A Nation at the Crossroads

Jeremiah 6:13-20 — The Message
13-15 “Everyone’s after the dishonest dollar, little people and big people alike.
Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth.
My people are broken—shattered! —and they put on Band-Aids, saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’
But things are not ‘just fine’! do you suppose they are embarrassed over this outrage?
No, they have no shame. They don’t even know how to blush.
There’s no hope for them. They’ve hit bottom and there’s no getting up.
As far as I’m concerned, they’re finished.”
God has spoken.
Death Is on the Prowl
16-20 God’s Message yet again: “Go stand at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for directions to the old road, the tried-and-true road. Then take it.
Discover the right route for your souls.
But they said, ‘Nothing doing. We aren’t going that way.’
I even provided watchmen for them to warn them, to set off the alarm.
But the people said, ‘It’s a false alarm. It doesn’t concern us.’
And so I’m calling in the nations as witnesses: ‘Watch, witnesses, what happens to them!’
And, ‘Pay attention, Earth! Don’t miss these bulletins.’
I’m visiting catastrophe on this people, the end result of the games they’ve been playing with me.
They’ve ignored everything I’ve said, had nothing but contempt for my teaching.
What would I want with incense brought in from Sheba, rare spices from exotic places?
Your burnt sacrifices in worship give me no pleasure. Your religious rituals mean nothing to me.”



  • 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.”—Jeremiah 6:16
  • In the early 1500s, a small white oak sapling began to deepen its roots in the fertile soil of the Eastern Shore of what would eventually become the state of Maryland.
    • Since beginning its quiet unassuming life in the 1500s, it has seen the fall of a civilization and the birth of a nation.
    • Native Americans, believed to be the Wiccomisses, lived and hunted in the area.
    • The Choptank Trail, which ran down the east side of the Chesapeake Bay, traversing the land from the head of one river to the next, was near the oak.
    • This ancient trail later developed into a road and as the tree grew, its boughs provided shade for the early settlers as they traveled by.
    • The road, which eventually linked Oxford with Philadelphia, became an important cog in the settlement of the Eastern Shore.
  • In 1909, the then gigantic tree was first officially distinguished for its size. Maryland’s first State Forester, Fred Besley, measured and photographed the tree.
    • Many people began to consider it the largest white oak in the state and, for the first time, visitors came to view its sweeping boughs.
    • The Wye Oak held the title of largest white oak in the United States since the American Forestry Association began its contest in 1940.
  • As it was a gift of nature, nature determined the big tree’s course.
    • On June 6, 2002 the mighty Wye Oak succumbed to time and the elements as its massive trunk collapsed during a severe thunderstorm, ending the life of Maryland’s oldest citizen.
    • At its end, the tree measured 31 feet 8 inches in circumference, was 96 feet tall and had an average crown spread of 119 feet. The main bole of the tree weighed over 61,000 pounds.
  • Pause
  • At this present period of world tumult—and with America facing many crucial decisions for our future and struggling with much internal fractalizations –we may allow the moving story of the Wye Oak to symbolize what can happen to entire peoples and their belief systems.
  • At one time the Wye Oak was the largest most massive white oak in the United States. People came and rested in its shade. The stopped by the various nearby hotels and taverns as travelers were always welcomed.
    • Many saplings were created from its enormous supply of acorns.
    • The bounty was immeasurable. It’s spread was massive.
    • But as time marched on – even with the help of creative supports and steel cables, the Wye Oak tree succumbed.
  • Pause
  • For although the Christian faith once seemed to be spreading its protective shade over education, family, worship and law, there are today political storms and secular divisions seemingly designed to bring down the once mighty understanding of life that stimulates our civilization.
  • Here is what the prophet Jeremiah is speaking about in today’s Scripture:
    • Recalling Israel’s earliest history as a nation, when, full of faith, the people had followed Moses into the desert, Jeremiah pictures Israel’s loyalty to God as that of a newly-wedded bride to her husband, and wonders what has happened to his people that they have turned away from God.
    • Jeremiah sadly decries Israel’s ingratitude and unfaithfulness and warns them that it spells their doom:
    • As God speaks through Jeremiah we hear: For My people have committed two evils.
    • They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water… “Therefore… I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of gladness and the voice of joy, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land shall become a desert.”
  • This had been the Prophet Jeremiah’s own driving concern 2,600 years ago. What had happened to Judah’s longstanding relationship with the Lord? With menacing Assyria on the march—and the neglect of belief by Jeremiah’s own people—the ancient faith looked like it was being dismantled, and the nation itself seemed to be at the crossroads.
  • Jeremiah’s words spoke into his own era and indeed into ours: “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” (Jeremiah 6:16).
  • Jeremiah’s words to his people at the crossroads of decision have their application in our own day—with four sturdy words of command:
    First, We are to stand at the crossroads
  • “Stop! Stand still! Reflect!” Judah was indeed at the crossroads. With vivid images of a seething boiling pot, a smashed water jar, a wooden yoke and a basket of figs, the prophet paints the picture of a nation in crisis and insists—like his predecessor Isaiah—that “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
  • At times of national gravity, the faithful ones are those who refuse to be cowed or distracted by rowdy hype, by embattled debate or media frenzy. Instead we are to prayerfully detach ourselves, and stand—taking steady and sober stock of our strategic calling as children of God (Philippians 3:20, 21). That is the winning ticket!
    • What this means is that we need to carefully listen to what is happening and to reduce our judgmental attitudes toward other people.
    • Listening means to hear and discern that still small voice of God calling us to be a faithful witness to the Living God – Jesus the Christ.
  • Second, we are to look!
  • Jeremiah’s desire surely was that the recently rediscovered parchments of the law (2 Chronicles 34) would cause his listeners to look, not only at their own sinful disregard of the Lord, but also at God’s saving power.
    • For history has consistently proved the point that “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV).
    • No political or commercial “vision” is here referred to.
    • It is the loss of God’s eternal law in God’s given Word that can cause a people to perish and fall apart morally and socially, and so to disintegrate—without even knowing why.
    • Our vision for the future seems to focus on us first – as a society and as a country. It is safe to say that fewer and fewer people and families are seeking the refuge of the Living God from all of the pain and injustices that are permeating our society and country. It seems to me that today, our ideas, our thoughts and actions are correct and that others are always wrong. We are becoming a very narcissistic society and hence denounce our family, neighbors, friends, and government, and allies when they disagree with our line of thinking.
  • As Argentine evangelist Luis Palau once warned on British TV, “It’s back to the Bible—or back to the Jungle.”
  • Third, we are to ask
  • “Ask for the ancient paths … where the good way is,” declared Jeremiah.
    • The call is for a prayerful yearning in the hearts of God’s people.
    • Not for a fresh new teaching or an exciting new emphasis, but rather a coming back to the proven paths that were known of old.
    • The way forward is to go back!
    • That has been learned by a long parade of faithful witnesses, including the Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Wesley, the Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers and uncountable heroes and martyrs of today.
  • Just to ask for a return to those ancient paths is to engage in that God-given way by which we ask supremely by prayer and obedience.
  • Finally, we are to walk
  • “Ask where the good way is—and walk in it.”
  • John Chrysostom, a mighty preacher of old, declared that just as a beautiful coat only looks best when worn by someone, so the Scriptures—though wonderful when proclaimed in public—are far more astounding when they are being lived out by the people who hear them!
    • That is the final test of God’s people at the crossroads.
    • What of Christlike character and behavior?
    • That is what changes a people!
  • Ultimately, by the promise of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18), although the church itself becomes battered by the storms of every century, nevertheless—unlike the Wye Oak —it has never been brought down. It never will.
  • Where to from here? – Reduce our judgmental attitudes towards other people we disagree with. See them as we see ourselves – special children of the Creator God.
  • Pray continuously for our society and our country.
  • Proclaim the power of the Risen Christ by our daily actions.
  • Thanks be to God!