Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'Jeremiah 6:16(NASB)
Following his calling and commission by God, the first few chapters of Jeremiah's public ministry is a long, prophetic sermon that remonstrates against Judah's wilful apostasy and is a denunciation of the gross infidelity of the people and their apostate priests, corrupt rulers, and lying prophets.
The glory of Israel's past had become eclipsed by their deliberate wantonness and Jeremiah cried out for the nation to repent. He warned of approaching judgement from the north if his words remained unheeded. Even the threat of Jerusalem's fall did not to bring Israel to their senses and failed to turn their hearts back to the Lord. Jeremiah mourned that he was unable to find one righteous person in their midst.
It is as if Judah's cup of moral infamy had been filled to the very brim. And so, Jeremiah continued to speak of the impending doom of the nation and predicted the fall of the city of Jerusalem whilst warning the people of approaching oppression, violence, and the ravaging of their land, due to their unholy ways and spiritual decline.
As the Babylonian military leaders and soldiers were preparing to march against Judah, planning their siege against Jerusalem, and agreeing their battle strategies, the children of Judah and Benjamin refused to listen to Jeremiah's pleading cries to escape the wrath to come. The Lord Himself marvelled at the foolhardiness of His obstinate people - even the winds and waves heeded His commands and yet His defiant nation would not!
The recollection of God's past deliverance and the hope of future glory was insufficient to bring Judah to its knees in repentance. The threat of judgement from the north and punishment for past sins could not move the petulant people to consider their way.
Although the Lord warned Jeremiah that the people would not listen to his words, remember their covenant with God, or return to the old ways of righteousness, this weeping prophet was faithful to his calling. "Thus says the LORD," he declared, "stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths... where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls." But they said, "We will not walk in it."
The covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was for the benefit of the nation. The Law of Moses and God's promises to David were given to direct the nation towards the road of righteousness and the path to peace where they would find rest for their soul. However, they preferred the pagan practices of the surrounding nations and refused to return to the Mosaic Law, which was fundamental to right living.
God's Word is sovereign, and the ancient paths were tried and tested. They secured God's blessings for His people and promised rest for their soul - while disobedience dictated devastation, destruction, and deportation from their promised land. But the people would not walk in God's ways and their deliberate disobedience caused Him to marvel at His rebellious people.
Although it is easy to find fault with Judah's rebellious ways and be critical of their attitude, we should be prepared to learn from their failure and consider our ways to see if we are obeying the instructions that we have received and are waking in spirit and truth. We also need to examine if we have chosen to walk in His righteous way and fulfil His instructions to the Church.
Have we walked in the 'old ways' that stand on the Word of truth and lead us in the way of righteousness, or have we bought into a watered-down doctrine and a compromised faith through adopting worldly philosophies or engaging in fleshly behaviour. Have we dishonoured our Lord through unbelief or disobedience?
We are not called to walk the same ancient path to which Israel was called, but we are required to be faithful to our calling, to walk in spirit and truth as outlined in the Word of God, to grow in grace and in a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to mature in the faith that we have been taught.
May we take our responsibility as blood-bought children of God seriously and die to self, live for Christ, and be prepared to say, "Thy will be done in my life - not mine."
Heavenly Father, thank You for Jeremiah who was obedient to his calling despite the immense opposition he received from his fellow-countrymen. I pray that I may be faithful to my calling and walk in the way of peace and righteousness for Your name's sake, even when I am opposed by family or friends. Keep me low at the Cross and broken before You. May I walk in spirit and truth towards the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, dying to self and living for Christ alone for Your greater praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.