Sunday, May 29, 2022

“Ask for the Ancient Paths” [Matt's Messages]

“Ask for the Ancient Paths”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 29, 2022 :: Jeremiah 6:1-30 

We said last Sunday that chapters 4, 5, and 6 hang together as a unit about the terrible judgment that Jeremiah says is set to be poured out on the southern kingdom of Judah.

Chapter 6 just continues this theme of impending judgment and doom.

And it continues the theme of lament. The sadness of the prophet at the awful message that he has to deliver. Has to. You can hear this in his voice as he continues, even now, to implore his people repent.

And yet they don’t.

I want to read just one verse to you this as we get started. It will be the key verse for this message, and it will sound encouraging at first, but there is a sting in the tail.

Jeremiah chapter 6, verse16, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'”

Jeremiah 6:16 is a great verse for Graduation Sunday!

When I realized last week that we might land on it on Grad Sunday, I thought, “That’s great! Thank you, Lord! Jeremiah 6:16 is a great verse for the graduates we are celebrating this morning.”

Because you guys are at a crossroads in your own life.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, you have not only reached a significant milestone in your life, but this is one of those key moments when it’s really wise to step back and take stock of your life and consider which directions you want to move in. Which “roads” you want to travel down.

Especially because this might be the first time in your life where you really begin to get to choose for yourselves. The options aren’t limited by your parents or your school district. You are launching on your own.

And Jeremiah the prophet (not Jeremiah the graduate! Jeremiah Michaels is going to be really confused today because sometimes I will be talking about him! Jeremiah the prophet) has a great metaphor for taking stock of your life and choosing your life’s direction. It’s the metaphor of the crossroads.

How many churches and ministries have been called “Crossroads” after this verse?!

Listen to it again. We will return to it over and over this morning. Jeremiah 6:16.

“This is what the LORD says [God’s word to us]: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'”

I have three points of application for us to consider today, and they are all one word each, and each word begins with the same letter, the letter “L.” 

The first one is right there in verse 16. It is:

#1. LOOK.

Jeremiah says, “Stand at the crossroads and look...”

Jeremiah is giving Judah yet another chance. He’s telling them that they ought stop and take stock of what direction they are headed in.

Judah was not headed in a good and godly direction and had not been for many decades. And the LORD sent Jeremiah to say, “Stop. Look around. Think about what you’re doing here. Think about where you are going.”

And, of course, that’s good counsel for our graduates and for all of us, as well.

Stop. Look around. Think about where you are going.

Obviously, our grads all have some good plans for their futured. Misty has summarized what they all said in the bulletin for us. But the directions that Jeremiah is talking about here are deeper than just education and vocation. This is talking about a total way of life.

The LORD is inviting Judah to take a good hard look at themselves and see what they are doing with their whole lives.

“Stand at the crossroads and look...”

Really look.

And don’t just try to figure it out on your own. Ask for help. Listen to verse 16 again. Twice he says to ask for roadside assistance.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is...”

Do you get the picture in your mind’s eye?

The metaphor is somebody who might be lost. They might have lost their way. They are not sure which way is the right or the best way to go.

And they are now at a crossroads. And they are examining the different directions.

“Hmm. This one looks interesting. Kind of goes off thataway. Okay. Then there’s this one. It goes over there, I can’t see that far. I wonder if that’s the way home? Hmm.” What do you do then?

Some of you guys are like, “I don’t know. I don’t ask for directions.”

Many of us are instinctively reaching for our phones right now. GPS! That’s a way of asking for help.

Judah didn’t have GPS in this metaphor. In this metaphor, they had to stop and ask for some help from another person. And they needed a wise person to offer that help.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, do you have wise and godly people in your lives that you can ask for help when you are looking for direction?

Church family, do you? Do you have wise and goldy people in your lives that you can ask for help when you are looking for direction?

“Ask for the ancient paths.”

Now, that does not mean that if it’s “older it’s better.” Sometimes we get to be traditionalists who think that if it’s the way we used to do it that would be the best way. “They don’t do it the way they used to.”
Sometimes the old way is better. Often! Sometimes the new way is better.

This word “ancient” her could be translated “everlasting.” It’s the word “olam.”

So it’s the “everlasting paths.” That means “God’s paths.” The way of “wisdom.” Not just the old ones, but the wise ones. The ancient roadway that God set up for us to walk in the first place.

“Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is...”

It’s not always obvious. Which way is the safe way? Which way is the reliable way? Which way is the straight way?

Does this remind you of anything? My mind immediately goes to the most quoted verse for graduates every May–Proverbs 3:5-6, and with good reason. Say it with me if you know it!

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways [same word as here] acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV84).

So that’s asking the LORD which path to take and then trusting Him when He gives you the answer.

And that’s point number two. Second “L” word:


Don’t just look. Don’t just ask for that wisdom.

But listen to the wisdom and then follow it.

Actually choose to walk the good path.

“[A]sk for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it...”


“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2 NIV84).

He listens. And then he listens some more.

He rejects the path of folly and sin. And he chooses the ancient path of wisdom.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, today we gave each of you a Bible. I hope we’ve been giving you the wisdom of the Bible for many years! 

My counsel for you today is “Listen” to it. Walk in it.

Sadly, Judah did not. Did you hear the sting in the tail of verse 16?

When I was a young man I loved Jeremiah 16:6, and I memorized it. But I always stopped short of quoting to myself that last fatal part where Jeremiah says to Judah, “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

They refused! They refused to listen.

Sadly, that’s the theme of chapter 6! They did not listen.

Let’s jump back up to the top of the chapter and see how they refused. Look at verse 1. It starts out a lot like chapter 4 did with a call to run away. Verse 1.

“‘Flee for safety, people of Benjamin! Flee from Jerusalem! Sound the trumpet in Tekoa! Raise the signal over Beth Hakkerem! For disaster looms out of the north, even terrible destruction. [Run away! There is disaster coming. From the north. Just like we saw before. That’s going to turn out to be Babylon. But’s not just Babylon; it’s the LORD Himself. V.2] I will destroy the Daughter of Zion, so beautiful and delicate. [So beloved and yet so wicked.] Shepherds with their flocks will come against her; they will pitch their tents around her, each tending his own portion.’ [She’s surrounded. They speak:] ‘Prepare for battle against her! Arise, let us attack at noon! But, alas, the daylight is fading, and the shadows of evening grow long. So arise, let us attack at night and destroy her fortresses!’ [Either they are so anxious to attack that they will do it whenever they can or they are so ruthless that they are not going to stop–morning, noon, or night. Either way, it’s terrible for Judah. V.6] This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Cut down the trees and build siege ramps against Jerusalem. This city must be punished; it is filled with oppression. As a well pours out its water, so she pours out her wickedness. Violence and destruction resound in her; her sickness and wounds are ever before me.

Take warning, O Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you and make your land desolate so no one can live in it.’”

Listen! The LORD is saying that this city is so wicked that He must bring judgment on them or He would be unjust. Their wickedness is like a fresh fountain with fresh evil every day–like school shootings and grocery store shootings every day!

“Violence and destruction resound in her; her sickness and wounds are ever before me.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Take warning, O Jerusalem.”

Even now, the LORD pleads with them to repent. “Return to me.” v.9

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Let them glean the remnant of Israel as thoroughly as a vine; pass your hand over the branches again, like one gathering grapes.’ [Jeremiah, try to find someone out there who will listen. Try every single one. V.10] To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.”

He says, “They’re going ‘Na na na na na. I can’t hear you!’”

They’ve got their fingers in their ears.

It’s worse than that. Jeremiah says that they literally have “uncircumsised” ears. Their ears are disobedient and refuse to belong to the LORD.

And that rightly and righteously fills the LORD with wrath. And so that fills Jeremiah with wrath. V.11

“But I am full of the wrath of the LORD, and I cannot hold it in. ‘Pour it out on the children in the street and on the young men gathered together; both husband and wife will be caught in it, and the old, those weighed down with years.”

Do you hear the justice and the anger and the anguish of the LORD all mixed together?

Jeremiah is full to the brim with the hot anger of the LORD against their wickedness, and he can’t hold it in any longer, so the prophet prophecies and, the wrath pours out.

And the judgment will reach all.

Some of the commentators I read this week quoted Julia Ward Howe at this point in their comments on this passage. That song that Misty played at the end of the prelude.

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.”

The American Civil War was just a foretaste of that wrath, poured out on the sin of American-style slavery.

As was the terrible sacking of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Just a foretaste of the great wrath to come at the end of the age.

But that foretaste was awful enough. Verse 12 says that Judah will be uprooted.
“Their houses will be turned over to others, together with their fields and their wives, when I stretch out my hand against those who live in the land,’ declares the LORD.”

Why? Why the exile? 

Because they refused to listen. V.13

‘From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.”

“Shalom, shalom!” when there is no shalom.

“All is well. All is well.” when all is not well.

But that’s what people want to hear.

It sounds so good.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is–unless it’s a true promise from God. And then it’s too good not to be true. Because He’s too good to not be true.

But if He says that there is no peace, there is no peace.

If He says that we need to repent, then we need to repent.

Don’t listen to the false preachers of peace. Don’t listen to the prosperity preachers. Don’t listen to the fakers and the liars and the pretenders and the hucksters and the con artists who just tell you what you want to hear.

That road leads to danger!

And folks like that almost never admit it. V.15

“Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? [Peace, peace!] No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,’ says the LORD.”

Listen! Here’s our key verse again.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.' I appointed watchmen over you and said, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But you said, 'We will not listen.'

Therefore hear, O nations; observe, O witnesses, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law. [Do you hear it? Do you hear what happens when you refuse to listen? The people of Judah thought they could get away with it not by repenting but by being really religious. Going to church a lot. Giving a lot. And doing the religious rituals. Like a game. But the LORD will have none of it. V.20] What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.’ Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will put obstacles before this people. Fathers and sons alike will stumble over them; neighbors and friends will perish.’

This is what the LORD says: ‘Look, an army is coming from the land of the north; a great nation is being stirred up from the ends of the earth. [Babylon.] They are armed with bow and spear; they are cruel and show no mercy. They sound like the roaring sea as they ride on their horses; they come like men in battle formation to attack you, O Daughter of Zion.’  We have heard reports about them, and our hands hang limp. Anguish has gripped us, pain like that of a woman in labor. Do not go out to the fields or walk on the roads, for the enemy has a sword, and there is terror on every side.”

That is one of Jeremiah’s famous phrases and signature lines, “terror on every side.”

That’s what comes when you refuse to listen. Terror on every side.

You can hear his anguish even as you know it’s right. V.26

“O my people, put on sackcloth and roll in ashes; mourn with bitter wailing as for an only son, for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.”

It’s over. It’s over because you didn’t stand at the crossroads and look. You didn’t ask for the ancient paths. You did not ask for the good way.

And when you heard about the right way to go, you didn’t listen.

So the LORD makes Jeremiah a “tester of metals.” Sometimes we call it an “assayer” like they have up at Miracle Mountain Ranch if you go up there tomorrow for the Open House.

The assayer tests the quality of the metal. In the case of the gold rush, it was to see if it was genuine gold. In this case, the metaphor is silver.

The LORD says in this metaphor that the prophet was an assayer of the genuineness of Judah’s repentance. Was it silver quality repentance? Look at verse 27.

“‘I have made you [Jeremiah] a tester of metals and my people the ore, that you may observe and test their ways. [And here’s the report from the assayer’s office:] They are all hardened rebels, going about to slander. They are bronze and iron; they all act corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely to burn away the lead with fire, but the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out. They are called rejected silver, because the LORD has rejected them.’”

They refused to listen, so the LORD has refused them.

There is no true silver there. There is no true repentance.

They have refused to take the ancient paths.

But you and I still can.

The invitation of verse 16 is still open to you and me today.

So here’s point number three of three:

#3. LIVE.

Stop and look.
Ask and then listen.
And then live it.

Truly live it with the life worth living.

Look one more time at verse 16 and stop this time before the sting at the end:

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Doesn’t that sound good?

And doesn’t it sound like something you’ve heard Someone else say somewhere else?

I believe that Jesus was intentionally hypertexting back to these words when He said in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (v.28).

He will give us peace.
He will give us harmony.
He will give us the life that is truly life.

If we follow Him.

Because He Himself is the ancient path!

He Himself is the good way.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).  So that everyone who comes through Him, comes to the Father!

And gets true life.

Isn’t that good news?

Here’s where true life is.

Following Jesus.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, follow Jesus!

Lanse Free Church, follow Jesus!

Ask where the ancient paths are.
Ask where the good way ways is.
And walk in it.

And you will find rest for your souls.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. "“Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31