Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bread crumbs or Guideposts?

"Set up road markers for yourself, make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities."
(Jeremiah 31:21)
The famous children's fable, HANSEL & GRETEL, tells the story of two children who wander off in the woods & eventually get lost (eventually meeting a witch with a gingerbread house!).  They were wise enough to know that getting lost might be a possibility.  So to prevent that from happening, they leave a trail of bread crumbs along the pathway into the forest... only to discover later (much to their horror) that the crumbs had been eaten by birds.  The way back home was nowhere to be found.

The prophet Jeremiah lived during the time of exile in Israel.  Foreign superpowers (Assyria & Babylon) came and not only destroyed much of Israel & Judah, but also carried away the best & brightest of the people.  Thus, the vast majority of the nation was forced to live in exile - far away from their homeland.

But God had not forgotten or forsaken his people.  The prophets (like Jeremiah) tell us that part of the reason for the exile was years & years (centuries, actually) of unfaithfulness towards God.  So God used this "super time out" as an opportunity to change the hearts of his people.  But he told them not to fear, for one day they would return home.  In fact, in Jeremiah 31:21, he tells the people to PAY ATTENTION to the path that took them to the exile.  I think this is more than simply inviting them to notice significant landmarks on their physical journey to captivity (so they can eventually find their way back, a la Hansel & Gretel).  I think God was calling them to take a thorough & searching examination of their spiritual journey to captivity.  What were the spiritual landmarks they passed on their way to ruin?  Remember them, says God.  They are important reminders... so you can find your way back (avoid going down that same path in the future!).

Wise advise, isn't it?  We, too, should be paying attention all the time in our spiritual lives.  We need to be keeping track of the guideposts we pass along our journey (both the positive ones & negative ones), so we can remember which paths lead to which destinations.  If we try to do it on our own... to navigate by our own power... it's like throwing bread crumbs down in the forest.  It may seem like a good idea at the time, but it will not last.  We need to pay attention to the signposts God has around us... especially those memorable events in our lives.  What might they be saying to us?  How might God be using them in our lives?

May they be road markers that help lead us down the path of righteousness.

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