Divine Directions

by David & Stephen Olford

David and Stephen OlfordText: "Thus says the Lord: 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. But they said, "We will not walk in it"'" (Jeremiah 6:16).

Thought: God Himself is giving His people traveling instructions, because they are not heading in the right direction. Indeed, they are headed in the direction of judgment and exile. God has a way that leads to life and rest, but His people must follow His directions to get there.

The Desperate Need for Divine Direction-"Thus says the Lord"

1) God's people were forsaking the Lord.

Much of the prophecy of Jeremiah addresses this sinful departure of God's people from their God. They were not walking with God. In the early chapters of Jeremiah, God presents His case against His people and He called them to repent. They were forsaking the Lord, who was their source of life (Jer. 2:11-13).

2) God's people were following after other gods.

God states in one place that His people were "backsliding," they were being unfaithful by pursuing other gods (3:6-7). God is calling them to return to Himself. Their sin and idolatry were evidences that they were walking, if not running, away from Him. And in the light of this,

3) God's people were facing divine judgment

Calamity and disaster were just around the corner. An invasion was to take place, and God was going to use the Babylonians to discipline His people and to take them into exile. What a terrible expectation!

What stands out in our text and its context is that God's people were not listening. God's Words and the words of His prophet were falling on closed ears (6:10). Incredibly, God in His patience is still offering direction to His people. "Thus says the Lord" is the hope of God's people. It is a fearful thing when God is silent! But, when the voice of God is heard, and God provides instruction and a way to blessing, God's people can still respond.

The Merciful Offer of Divine Direction

God clearly speaks to His people and gives His directions. God tells his people that they must actively respond. He instructs them to "stand," to "see", to "ask", and then to "walk", and in so doing they will find "rest" for their souls. God is telling His people, in short, to:

1) Seek the good way ("stand", "see", and "ask").

The first thing to do when you are not sure of the right way, is to "stand" or "stop", and then you can "see" the situation, and be able to "ask" for the right road, the old paths, the good way, that leads to where you should go. Asking for God's way indicates a humble heart desiring God's leading.

For God's people in our text, these "old paths" spoke of the way of covenant and obedience, the walk in accord with God's will for His people. This way the way that God's people had left. As New Testament believers, we still need to choose to "walk in Christ", to move forward in faith and obedience to Him, and to grow in the "walk". So, we need to seek and choose the good way, God's good way. But it is not enough to choose the good way, we need also to:

2) Walk the good way ("and walk in it"). 

The real call here is to walk God's path, which is the path of obedience. These people of God and we today are indeed to be doers of the Word of God and not just hearers only (James 1:22). We need to "walk in Christ" (Col. 2:6-7) and not follow the pattern of the world around us. The result: "then you will find rest for your souls."

God directs His people to walk in order to find. Certainly this "rest" would mean salvation from the calamity and judgment due to God's people in the light of their going astray. It is a word that speaks to us of salvation, God's peace, favor, and blessing. It speaks of what the soul, the inner person is really longing for, and desperately needs.

What an offer from the Lord! What a divine invitation! This divine invitation reminds me of an invitation to weary and burdened people hundreds of years later form the mouth of the Lord Jesus Himself, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:28-30).

The Stubborn Rejection of Divine Direction-"We will not walk in it"

Like stubborn travelers who will not admit that they are lost, they would not respond to God's words. This is reinforced by the wording in Jer. 6:17, "Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But they said, We will not listen'."

Thrust: Do not reject divine directions. Unlike God's people in Jeremiah's day, may we choose to listen to the Lord, follow Him, obey Him, and experience the "rest" and blessing in our lives that He wants us to receive.

David Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's
Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee

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