Remaining in the Way

The heritage of believers is a thread winding its way from Genesis to Messiah and beyond.

Core of the Bible podcast #54 – Remaining in the Way

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness, and how the path of holiness, or the Way of holiness, is an intentional and purposeful path to walk.

Isaiah 35:8 – And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it—only those who walk in the Way—and fools will not stray onto it.

In the time that these words were written, what was called a highway was what we would consider today a well-trodden trail. Even thought it was little more than a wilderness trail, it was a definitive path that left no doubt as to the right way to go. Being on this trail brought with it a sense of confidence: all one had to do was to follow the trail to reach their destination.

The path of holiness is here called the Way. When one is on this path, one is separated from the rest of humanity that is choosing to follow its own way or its own desires.

Even today Jews are well acquainted with this Way of holiness that Isaiah spoke of. To them it is known as the Derech Hashem, the Way of the Lord, or the Way of Yahweh. Of course, no Jew would pronounce the name of God, so they have substituted instead the word Hashem which means the Name. The Derech Hashem is such a powerful metaphor, that Jewish literature abounds with this concept.

In the early 1700’s, a well-known rabbi by the name of Moshe Chayim Luzzatto penned a compilation of ideas as a type of systematic theology known as the Way of God, or the Derech Hashem. This has become a classic book in Jewish literature, much like Pilgrim’s Progress might be to Christians today. The Derech Hashem covers the nature of God, the nature of man, prophecy, the purpose and role of man and how one should conduct themself as a faithful Jew. This book also goes into detail regarding many man-made Jewish traditions and superstitious practices, some originating from the studies of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. However, it is nonetheless a compelling and vital insight into Jewish thought and tradition and how they came about.

Now reviewing this concept in the Bible, the Way is well-attested throughout, from the earliest beginnings in Genesis all the way through the NT writings. The Way of Yahweh is variously described as the way to the tree of life, the way of wisdom, the way of righteousness, and sometimes simply the Way.

Genesis 3:23-24 – So Yahweh God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.

Exodus 18:19-20 – “Now listen to me [Jethro speaking to Moses]; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to him. “Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them in the way they must walk to live and what they must do.

Exodus 32:7-8 – Yahweh spoke to Moses: “Go down at once! For your people you brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly. “They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them; they have made for themselves an image of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it, and said, ‘Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ “

Deuteronomy 13:4-5 – “You must follow Yahweh your God and fear him. You must keep his commands and listen to him; you must worship him and remain faithful to him. “That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has urged rebellion against Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slavery, to turn you from the way Yahweh your God has commanded you to walk. You must purge the evil from you.

Job 28:23 – But God understands the way to wisdom, and he knows its location.

Psalm 25:8-9 – Yahweh is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Proverbs 2:20 – So follow the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the righteous.

Isaiah 48:17 – This is what Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says: I am Yahweh your God, who teaches you for your benefit, who leads you in the way you should go.

Isaiah 40:3 – A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of Yahweh [derech Yahweh] in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert

This famous verse, of course, is where the charting of the way of God crosses over into the NT writings, and one which we will follow more closely in just a moment.

As we began to explore, the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” was John the baptizer’s own evaluation of himself and his ministry in the wilderness when he was questioned by the Jewish officials from Jerusalem.

John 1:22-23 – “Who are you, then? ” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself? ” He [John] said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of Yahweh ​– ​just as Isaiah the prophet said.”

The ministry of John the baptizer had also been foretold by the prophet Malachi, one of the last prophets to speak to the Jews of second temple Judaism.

Malachi 3:1 – “See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in ​– ​see, he is coming,” says Yahweh of Armies.

The way was to be cleared, and this was John’s role: to warn and compel, to condemn and to provide deliverance to those who would be obedient to this Way. Therefore, Yeshua himself had also become to be identified with this Way that John had spoken of.

Matthew 22:15-16 – Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap him by what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You don’t care what anyone thinks nor do you show partiality.”

Even beyond the ministry of Yeshua and early in its growth among the Jewish believers of the first century, the believers in Messiah were identified with this growing sect of Judaism which became known as the Way. This was more likely conveyed as an ironic reference that was used of their detractors as a way of suggesting that these believers felt their way was the only true way to God. This could be similar to how we might use air quotes today around a phrase to mock someone’s pompous statement about themself. “Those believers of Yeshua who are part of ‘the Way’ think they have the true understanding of God’s Word.”

The true irony is that these believers actually were the continuation of the Way, the Derech Hashem, that had threaded itself all throughout the Scriptures, as we have seen. Their belief in the Messiah was the catalyst that caused the Remnant people of God to be separated for God’s purpose and ultimately spared from the judgment that was about to fall upon Jerusalem and the whole Judaic system of religious elitism and traditionalism.

That these early believers were called members of the Way is well documented throughout the book of Acts.

Acts 9:1-2 – Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Acts 18:24-25 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Yeshua, although he knew only John’s baptism.

Acts 19:9, 23 – But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. … About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way.

Acts 24:14, 22 – “But I admit this to you: I worship the God of my ancestors according to the Way, which they call a sect, believing everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets. … Since Felix was well informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.”

So it can be seen that these early believers were being identified with this concept of the Way. To be honest, and maybe this is just me, I think it is a more meaningful moniker than the name “Christian” would be, since it demonstrates the continuity of the faith that has come down to us through the millennia since God originally called Abraham.

One of the most compelling reasons that believers became associated with this Way is that Yeshua, in no uncertain terms, promoted himself (that is, his teaching and his life) as the only Way to God the Father.

John 14:3-6 – “If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. “You know the way to where I am going.” “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way? ” Yeshua told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This exclusivity of the Way of the Messiah has been troubling to those from other faiths over the millennia, and is flat-out unnerving to the modern society where it is thought that “all paths lead to God.” Today it is sincerity to one’s own personal beliefs that is considered the only reasonable understanding of spirituality. However, this type of feral universalism is the very thing that the entire message of the Bible, not just this statement of Yeshua, rallies against.

Isaiah 45:5-6 – “I am Yahweh, and there is no other; there is no God but me. I will strengthen you, though you do not know me, “so that all may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is no one but me. I am Yahweh, and there is no other.

Nehemiah 9:6 – You, Yahweh, are the only God. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and all the stars of heaven worship you.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 – For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth ​– ​as there are many “gods” and many “lords” ​– ​ yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Yeshua Messiah. All things are through him, and we exist through him.

Ephesians 4:4-6 – There is one body and one Spirit ​– ​just as you were called to one hope at your calling ​– ​ one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

1 Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Messiah Yeshua,

All throughout the Bible there is only one God, and all others are to be rejected. Therefore it makes perfect sense that there would be only one logical path that the Anointed One of that God, the Messiah, would direct us toward. Understanding this concept is one of the over-arching themes within the narrative of the Bible, and a reality that allows the kingdom of God to come alive within each generation since that time. Every believer in the Messiah is a demonstration that the kingdom of the one God is continuing to expand over time, with the goal that it will be fully realized among all the nations of the world.

Now that we have charted a brief history and context for the phrase “the Way” through the Old Testament, the ministries of John and Yeshua, and the early believers, let’s review the original verse in Isaiah that started us down this road once again to hopefully draw out some helpful conclusions for application.

Isaiah 35:8 – And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it—only those who walk in the Way—and fools will not stray onto it.

We have seen how historically this Way of Holiness has played out through faithful believers all through biblical history. But Isaiah focuses here on the holiness of this Way, the fact that it is set apart from all other ways that might also be out there.

The teaching of Messiah on the Narrow Way echoes this statement of Isaiah.

Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. “How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

Once again, Yeshua defines the exclusivity of this Way, which points to its set-apartness from the routine paths and highways of the world. Those who travel this path are uniquely set apart for a specific purpose, the purpose of God in establishing his kingdom in this world.

Depending on which version of the Bible you may read, the last part of the verse in Isaiah 35:8 where it says “fools will not stray onto it” can be viewed in a couple of meaningful ways. In some versions, like the Berean Study Bible I have quoted here, it gives the impressions that the fool will not accidentally stray onto it. This would imply that the Way is intentional; one chooses to be on it and does not fall upon it by whim or chance. Psalm 25, as we have seen, states that one has to be shown, taught, or guided to the right Way, and does not stumble upon it on their own or by their own wisdom.

Psalm 25:8-9 – “Yahweh is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

This implies that being on the path is not something that we can take credit for ourselves, as if by our own volition, wisdom, and cunning we have somehow figured out the meaning of life.

There are also English versions of Isaiah 35:8 that provide a different shade of meaning to “fools will not stray onto it.” These renderings will say something along the lines of “even a fool will not stray from it.” This provides a different sense of meaning that the Way is so clearly defined that even if one is foolish they have the ability to remain on the path. This is also echoed in the teachings of Yeshua where he states that one can only enter the kingdom in the simplicity and humility of a child.

Matthew 18:3-4 – “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child ​– ​this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

If even a child can be shown the Way and be considered great within the kingdom, this carries the idea that once we are on that path, we have all the ability needed to remain faithfully traveling its length for the duration of our lives here on earth.

In either view, the Way is something that is distinct from where the rest of the world travels. As we have seen, this Way has a long and winding legacy through the faithful believers of the distant past, right down to our present day belief in the true God of the Bible through his Messiah, Yeshua. Being on this Way of holiness means that one is traveling within a way of life that is intentionally set apart for God’s purposes, and this Way can keep even our foolish inclinations in check.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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