IN THIS ISSUE ABOUT LIFE CROSSROADS:
• A wonderful verse from the Old Testament which I just discovered
• What the verse means practically
• How Jesus used it and applied it
A WONDERFUL BIBLE VERSE I NEVER KNEW ABOUT
Thus says the Lord, Stand by the roads and look, and ask for the eternal paths, where is the good, old way; then walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. [Book of Jeremiah, chapter 6].
Old Testament prophets, such as Jeremiah who lived about 600 BC which is 2,600 years ago, often interpreted to the Israelites what God wanted to say, and this is one example. Part of this saying seemed easy to understand, for me, but the last part was difficult.
Before we drill down into this, recall one of Yogi Berra’s classic one-liners (he was a great USA baseball catcher and coach):
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it”.
But this of course is NOT what Jeremiah was saying.
Jeremiah’s sole purpose was to reveal the sins of the people and explain the reason for the impending disaster (destruction by the Babylonian army and captivity). The people of Israel had even gone as far as building high altars to Baal in order to burn their children in fire as offerings. Jeremiah is famous for predicting the fall of Jerusalem, and how long it would last (70 years) before the Israelites were allowed to return from exile.
Jeremiah faced his own terrible life crossroads. God’s personal message to Jeremiah, “Attack you they will, overcome you they can’t,” was fulfilled many times in the Biblical narrative: Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers, beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death, thrown into a cistern by Judah’s officials, and opposed by a false prophet. In stark contrast, when the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem in 586 BC he surprisingly ordered that Jeremiah be freed from prison and treated well.
We generally consider crossroads as serious choices in life that we have to make. Where to go to college? Deciding to get married. Or to buy a new home. Or to change jobs. Or start a family. But there are spiritual life crossroads too: Should I believe in God? Should I spend my time and money on a new TV, or give some to the neighbor who has lost her job recently. And there are little crossroads of lower importance that we face ever day.
WHAT THE VERSE FROM THE BIBLE MEANS
The verse suggests asking (ask for the eternal paths) before acting (then walk in it). And it implies we can ask God (who is responsible for the eternal paths) and it will benefit us (you will find rest for your souls).
For example, my brother aged about 23 was raised in the church but felt he was missing something. He and I prayed together in the front seat of my little Renault, that God would reveal himself. And a couple weeks later he did, and my brother came into what I would call a personal relationship with God. This experience animated him spiritually, while it clearly removed the doubts and uncertainties he had been carrying around like sacks of stale vegetables.
I have prayed this prayer with other people, and seen positive results.
Back to the scripture verse. After asking we start walking (following God). For example, at one of my own crossroads I mulled over sending money to help out a friend caught in the recent Texas floods. Then I remembered people who helped me when my home was flooded earlier this year. So I started walking……I wrote a check for my friend plus a check for another person he mentioned was caught in the flood. He told me, She could really use the help! And she doesn’t even own a car to go buy stuff to fix her home!
HOW JESUS USED AND APPLIED THE BIBLE VERSE
Jesus knew of Jeremiah’s saying, and incorporated it in one of his own famous sayings (see scripture verse at the end of this article). He was addressing people who were suffering. The saying can be a tremendous source of comfort to us when we are crushed or depressed or physically ill. Try saying it over and over to yourself, or offer to quote it to others over the phone.
We can respect this saying of Jesus, because he mixed constantly with people who were suffering……he had earned the right to make a statement like this. And if we believe in God and choose at the life crossroads to walk in his path, there is the promise…..we will find rest for our souls. And Oh how we need this! For instance, a friend told me the other day she couldn’t believe how many women were contracting breast cancer these days. Like other forms of cancer, this is an enormous health challenge.
Jesus took part of Jeremiah’s saying (You will find rest for your souls). But he didn’t mention explicitly the life crossroads part (Stand by the roads and look, and ask for the eternal paths). But I think the concept was implicit: if we are hurting badly or suffering, we have a choice to ask God for help……we can ask God to reveal himself……we can ask God to provide insights and wisdom…..we can ask him to provide from his resources to alleviate the suffering (rest for our souls).
In my life experience, this is good news! Just the other day I prayed with a woman who was in a bind with her business, and urged her to ask God for help in her own way. She did, and he did, as she told me while we did a two-step at the next dance we both attended: soon afterward a hugely significant event occurred which is making an enormous difference in her business, especially impacting her clients, and she was excited! Even though her outer circumstances have not changed yet, her mood is significantly better, and she thanked me for helping to increase her faith and to remember to ask God for more help.
To experience sights and sounds of sandhill cranes flying in at sunset to rest their souls, start the 10-sec video by single-clicking on the Vid 6 link). Vid 6
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The Gray Nomad
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
Come to me, all you who labor and are over-burdened, and I will cause you to rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is wholesome – not harsh, hard, sharp or pressing, but comfortable; and my burden is light and easy to be borne. [Book of Matthew, chapter 11].