We are now 45 chapters into the book of Isaiah. One theme that has emerged in these chapters is that of “way.” Isaiah used several words to develop this motif, including (but not limited to): way (דֶּ֫רֶךְ, dārak – 41 occurrences in Isaiah), highway (מַסְלוּל, mesillâ – 7 occurrences in Isaiah), path (אֹ֫רַח, ʾāraḥ – nine occurrences in Isaiah), and way/path (מַעְגָּל, maʿgāl – two occurrences in Isaiah). I am familiar with this motif in the Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs). I also knew that the “way” motif made cameo appearances in the Prophetic Literature. However, in Isaiah, the “way” is one of the book’s central themes, not just a bit part.
All humanity, righteous and wicked alike, are on a journey along a “way” that leads to life or death. “The difference of outcome lies strictly in how the individual identifies himself with Yahweh, and the success or failure of the journey of the believer is determined by the degree to which the traveler is obedient to the covenant stipulations that govern the pursuit of the spiritual itinerary” (Thomas McComiskey, The Covenants of Promise, 153). In other words, to obtain a successful outcome from walk one’s path in life (“spiritual journey”), one’s life needs to find its orientation from or in the God of the covenant (Eugene Merrill, “דָּרַךְ (dārak)” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 1997, 989).
The problem is people often seek their “path” through life based on “the way of the heart” (Isa. 57:17) or the way of human culture (Isa. 8:11; 30:21; 53:6). What is needed is the disclosure of a path from outside us, from above us. Mercifully, God has revealed the way for us to go: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go” (Isa. 48:17). Yet, there is often resistance to the way of the Holy One of Israel (Isa. 30:11).
Isaiah 2:2-5 is the initial appearance of the “way” theme in Isaiah’s book and provides insight concerning several aspects about the “way” of the LORD. First, the “way” comes from the house of the LORD (Zion). Second, the “way” is about the way one “walks” (lives). Third, the “way” is something that is learned by being taught the word (or law) of the LORD. To keep the law is, at the same time, to walk in the ways of the LORD. Finally, the “way” results in peace. These observations indicate that “way” or “path” is used in a metaphorical or symbolic sense.
Isaiah urged those who walk in darkness not to despair but to trust in God (Isa 50:10). To fear and trust God is to live life as God designed it. There is a path made by God, a highway created as a standard to which human behavior should adhere. The heart of the problems in Isaiah’s time remains the root of our contemporary problems – failure to trust and obey God!
The way of God is one doing the right things in God’s sight (Isa. 26:7), practicing justice (Isa. 26:8), and holy living (Isa. 35:8). This is a life that is “grounded in a walk that adheres to covenant principles. It is that kind of lifestyle that will characterize the walk of all of God’s saints in the eschatological age (Isa. 2:3).
Intertwined with the “way” motif is the word “walk.” Eugene Merrill writes, “Just as דֶּרֶךְ (“way”) is the most common metaphor for life, so הָלַךְ is the vb. most frequently employed to describe the act or process of living. It occurs more than 1500× in all, with several hundred examples of a figurative rather than literal meaning” (Eugene Merrill, “הָלַךְ (hālak)” in NIDOTT, 1033).
Students of the New Testament recognize that both “way” and “walk” are essential concepts for the Christ-follower. For instance, Jesus stated that He is the “way” (John 14:6). Following the Wisdom Literature teaching (and the prophets), Jesus explained that there are two ways, one way leads to destruction, and the other path leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). It appears that the early church favored the designation of “the way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22) and taught people the “way of God” (Acts 18:26).
The apostle Paul preferred the symbolic use of the term “walk” for “lifestyle” from the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul’s usage of “walk” is evident in the Ephesian letter (Ephesians 2:2, 10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 7-8, 15).
The holy God has graciously provided a “highway” for people to “walk” in loving fellowship with Him. The prophet Isaiah wrote about this way. Jesus claimed that He is the way. The early church instructed people in the way. The apostle Paul provided instruction for walking the path of God.
Are you walking God’s way?