I was on my way to work this morning, just rolling with the traffic around me, and letting my mind wander a bit. You know — going over the projects for the day, thinking about my child who needs some encouragement, what to make for supper, reminding myself to pay the utility bill, etc. Suddenly, brakes lit up ahead of me as we spy the patrol car parked off the roadway. I notice that the whole pack of cars had been speeding, and I was right in there with them. Thankfully the officer was after bigger fish than me, but I realized something in that moment. I had been letting the rest of the cars set the speed for me – and in going along with the pack, I had broken the law.
The “road” of our life, like the physical highway can lull us into something of a daze. It becomes so easy to go along with the crowd. But there is much danger when we do. The crowd will almost always lead us away from God.
The Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah gives us some very wise advice.
“Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road you take.” (Jeremiah 31:21) In short: Pay attention! Notice everything around you, and everything in you, and the way you are going. Far too often, the way we take is just where we drifted to.
Do you see the directive in this verse? The Hebrew for “set up” is to stand oneself before, to station, establish, to attend. There is nothing casual here; this is a strong decisive word. It is a deliberate and purposeful action. The word “guideposts” is amazing as well-the root word means “column of smoke.” Now if you know much about the Bible at all, you will remember that the Israelites were lead by God through the wilderness with a “pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night” (Exodus 13:21) God is still leading His people, He is still making Himself visible to us if only we will pay attention.
We are also directed to “take note of the highway, the road you take.” The heart of this section is – well– the heart. By looking at the terminology, Jeremiah is instructing us to set our hearts to follow the Lord along the right “road” – the road or highway being the conduct of our life. This is an intentional decision to guard our hearts and minds and stay alert to both the leading of the Lord and any attempt by Satan and the world to draw us off course. We will never follow God by accident. We will never stumble into a daily discipline of prayer and reading the Bible. We will never just fall into obedience. We must determine to do so.
What is the benefit of all this determination and attentiveness? “A highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk in that Way.” (Isaiah 35:8) Isaiah proclaims a “Way of Holiness” that will take us into God’s presence and light. A highway that He has prepared for those who “walk in the Way.”
The road we travel today will either lead us closer to God or farther away. It’s your choice. Will you pay attention to the direction you are traveling?
Almighty God, teach me to pay attention and to follow you with all my heart. Amen