We can have the assurance from multiple sources that we are on the right path.
Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.
The proverbs of Solomon contain a wealth of practical advice for the believer. This verse challenges believers to continually examine their ways to ensure they are on the correct path. The right way is not always abundantly clear, and if we simply trust our own wisdom and thinking, we may end up on the wrong road entirely.
Fortunately, Solomon has also provided some additional insights to help us determine which way we should be going.
Proverbs 12:15 – A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.
For the believer, the primary source of wisdom and counsel is Torah, or God’s Word. When faced with indecision, it is wise to prayerfully scour the Scriptures to allow God to provide needed direction.
When a possible course of action presents itself, it is then helpful to receive advice or counsel from a trusted friend or mentor. God, in his boundless intelligence, has granted that the repository of wisdom is not limited to one individual or one source. Most times, confirmation from a trusted acquaintance is the motivator needed to form solid course of action.
Wisdom is available from many different resources at any given time, especially in our current day and age of information. Besides trusted personal family, friends, and contacts, there are many online resources and teachings to guide and strengthen a believer’s faith.
Conversely, there is also a plethora of false teachings that can, and do, lead many astray with their hollow ethics and prideful focus. Yeshua cautioned that these teachings can be evaluated by understanding what kind of results the teacher or organization produces.
Matthew 7:15, 19-20 – “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. … “Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
Some diligent and common-sense investigation of an individual or ministry can many times provide the perspective needed to know if they can be trusted or not.
Solomon continues his practical advice:
Proverbs 3:7 – Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear Yahweh and turn away from evil.
If we are not relying on our wisdom, and we are fearing Yahweh by trusting in his Word and resources he has provided, it’s still up to us to actually turn away from evil. This is something that only we can choose to do, albeit with the strength God provides us.
Ephesians 6:10-11 – Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God…
1 Peter 4:10-11 – Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Messiah Yeshua in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
Finally, Solomon also encourages the believer to be sure the actions are coming from the right place within us.
Proverbs 16:2 – All a person’s ways seem right to him, but Yahweh weighs motives.
Another reading of “motives” reads “spirit.” Yahweh weighs or judges the spirit in which we do things, or the unseen motivation that guides what we do. Are we truly seeking the right way according to his Word and counsel, or merely trying to make ourselves look better in front of others?
1 Peter 2:1 – Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander.
In our quest to stay on the right path, then, we should be sure that we are vigilantly staying true to God’s Word, confiding with trusted advisors, taking measured steps to avoid evil and ensuring that we are operating from the correct motives. By doing so, we can have the assurance from multiple sources that we are on the right path. These confirmations provide the confidence and strength necessary to discern God’s will and keep us moving on the narrow path in the way of righteousness.
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The “pleasant paths” that Yahweh leads us on are considered the Way of God, the message of the kingdom, and the hope of rest.
Today we will be exploring the topic of trust using one of the most widely familiar passages of the Bible.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in Yahweh with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you on pleasant paths.
The word for trust in this famous passage has shades of meaning which include confidence and boldness, running to a secure place for refuge, being free of care or worry, having a steadfast hope. All of these are different ways of representing the believer’s inner reliance on Yahweh.
It’s important to recognize that this is not an admonishment that we are to abandon all reason and understanding. We are simply not to have our own wisdom as the primary source of our planning and our actions. We must leave room for direction from God, maintaining a view to his kingdom and purpose in this life.
“[The Hebrew word] signifies “to lean upon, rest upon,” just as man rests upon a spear for support. Its metaphorical use, to repose confidence in, is derived from the practice of kings who were accustomed to appear in public leaning on their friends and ministers…”
For example, Naaman, a foreign commander, after being healed of leprosy, requested forgiveness of Elisha the prophet.
2 Kings 5:18 – “However, in a particular matter may Yahweh pardon your servant: When my master, the king of Aram, goes into the temple of Rimmon to bow in worship while he is leaning on my arm, and I have to bow in the temple of Rimmon – when I bow in the temple of Rimmon, may Yahweh pardon your servant in this matter.”
Again, when Elisha pronounced a prophecy regarding the release of a siege famine from Samaria, the king’s aid was in disbelief.
2 Kings 7:1-2 CSB – Elisha replied, “Hear the word of Yahweh! This is what Yahweh says: ‘About this time tomorrow at Samaria’s gate, six quarts of fine flour will sell for a half ounce of silver and twelve quarts of barley will sell for a half ounce of silver.’ ” Then the captain, the king’s right-hand man (upon whose hand the king leaned), responded to the man of God, “Look, even if Yahweh were to make windows in heaven, could this really happen? ” Elisha announced, “You will in fact see it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat any of it.”
So we see the practice since ancient times was to have the king supported by a close aid, one who provided physical, moral and tactical support and advice. While trusted counsel is not a bad thing, it is this type of worldly wisdom that is contrasted with trusting in, that is leaning on, Yahweh.
“The admonition does not mean that we are not to use our own understanding, i.e. form plans with discretion, and employ legitimate means in the pursuit of our ends; but that, when we use it, we are to depend upon God and his directing and overruling providence.”
Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthian congregation, writes;
1 Corinthians 2:12, 14 – Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. … But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.
There is a worldly type of wisdom that is helpful in worldly things, but if that is true then there is also a spiritual type of wisdom that is helpful (in fact, necessary) in judging spiritual things.
In Proverbs 3:5-6, the language used here of trusting in God that he will “direct you on pleasant paths” can be likened to a traveler who is trekking through a wilderness in fog. He uses his natural wisdom and understanding to find the path that will take him where he needs to go. However, once he is on the path, he places his confidence in the path that it will carry him to his destination, even though because of the fog he cannot see the full length of where the path is heading. When he is following the path, he is carefree from having to choose his own potentially hazardous way through the wilderness.
Our wisdom instructs us to find the path; the path is that in which we place our trust, since it has been provided by God. We have confidence the path that God provided will lead us to the destination God has in store for us. God promises the path will be smooth and pleasant compared to the directionless wilderness ways of our own choosing.
Job 12:13, 23-25 – Wisdom and strength belong to God; counsel and understanding are his. … He makes nations great, then destroys them; he enlarges nations, then leads them away. He deprives the world’s leaders of reason, and makes them wander in a trackless wasteland. They grope around in darkness without light; he makes them stagger like a drunkard.
The trackless wasteland is a place where no one wants to be. There is no direction, no indication of the right way, just sameness and harsh wilderness in each direction.
“The wilderness is a locale for intense experiences—of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness.
“Linguists will make the point that the Hebrews did not have an exact equivalent of the contemporary English word ‘wilderness.’ Nevertheless, the Hebrews evidently knew the experience of confronting the wild.”
The Bible is filled with imagery and examples of those who have wandered away from God; they have gone off the path he has provided. Being off the path is straying from God, and is an indication of not trusting in him with your whole heart. Here are some examples:
Psalm 119:176 – I wander like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commands.
Proverbs 10:17 – The one who follows instruction is on the path to life, but the one who rejects correction goes astray.
Proverbs 12:26 – A righteous person is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.
Proverbs 14:22 – Don’t those who plan evil go astray? But those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.
Proverbs 21:16 – The person who strays from the way of prudence will come to rest in the assembly of the departed spirits.
Isaiah 53:6 – We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way…
Jeremiah 50:6 – My people were lost sheep; their shepherds led them astray, guiding them the wrong way in the mountains. They wandered from mountain to hill; they forgot their resting place.
When one has gone astray, they have left “the path to life,” (Prov 10:17), or “the way of prudence,” (Prov 21:16). Jeremiah says those who wander have forgotten “their resting place,” (Jer 50:6).
As believers, unfortunately it’s not uncommon for us to go astray, to forget who we are, where we are going, or where to find true rest within the will of God. We get caught up in our circumstances and distracted from our purpose. For non-believers, the picture is an even wider perspective where God is a distant or non-existent resource for guidance through life. All of us need to know and understand God’s ability to guide us where he would like us to go which can only happen when we keep our eyes on him and trust his direction with all of our heart.
That this trust in God directs people in the way of life is a theme all through the Bible. This has been recognized by Jews throughout the centuries and is expressed in many different ways.
One of the most popular examples of this is brought forward from the mid-1700’s in Jewish literature. At that time, a respected rabbi by the name of Moshe Chaim Luzatto wrote a book entitled the Derech Hashem; the Way of God. In it, he details a spiritual perspective of life, God, and human responsibility from a deeply Jewish, mystical perspective. This book has become a Jewish classic, much like Pilgrim’s Progress might be to the Christian faith.
However, he was not the first to coin the term, the Way of God, or the Way as being the path of life. We can go to the teachings of Yeshua and find this same type of “path of life” imagery present.
Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
We have reviewed these verses in detail in a previous episode, but in summary Yeshua is conveying that this narrow way to life is a cramped and difficult passageway, surrounded by obstacles; it takes determination, effort, and persistence to find one’s way through.
Ellicott in his commentary writes:
“The meaning of the parable here lies on the surface. The way and the gate are alike the way of obedience and holiness, and the gate is to be reached not without pain and effort; but only through it can we enter into the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. A deeper significance is, however, suggested even by our Lord’s own teaching. He Himself is the “way” (John 14:6), or with a slight variation of the imagery, He is the “door,” or gate, by which His sheep enter into the fold (John 10:7). Only we must remember that His being thus the “way” and the “gate” does not mean that we can find, in union with Him, a substitute for holiness, but indicates simply how we are to attain to it.”
To break this down a little further, let’s look more closely at these other references that Yeshua makes to the Way.
John 14:4-6 – “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? ” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Interestingly, Yeshua didn’t point Thomas and the disciples to an expected place like the Temple or Jerusalem as a further place of learning, but claimed that he himself is the Way. He specifically said that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” This would be a hugely conceited statement were it not true. The exclusiveness of Yeshua’s teaching is here revealed with no apology from the Master himself. Whatever this Way is, it is represented solely by his life, his practice, and his teaching, all of which make up who he is. This is why Yeshua is so central to Christian thought and practice, because he has placed himself there on purpose. The life of Messiah is one that is to be followed and imitated; this is how one stays in the Way of God.
In Yeshua’s other reference to exclusiveness, he relates that he is the gate or the door to the sheep pen.
John 10:6-9 – Jesus gave them this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. Jesus said again, “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”
In rapid-fire succession, the context of this passage reveals that Yeshua was likening his life and ministry to practices surrounding the tending and herding sheep. On the one hand, he relates that he is the gate, or the single entry point into the sheep pen, but on the other hand that he is also the good shepherd, the one who cares so deeply for his sheep that he is willing to lay his life down for them to protect them, if necessary. Through these examples, Yeshua is conveying the supremacy of his own teaching over the “thieves and robbers,” (i.e., false teachers) who had come before him, as well as his unique position as being the only one qualified to effectively protect the sheep with his own life.
That Yeshua is conveying the true Way of God was a concept that was picked up by his disciples and considered a summary of distinguishing their belief in Messiah from the broader context of popular first-century Judaism. The Way or the Way of God was an ancient title for the true spiritual understanding of the kingdom, mentioned several times in the book of Acts.
Acts 18:24-26 – 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 Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.
Acts 19:8-10, 22-23 – … But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he [Paul] withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. … After sending to Macedonia two of those who assisted him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself [Paul] stayed in Asia for a while. About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way.
We find that this term, the Way of God, or the Way, was simply becoming shorthand for the teaching about Messiah and the kingdom of God. Paul even uses this terminology in his defense before Felix when he was accused of the Jewish leaders of leading a rebellion.
Acts 24:14, 22 – But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or 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.”
The Way was considered a sect within Judaism at that time, the way of worshiping the God of the Bible in truth according to all of Torah. Paul saw no conflict in this understanding, and struggled to convey this over-arching unity of purpose to his fellow countrymen, along with his detractors.
Acts 24:24-25 – Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Messiah Yeshua. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”
So we can see from this brief review that the Way of God consisted of faith in Messiah Yeshua, the law and the prophets, righteousness and self-control as disciplines, and the warning of impending judgment on those who would not believe. These are all aspects of the Yeshua’s life and teaching; hence he is the Way.
Coming full circle to our verse in Proverbs 3:5-6 today, we can see that leaning solely on our own understanding can lead us astray. When we place our trust in Yahweh, we are thereby placing our faith in the law and the prophets, the practices of righteousness and self control, and the teachings of Yeshua as his Messiah. The “pleasant paths” that Yahweh leads us on are considered the Way of God, the message of the kingdom, and the hope of rest. Though the narrow way may be restricted and difficult, in the end it is considered a pleasant path to the alternative of striving through the “trackless waste” of the wilderness without God. However, when we choose to acknowledge him “in all our ways,” we demonstrate we are trusting in him with all of our heart, and he will lead us instead in that pleasant Way, the Way of the Messiah, the Way of God.
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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.
The narrow path of Yeshua is less like a wilderness hike and more of a challenging slot canyon adventure.
In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance necessary in a believer’s life to follow the narrow path that leads to a small entranceway of life.
Yeshua stated it this way: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
This narrow path analogy runs deep in religious circles. There is a general recognition of the unique nature of this path in the believers’ quest for life; it is narrow and rarely traveled compared to the broad way that leads to destruction, as Yeshua says.
The images usually used to convey this concept have to do with a narrow footpath, perhaps through a wilderness or along a mountain ridge. The idea typically put forth is that it is a path in out of the way places, away from the wider conveyances of the general population, just as a hiking path differs from an interstate highway. They are completely different ways of getting from point A to point B, and they take travelers to two different destinations.
All of this is not untrue in the context of the passage at hand, but if we dig a little deeper into some of the words Yeshua used to express this concept, we may come away with a slightly different and more profound understanding.
Charles Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers Narrow is the way.–Literally, pressed, or hemmed in between walls or rocks, like the pathway in a mountain gorge.
This narrowness is defined by obstacles that are standing nearby, preventing movement in either direction but forward. It is also expressed as a way that is “compressed,” there is affliction and tribulation associated with this way.
To summarize this type of understanding, in the Core of the Bible paraphrase I have restated it this way: “There is a constricted entryway into life which has many obstacles standing about it. Labor fervently to stay on the difficult path that leads through the cramped passage to life along with the few others who also perceive its value and find it.” In my view, this description sharpens some of the terms in our English versions like “small gate”and “narrow path.”
A typical understanding of this verse might leave one with the picture of a small, one-person garden gate that must be entered after walking along a beautiful, winding, narrow path through meadows and forests. The sun has been shining, the birds have been singing, and beautiful flowers line the sides of the path. The way has been relatively flat and we have rarely had to exert ourselves in our protected way.
However, I would like to propose a slightly different picture, a fictional parable designed to illustrate the narrow path that Yeshua speaks of.
The way of life is to traverse the desolate high plateau of Arizona or Colorado through a narrow slot canyon which twists and turns in confusing patterns. You are never able to see more than 100 feet in front of you, and confusing side-canyons are passed from time to time. It’s where rockfalls tumble in front of you and must be climbed over; where poisonous reptiles lurk in sun-warmed hand-holds while you are consistently scraping through passages only wide enough to pass through sideways, sucking in your stomach and putting your arms out flat to ensure you have clearance to get through.
Finally, after braving the obstructions and challenges of the slot canyon, the destination is not a single-person garden gate at the end of the meadow path, but a weathered and heavy door that opens to an indiscriminate rough cave opening at the end of the canyon. To enter the darkness of the cave, you have to get down on your already-scraped and bruised knees as you move into a cramped passageway with loose rubble strewn in the way.
Ahead, the darkness gives way to some dim light peering around the bend ahead. Sweating due to the exertion of the journey, and repeatedly hitting your head on unseen obstacles hanging from the cramped cave passage, you reach forward with a dirt-stained arm to push through the rubble of the partially blocked passageway ahead to see where the light is coming from.
Okay, so this slot canyon analogy expands quite a bit on the narrow path contained in the imagery used by Yeshua. I think you might notice a slight difference between this depiction here and how that concept is typically presented.
But that’s the point. We have to look at things differently because it really isn’t all sunshine and roses and mountain meadows on the path to life.
ou see, believers have chosen a difficult option when it comes to a life path. One cannot just fall into the Kingdom of God by accidentally stumbling into it; it requires grit, intentionality, and determination to pursue the things of God.
It’s not just a sunny walk on a garden path (although it can be at times), but it’s more typically a perilous journey around obstacles and through constricted passageways, all the while wondering if you’ve heard God correctly. Then a confirmation appears on the way ahead, but only far enough to get you to the next corner or the next obstacle, and then you must continue pushing on.
Testing happens at every corner, but testing is for the purpose of strengthening. Strengthening provides stability of footing and the opportunity to grasp the hands of others whom you may encounter inside this narrow canyon and help them on the way.
Vigilance on this path means being intentional, listening for God’s direction. It includes being strengthened through testing, and looking beyond yourself to the needs of others along the way. This is the path of the disciple of Yeshua, the narrow path of vigilance that leads to the constricted entrance of life.
However, in learning about the path, it is necessary to discuss why one would even seek such a path in the first place. If someone is to go through all of the struggle and hardship mentioned previously, then it makes sense that they should have a clear understanding of the goal. Yeshua says “the way is narrow that leads to life.” What is this life he mentions?
First of all, the type of life mentioned here must be some other sort of life than just raw existence somewhere. We know he can’t just be speaking here of life as existence, because someone who is striving for a goal is already physically alive.
Looking at some perspectives from over the centuries since Yeshua spoke those words, we find different ways of viewing this concept of life.
Matthew Poole, a British theologian in the 1600’s, states what is likely a very common understanding of this passage when he writes:
The sum of what our Saviour here saith is this: There are but two ultimate ends of all men, eternal destruction and eternal life. The course that leadeth to destruction is like a broad way that is obvious to all, and many walk in that. That course of life and actions which will bring a man to heaven is strait [not straight, but as in a narrow, restricted passageway], unpleasing to flesh and blood, not at all gratifying men’s sensitive appetites, and narrow, (the Greek is, afflicted), a way wherein men will meet with many crosses and temptations; and there are but a few will find it.
John Gill, also a British theologian living a generation after Poole, in his Exposition of the Bible states a similar view:
which leadeth unto life: unto eternal life: it certainly leads thither; it never fails of bringing persons to it; believers in Christ, all that walk in Christ the way, though they are said to be “scarcely” saved, by reason of their afflictions and trials they meet with in their way to the kingdom; yet they are, and shall be certainly saved: they shall be safely brought to glory; which will be an abundant recompense for all the troubles and sorrows that have attended them in their journey.
I find it interesting that those who equate the kingdom of God with some ethereal after-life existence will typically align the term “life” with “eternal life,” as in, unending after-life as a reward for faithfulness during this temporary existence.
However, various commentators over the centuries have described this idea of “life” that Yeshua expresses here in different ways than just eternity. Some have thought of this life as more of a description of an ideal than just a state of existence.
The Expositor’s Greek Testament states it this way:
The right way… is described as narrow and contracted, and as leading to life.—, a pregnant word, true life, worth living, in which men realise the end of their being—the antithesis of [destruction].
That leadeth unto life. Observe, Christ does not say, “life eternal.” He only cares to emphasize the thought of life in the fullest nature of life – life as “the fulfilment of the highest idea of being: perfect truth in perfect action”
Charles Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
Which leadeth unto life.–Noteworthy as the first passage in our Lord’s recorded teaching in which the word “life” appears as summing up all the blessedness of the kingdom. The idea is developed as we advance; the life becomes “eternal,” and finally we are taught that the eternal life consists in the true and perfect knowledge of God and Christ (John 17:2-3).
We will explore John 17 further in a little bit.
Matthew Henry straddles both the concepts of this present life and eternity when he writes:
And yet this way should invite us all; it leads to life: to present comfort in the favour of God, which is the life of the soul; to eternal bliss, the hope of which at the end of our way, should make all the difficulties of the road easy to us.
Throughout Yeshua’s teaching, he always spoke of the kingdom as being near or “at hand.” In my view, the life of the kingdom should not be relegated solely to some after-life existence or some future worldwide paradise. Life and kingdom are a reality now, as we live obediently and faithfully in our present existence.
By contrast, the way of destruction that is broad and contains many travelers is then a life without knowing God, without knowing Yeshua. That life leads to destruction or loss because the things done in that life have no lasting value.
Some other Jewish writings from the time of the New Testament state the plight of the wicked from their perspective as they realize the error of being on the wrong road:
Wisdom 5:6 So it was we who strayed from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise upon us. 7 We took our fill of the paths of lawlessness and destruction, and we journeyed through trackless deserts, but the way of the Lord we have not known. 8 What has our arrogance profited us? And what good has our boasted wealth brought us?
That’s a sad commentary on a life that is recognized as having been wasted. If we were to view those on the wide road of destruction as lost from the narrow path, and not just on some inevitable conveyer belt to damnation, we might be more inclined to reach out to them to at least show them the option of the way of life, the way of the kingdom, and to exemplify its standards. They may not be attracted to it because of the challenges it presents, but some will.
GK Chesterton is quoted as saying, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
But even though this may be the case, we should never give up hope for others to also be drawn to this Way. Some will instinctively know it is the right way to go, regardless of the challenges. After all, we are here, and learning from each other how to move further down the canyon, and identifying which side-canyons and areas to avoid. It is possible for others to come off of the way of destruction as many of us had when we saw the alternative potential of the, albeit more challenging, way of life.
Earlier, I had mentioned in a portion of the Ellicott commentary how I liked his bringing of John 17:3 into the discussion at hand, as that verse captures this view of life that I also hold as my own:
John 17:3- And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Eternal life is knowing God and recognizing Yeshua as sent from God. This life that is stated as eternal here is expressed through the Greek word aionios. While it certainly conveys the idea of enduring, perpetual and everlasting (what we would consider eternal), it also implies that which has always been and will always be. It is typically translated as age, as in distinguishing one era of time from another.
If this eternal life is “life of the age,” what is the age that Yeshua is speaking about here? I believe he is speaking of what, to Yeshua’s listeners, would have been considered a “new” age to them; an age of life available through faith in Messiah, an age that would never end. I believe we are continuing to live in that age today.
The path of that life is narrow, constricted, and full of hardship and travail. Yet it is one that results in true life: knowledge of the only true God and his Messiah Yeshua. That is a life worth striving for.
If we are to conclude our fictional parable of journeying through the constricted passageway to life, the description might proceed as a milestone is reached, making our way toward the faint light ahead:
The final obstructions of rock tumble down a slope ahead of you as you push through the cramped passageway into a lighted cavern beyond, which opens up into a hidden paradise. A waterfall empties into a vast lake of clear, cool water. Sunlight from above, hurtful to eyes which had strained through the darkness, streams abundantly over all , nourishing the fruit trees and berry bushes lining the shores of the lake.
Tumbling headlong down the slope, you stumble wearily to the refreshing waters and drench yourself at the shore, cupping the running water coming from the waterfall and drinking liberally. You and your companions take pleasure in having reached this place of rest and refreshment along the way. The knowledge of this place reassures you that you are on the right path. On the opposite end of the lake, another canyon beckons toward the continuing journey.
The way of life is a way of vigilance, of watching for obstructions and challenges, and it is a way of grit, determination, and effort. But the reward is a knowledge of our Creator and his Messiah that enhances our every step in the here and now. He provides the refreshment and strength we need to complete the journey.
As we seek to follow Yeshua, we are drawn not only to him, but to each other. And if we have this perspective of reassurance and reward, we can hold one another up and help each other on the way.
Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Vigilance is a challenging way of living, of keeping an eye out for the dangers around you while intently listening for God’s direction and constantly scanning and looking for the continuation of the narrow way to life.
We need to keep in mind that vigilance is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, integrity, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.
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We are not to rely on our own wisdom as our primary source of planning and actions.
Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you on pleasant paths.
The word for trust in this famous passage has shades of meaning which include confidence and boldness, running to a secure place for refuge, being free of care or worry, having a steadfast hope. All of these are different ways of representing the believer’s inner reliance on Yahweh.
It is not an admonishment that we are to abandon all reason and understanding. We are simply not to have our own wisdom as the primary source of our planning and our actions. We must leave room for direction from God, maintaining a view to his kingdom and purpose in this life.
The language used here can be likened to a traveler who is trekking through a wilderness in fog. He uses his wisdom and understanding to find the path that will take him where he needs to go. However, once he is on the path, he places his confidence in the path that it will carry him to his destination, even though because of the fog he cannot see the full length of where it is heading. He is carefree from having to choose his own potentially hazardous way through the wilderness,
Our wisdom instructs us to find the path; the path is that in which we place our trust, since it has been provided by God. We have confidence the path that God provided will lead us to our destination. God promises the path will be smooth and pleasant compared to the directionless wilderness ways of our own choosing.
Get on the path, stay on the path, follow the path.