“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….” Jeremiah 6:16
One of my favorite places to visit in Israel is the ruins of the city of Dan. Dan is way up in the north of Israel. In fact, you can see the fence that separates Israel from Lebanon from the ruins of Dan. In Genesis, Dan used to be called Laish, and the ancient mud brick gates to Laish have recently been discovered… where Abraham would have negotiated his nephew, Lot’s, release from the kings that took him captive. The place that intrigues me the most, however, when I visit Dan, is the ruins from the times of the kings of Israel, specifically the remains of the altar Jeroboam built for Israel to worship the golden calf.
If you remember, Jeroboam built a temple and this altar for the people’s convenience because it was hard work to travel all the way to Jerusalem where God said His Name would dwell. For their comfort, they could worship a god of their own choosing however they wanted. And there were plenty of priests to tell them what they wanted to hear… Jeroboam made sure of that.
I like to just stand and stare at what is left of that altar at Dan, reflecting on what the Psalmist recorded of that time in Israel’s history, “They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass.” (Psalm 106:20)
Israel gave up:
* The cloud of God’s presence between the wings of the cherubim, over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies
* The altar of incense where the worship of Israel offered by the priests rose before God as a sweet aroma
* The bronze altar Solomon built in front of the temple in Jerusalem, where God ordained the blood sacrifices offered for the forgiveness of sins.
* Their history of the redeeming God who alone delivered them out of slavery in Egypt by His miracle-working power and parted the Red Sea to let His people out of Egypt and the swollen Jordan River to let them into the Promised Land.
Israel gave all that up because it was more convenient, more comfortable, less demanding.
My most recent trip to Dan was this past March. Our Jewish guide couldn’t figure out why we would want to take so long here at the ruins of Jeroboam’s temple. I explained that every time I stand there, it feels like a warning to me- a warning of the danger facing the American Church right now. Like the popular church planted in Seattle a few years ago advertised, “Give us 35 minutes. We’ll give you God: for busy people with important things to do on the weekend.” It seems that in too many instances we have created a church model today that is…
But, has it been at the expense of the glory of God? The God who alone redeems, delivers, transforms lives…not by wise and persuasive techniques, but only by a demonstration of His power (1 Corinthians 2). I am starting to hear from people around the nation who have read my book, have a hunger for God, and are saying things to me like, “I am afraid that if God’s presence showed up at my church it would be viewed as an inconvenient interruption.”
So, what is the solution? What are we do to? I believe our answer is found in Jeremiah 6:16, spoken to the very people who had completely abandoned their pursuit of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Interestingly, this was the very text my father preached for his last sermon in South Africa. Having lived through several years of spiritual awakening in his ministry, a revival in Durban in the 1960’s that marked me for the presence and power of God, the same cry was on his lips just months before he died.
God said to Israel, “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’.” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV)
Stand. Take a break from the frantic pace of your life long enough to realize that we as a nation are at a crossroads. The Church of Jesus is at a critical crossroads.
Look. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight concerning what is going on in and around you spiritually.
Ask for the ancient paths. What were the paths that historically have brought the presence and power of God back into the life of the Church?
* Humility before God and each other
* Hunger for God that can only be generated by His Spirit.
Walk in the ancient paths. Even if the church you attend is not interested in them, you still walk in them. And you walk until God hears, answers and revives your church.
It is time for us to put the altars of God back into the life of our churches. Israel refused to walk in the ancient paths and all that’s left today are the ruins of Jeroboam’s temple and golden calf altar. I pray the Christians of America hear God’s call and return to the ancient paths before our churches or our nation lie in ruins.