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The Roads Best Travelled 10: Unbuilt Roads


Issue 247

Based on Jeremiah 18:15

There can be few things more irritating or undermining than being forgotten. It is a kind of insult, which gives the impression that you simply don’t matter, don’t exist or are worthless. If someone forgets to call you back, forgets an appointment or forgets to do something they promised, it leaves an unpleasant taste. Even if someone forgets your name, it is a little undermining.

This forgetfulness is much easier to deal with if you are sure it is accidental and unintended. You comfort yourself with the fact that this just happens sometimes. If the person who forgets you is on the periphery of your work, again it is a nuisance but not necessarily too serious.

If, however, someone very close to you forgets you, this is more of a problem. If they do it regularly it can become large in your mind. If you also discover that they are doing it deliberately then you may feel your anger rising along with your hurt. This is the character of the unbuilt road. God uses this metaphor to describe the behaviour of his own people who have made a deliberate habit of forgetting him and concocting alternatives to him. The tone of the description contains a note of incredulity and horror. It is almost as if God is shocked by what he is experiencing. The context asks if anyone has ever heard of something like this.

As you work week by week you will be faced with the challenge to remember your God. The way you remember him will be by basing your working practices on biblical principles. It will include recognising that your life and work are in his hands. It will mean doing everything to or for him.

Yet you will also find yourself forgetting. So you may hope that something turns out well in a fatalistic or superstitious way. You may find yourself trusting in a banker or professional adviser and elevating this person above your God. You may even discover that you are sacrificing to the idol of ambition or money.

It is these mindsets which take you off your path onto a bypath, according to Jeremiah. This will cause you to travel on unbuilt roads. You will start to stumble on rough, unprepared surfaces and hurt yourself on rocks and stones.

Anything that you think, feel, say or do which ignores the fact that you are first and foremost an adopted child of God will increase your risk.

Our problems may not be based around burning incense to idols, but they may involve nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and ego. They may smell of self-centeredness or shallow thinking. They may involve unfair or unwise use of financial resources and power.

These are all expressions of the ‘self’, which challenge our faith and lead us to forget the Divine. They can lead into self-help, superstitious spirituality and high risk alternative beliefs.

And it leaves God incredulous at our actions; not because we have rejected a system or a code of honour,but rather God doesn’t want us to forget him because he is a deep friend, a loving Father and a long-term companion. It’s the pain of rejection that he allows himself to feel.

If you or those around you walk on these unbuilt roads and forget God then, according to Jeremiah, you risk wasting your life, opening yourself to ridicule and appalling appearances. The risk is that if you forget and are on this road, it is very hard to see your own condition.

So don’t forget.


Jeremiah 18:15

15 Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths. They made them walk in bypaths and on roads not built up.

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Series: The Roads Best Travelled
Module: 7
Season: -
Daily Guide: No

Tags: forget, idolatry, independence, offence, remember

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Geoff Shattock

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