I didn’t need my drivers education course to teach me the meaning of this sign. Most people have noticed them and understand what they mean. It’s fairly obvious that if you see a Wrong Way sign, you are in fact going the wrong way; traffic is coming at you in the opposite direction- likely at the speed of sixty miles per hour!
Wrong Way signs are written in capitals over a red field for a good reason. They call our attention to the fact that we’re in a precarious position. What does this have to do with the Bible? Well, I just read a little story in the book of Zechariah that might have something to say about this.
Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the LORD, saying to the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” (Zechariah 7:2-3 ESV)
The people of Israel have just returned to their homeland after being exiled. Their fathers had begun worshipping idols, though still pretending to honor God with their lips (Isaiah 29:13), and as they continually ignored his warnings, God allowed Babylon to take the people of Israel prisoner. After some time God has sent their children back. But these people are still re-learning how to live according to the Pentateuch, and they send to ask how they should honor God.
Traditionally the people would fast in the fifth month to commemorate the destruction of the first Temple (credit: http://rekhavi.karaitejudaism.org/fast_fifth_month.shtml). In this verse they ask whether they should continue the tradition. God then explains to them that they are missing the point. He doesn’t necessarily want them to lose weight or go insane while denying themselves food for a day. They have the wrong idea. This is exactly the problem that their ancestors had. He wants them to honor him, and he tells them the right way to do it:
And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:8-10 ESV)
So, in a way, that was their Wrong Way sign. Turn around, God says, and get back on the right road. Honor Me. Your forefathers started down this same path, going through the motions and turning their hearts away from Me, and consequently they were exiled. Now that you have a fresh start, obey My commands.
What do the people do?
But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. (Zechariah 7:11 ESV)
They ignore God’s commands. In answer to their question He points out the Wrong Way sign and shows them the right way to go- a detour sign, if you like- but they refuse to obey. What happens to them? History tells us the answer- in 70 AD Rome destroys the second Temple, thus beginning another exile.
If only Israel had obeyed God’s Wrong Way signs, things might have ended differently for them.
If only we would obey God’s Wrong Way signs, we could avoid many crashes.
So let me ask you- when God gives you a warning, do you hear him? If so, do you listen? This week, remember the people of Israel in Zechariah 7 and start watching for God’s Wrong Way signs.