Have you found yourself in a busy crossroads? Not a crossroads of choice, where you have to decide which way to go, but the crossroads of a community. One in which you stand out for your ideas or even your faith. Feeling vulnerable? If so, you may want to take a lesson from God’s redemptive history and Stay Put!
Jesus told us we would be hated for being “in the world but not of the world.” While we frequently find new and fresh ways of applying this pseudo-biblical summary statement of Jesus’ prayer for us (See John 17), this was not a radically new Idea for the faith community of the first century Jewish Christians. Indeed, the call to be “in the world but not of the world” had been part of God’s redemptive history all along, so much so, it was written into the very landscape God chose for the setting of that redemptive history.
The prophet Jeremiah would have been fully aware of the vulnerability of the Land of Israel. At the close of the 7th century BCE, his home stood directly in the crossroads of the Ancient Near-East.
- Three quarters of a millennia before, while the Israelites found themselves in bondage, the area had been controlled by the Egyptians as they traveled up the international coastal highway to vie for control of the valuable international trade route with the Hittites and the Mittani.
- Just a century before, the Assyrian Empire had taken it upon itself to put Egypt in its place, first conquering and then exiling the northern kingdom of Israel, and subsequently turning the lands along the coastal highway, the southern kingdom of Judah, and those of the eastern desert on the other side of the Jordan into Assyrian vassal states or provinces.
- And now, the prophet Jeremiah and his king Josiah faced the threat of the Babylonian Empire wanting to destroy the city of Jerusalem and take advantage of Judah’s unique ability to gain profit from the international routes which surrounded her.
Jeremiah certainly knew the dangers of a busy crossroads! Yet, Jeremiah pleaded with Judah’s capital city of Jerusalem to “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it” in order to “find rest for [their] souls.” In other words, Jeremiah called the city of Jerusalem to remain faithful and “Stay Put!” Why?
Jeremiah knew 5 things about God’s redemptive history
- God did not choose just a people but also a place to be the locus of his redemptive history!
- Faithful obedience to God was a necessity for living in the little resourced land of Israel and Judah! This is the righteousness of Abraham.
- The Land’s greatest resource was in fact, its crossroads!
- By standing in the crossroads, God’s people could reveal the name of Yahweh to the world!
- Through it, all other nations would be blessed!
We too are called to stand in the crossroads of the world and to stay put! God’s redemptive plan did not change between the old and new testament. Jesus still prays for our sanctification as we stand in the world while not being of the world. This is living by faith; being faithful to God right now, in the place he has put us. Not only is this emphasized by the words of Jesus and the prophet Jeremiah but also by God’s choice of the land between as the promised land for the Israelites.