The WAY: Derek; Masculine Noun (Strong’s 1870)
Root: דרך dalet/resh/kaf
Sounds like: de-rek
The word derek means a path or a way. It was often represented just as it sounds, with someone casually strolling down a path or road. But there was also great emphasis on a singular path that YHWH has laid out for all who followed Him.
By the time of the early church, after Yeshua’s (Jesus’) 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
There is a path that YHWH wants us to take. In David’s Psalm of Deliverance we read about the blameless way:
2 Samuel 22:31-33
[David:] As for God, His way is blameless [tamim dar’kow]; the word of YHWH is refined; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, except YHWH? And who is a rock, except our God?
God is my strong fortress; and He makes my way blameless [tamim dar’ki].
God’s way is blameless and he takes the guilty and makes their way blameless. It’s a poetic play on words, as well as a foreshadowing of YHWH’s ultimate plan to send a Redeemer to take away the guilt of humanity.
Our job is to be a follower of YHWH, following His path and doing our best to reflect His Image by being wise and just and kind. David understood this:
[David:] Make me know Your ways [d’rakeka], YHWH; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.
Remember, YHWH, Your compassion and Your faithfulness, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my wrongdoings; remember me according to Your faithfulness, for Your goodness’ sake, YHWH.
YHWH is good and upright; therefore He instructs sinners in the way [ba-darek]. He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way [dar’kow]. All the paths of YHWH are faithfulness and truth to those who comply with His covenant and His testimonies.
Abraham was specifically chosen to lead the people in 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 of YHWH [derek 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 could fulfill His promise outlined in the Covenant with His people. In other words, God made a Covenant with us that was dependant on us following Him. If we do not follow Him we break the Covenant. But YHWH really wanted to keep His promise to us. He wanted us to succeed. And to succeed it was imperative that we 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 became key components in scripture. They became guiding principles in what we define as “being Godly” and following the path set before us.
YHWH Guides the Way
On the flip side, being wicked meant straying far from the Way, but YHWH was always open and inviting to whoever turned back to Him:
Let the wicked abandon his way [dar’kow], and the unrighteous person his thoughts; and let him return to YHWH, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
[YHWH:] “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways [w-lo dar’kekem d’rakai],” declares YHWH. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so higher are My ways than your ways [d’rakai mi-dar’kekem] and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it produce and sprout, and providing seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so will My word be which goes out of My mouth; it will not return to Me empty without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it. For you will go out with joy and be led in peace…”
YHWH knew full well that we couldn’t live up to standard of the blameless path, for our ways are not His ways, but He would provide the tools to lead us onto the path of peace.
It’s why we read in Lamentations, “Let’s examine and search out our ways [d’rakenu], and let’s return to YHWH” (Lamentations 3:40). And so YHWH promised to show salvation to those who did their best to follow His path:
“He who sacrifices a thank offering honours Me, and to him who rights his way [derek], 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. This redirection to stay on the path was reflected in a story from 1st Samuel.
The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant, but horrible things had happened to them since they acquired the sacred object: the people were afflicted with tumours and they had a destructive rat infestation. They started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the Hebrew God was punishing them? Or maybe it was just a coincidence? So they came 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 were all sorts of reasons for the cows to stray off the path. First of all, these were milk cows that had never had a yoke put on them before. 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 would naturally 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 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 was God’s path leading us to a destination, where were we meant to be headed?
You are also to say to this people, ‘This is what YHWH says: ‘Behold, I set before you the way of life [derek ha-khayim] and the way of death [derek ha-mawet].’
YHWH provided one path for us to follow, every other path led to death:
There is a way [derek] that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death [dar’ke mawet].
But the good news is, YHWH is our Guide and with His help we can confidently walk in the right direction… the path of life!
Salvation and the Path of Life
Even greater news was that YHWH provided 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) was making the claim that He and God were one, and that He was the salvation (the life) that would save us from death. His death gave us life. If you recall, a few weeks ago, we studied the word truth. Embedded in the Hebrew word for truth (emet) was the word death (met). Jesus, the ultimate wordsmith, spoke with authority and depth in His claims. When He said He was the Truth, He was also saying He was the conqueror of death.
The second chapter of Hebrews highlighted the whole purpose of Yeshua (Jesus). Interestingly enough it started 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 had sent to His people. The chapter continued:
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 was why Yeshua (Jesus) said I am the way, the truth, the life. It was His death that brought life. Through His suffering we became 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. He knew 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, sang 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 [derek] 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 [derek] 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 [dar’keka] may be known on earth, your salvation [yeshua-teka] among all nations.
Next week: foreigner