. Now the words provide perspective for our changing culture. I want to remind all of us of that verse again today.
The verse is Jeremiah 6:16, and it is some of the best advice Scripture has ever provided my spiritual journey.
Jeremiah is one of my favorite prophets. That seems a funny thing to say given that Jeremiah is often called “the prophet of doom.” I like Jeremiah because he was blunt and honest with his preaching. He knew God, and he knew God’s word. But, more than that, he was a man who was able to discern God’s voice.
I always teach my classes that when you read words like “Thus says the LORD” pay careful attention. The words that follow are God speaking. If you want to learn to discern God’s voice, learn to hear these verses as you read.
Jeremiah told the people of Judah, “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.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jeremiah 6:16).
JEREMIAH 6:16 FOR TODAY
If Jeremiah preached today, I think he would repeat this same message.
Jeremiah knew what God could bless and what God would judge. Jeremiah knew God has always wanted his people to know his will, his direction, and his warnings.
What did God speak to the lost culture of Jeremiah’s day?
“Stand by the roads, and look, ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is.”
God wants his people to stop and assess their journey. God wants us to ask where the good way is. It is an ancient path. The good way is the truth that has always been truth.
God’s word hasn’t changed. The interpretation of God’s word, the importance of God’s word, and the perception of God’s word are what is changing.
His word is an ancient path, and it is a path that has been well-marked. A lot of people have walked it for a long time. If we walk it, we find our way home. The ancient way is the good way. There is only one path, because one is enough.
God said to ask where the good way is and walk in it. God wanted us to find rest for our souls. The only time I’ve ever been afraid on a hike is when I couldn’t find the path and felt lost.
All of us have been that little boy, looking around a crowded mall, unable to find our dad. Thankfully, Dad is always watching and quick to find us. But, those are the times I missed the blessings I could have owned. There are consequences to making wrong choices.
God doesn’t want us to worry. God doesn’t want us to live with the anxiety that comes from feeling lost. He wants us to rest in the fact that the ancient path has always led people home. That path always will.
I teach this often: If it was biblical truth one hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, two thousand years ago—it is still truth today.
God’s word describes some behaviors and prescribes others. It’s important to study the totality of God’s word to understand that difference.
There was a time when a lot of people thought God’s word endorsed slavery. God’s word described slavery as a reality of our fallen world. Some people say that God’s plan for a sexual relationship has changed. From Genesis to Revelation, across thousands of years and many cultures, God only endorsed one sexual relationship. A lot of churches have left the ancient path of truth to adapt to the opinions of the culture. Those of us who teach the Bible know that there will be consequences. God has always judged those who “misrepresented” him to the world.
THE LAST FEW WORDS ARE THE POINT
Most of the time, when Jeremiah 6:16 is quoted, the last few words are omitted. But, the last few words make the point.
Jeremiah told his people that God wanted them to ask for the ancient path, the good way. God wanted them to walk that path and find rest for their souls. But, Jeremiah’s people said what a lot of God’s people are saying today: “We will not walk in it.”
The little boy didn’t get the car because he wandered off. His dad wanted to bless him, but teaching him was more important. His dad wanted to keep him safe, so he allowed him to experience what lost felt like.
In many ways, that describes our culture today, but it doesn’t have to describe you.
Ask for the ancient path, the good way.
Walk in the truth that has always been truth and you will find rest for your soul.
The next time you feel lost, look backward and you will know how to move ahead.