Derek: Way. Strong’s 1870
Root: דֶּ֖רֶךְ dalet/resh/kaf
Sounds like: de-rek
The word derek means a path or a way. It is often represented just as it sounds within the Tenakh, as in someone casually strolling down a path or road. But there is also great emphasis on a singular path that YHWH has laid out for all who follow Him.
By the time of the early church, after Yeshua’s (Jesus’s) death and subsequent resurrection, followers of the risen Yeshua became known as followers of The Way (Acts 19:9, Acts 24:14, 22). But what is The Way? What is this path we are supposed to tread upon?
The Way of YHWH
And YHWH said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed. For I have chosen him, so that he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way (derek) of YHWH by doing what is right and just, in order that YHWH may bring upon Abraham what He has promised.”
YHWH chose Abraham to lead the people in the right path so that He can fulfill His promise outlined in the Covenant with His people. In other words, God made a Covenant with us that is dependant on us following Him. If we do not follow Him we break the Covenant. But YHWH really wants to keep His promise to us. He wants us to succeed. And to succeed we must follow the path set apart for us. We must follow “the way of YHWH by doing what is right and just”. And so righteousness and justice become key components in scripture. They become guiding principles in what we define as “being Godly” and following the path set before us.
YHWH Guides the Way
But YHWH is intimately familiar with humanity and knows that we always seek a reason to continue doing what we do. And so YHWH promises to show salvation to those who follow His path:
“He who sacrifices a thank offering honors Me, and to him who rights his way, I will show the salvation of God.”
The phrase “to him who rights his way” is interesting. It implies that we are tempted to stray off the path and that we must consciously correct ourselves and continue on the right path. There is a very interesting story in 1st Samuel that emphasises God directing “the way”.
The Philistines have captured the Ark of the Covenant, but horrible things have happened to them since they acquired the sacred object: the people are afflicted with tumours and they have a destructive rat infestation. They start to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the Hebrew God is punishing them? Or maybe it’s just a coincidence? So they come up with a plan to see what was causing their affliction:
1 Samuel 6:7-12
“Now, therefore, prepare one new cart with two milk cows that have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of YHWH, set it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending Him as a guilt offering.
Then send the ark on its way (derek), but keep watching it. If it goes up the road to its homeland, toward Beth-shemesh, it is YHWH who has brought on us this great disaster. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not His hand that punished us and that it happened by chance.”
So the men did as instructed. They took two milk cows, hitched them to the cart, and penned up their calves. Then they put the ark of YHWH on the cart, along with the box containing the gold rats and the images of the tumors. And the cows headed straight up the way (derek) toward Beth-shemesh, staying on that one highway and lowing as they went, never straying to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed behind them to the border of Beth-shemesh.
There was all sorts of reasons for the cows to stray off the path. First of all these where milk cows that had never had a yoke put on them. This heavy burden would cause confusion and discomfort. What animal confused and burdened walks calmly in a strait line? Secondly, they were separated from their babies. This would have caused agitation and stress. Their singular purpose should be to seek and find their babies. But these two cows walked straight and never strayed from the path. This was enough for the Philistines to accept that the Hebrew God was in control of those cows and that He was the cause of the Philistines suffering. As a result, they gave up the Ark without incident.
Now no one likes to be compared to a cow, but here it is… YHWH relieves our stress, lifts up our burden, clears our confusion, and subdues our agitation. He can be the whisper in your ear guiding you along the right way.
The prophet Isaiah may have recalled the story of the Philistine cow test when he described how YHWH would guide his people onto the right path:
O people in Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will surely be gracious at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. The Lord will give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, but your Teacher will no longer hide Himself—with your own eyes you will see Him. And whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you:
“This is the way. Walk in it.” (Zeh ha-derek. L’ku voe).
Where does this path go?
So if the way is God’s path leading us to a destination, where are we headed?
You are also to say to this people, ‘This is what YHWH says: ‘Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.’
Provided YHWH has one path for us to follow, every other path leads to death:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
But the good news is, YHWH is our Guide and with His help we can confidently walk in the right direction.
Salvation and the Path of Life
Even greater news is that YHWH provides a way for us to escape eternal death. Rather than dodging death we are to follow a straight path to life eternal. From this path we will find salvation:
This is what YHWH says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for My salvation is coming soon, and My righteousness will be revealed.”
It is no coincidence that the name Yeshua (Jesus) means Salvation. We could read this as saying, “Maintain justice and do what is right, for My Yeshua is coming soon”. Although it caused quite a stir, it should not be surprising to us, then, when Yeshua (Jesus) made the following claim:
Jesus: “You know the way to the place where I am going.”
“Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”
Yeshua (Jesus) is making the claim that He and God are one, and that He is the salvation (the life) that will save us from death. His death gives us life. And if you recall, a few weeks ago when we studied the word truth, embedded in the Hebrew word for truth (emet) is the word death (met). Jesus, the ultimate wordsmith, spoke with authority and depth in His claims. When He says He is the Truth, He is also saying He is the conqueror of death.
The second chapter of Hebrews highlights the whole purpose of Yeshua (Jesus). Interestingly enough it starts with this verse:
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
Listening and learning helps us stay on the path and stops us from drifting. And why is that important? Because we need to be on the right path to see the Salvation (Yeshua) that God has sent. The chapter continues:
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
So this is why Yeshua (Jesus) says I am the way, the truth, the life. It is His death that brings life. Through His suffering we become daughters and sons of glory. But we need to follow the right path. We need to follow Jesus as our Way to life eternal.
Even when John the Baptist was an infant, his father knew the importance to paving the way for the Messiah, and that his tiny son would be the one to give people the knowledge of salvation. Listen to part of the song John’s father, Zechariah, sings about his infant son:
“And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways,
to give to His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will visit us from on high,
to shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
John fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah about a voice who would cry in the wilderness,“Prepare you the way of YHWH; make straight, in the wilderness, a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).
However, a thousand years before John was baptizing in the River Jordan, the Psalmist would, over and over, highlight the importance of remaining on the straight and level path with the guiding hand of the Spirit:
Teach me the way I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul.
Deliver me from my enemies, O YHWH; I flee to You for refuge.
Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.
May Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
As followers of YHWH we need to seek His face. Because if our God’s face shines upon us others throughout the earth may see the Way of YHWH through us… and that way leads to salvation, the very name of Yeshua.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation (yeshua-teka) among all nations.
Next week: foreigner