Sounds like: yaw-shawr.
There are all sorts of titles attributed to God in the scriptures, but there is one that very few people think of… YHWH is our Yashar:
Isaiah 26:4, 7b-9
“Trust in YHWH forever, for in Yah-YHWH, we have an everlasting Rock… O Upright One [O Yashar], make the path of the righteous level. Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O YHWH, we have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; for when the earth experiences Your judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.”
YHWH: the Rock and the Upright
YHWH is the Upright One! He’s the One who has cleared the path for those who are righteous. Yashar, although usually translated as upright, was also occasionally translated as straight. It was the idea of a solid, straight, upright, line or path that led to YHWH… and He was the Upright One who would guide us along the path.
Deuteronomy 32:3-4 (Moses Song)
“For I proclaim the name of YHWH; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He [tsadiq w-yashar Hu].”
The unnamed writer of Psalm 92 also connected the image of God the Rock to God the Upright:
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of YHWH, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that YHWH is upright [yashar YHWH]; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
YHWH is our Upright and Solid Rock… and we are His people. We are like vibrant, tall, flourishing trees planted in YHWH’s house and we are to declare that YHWH is Upright.
We are also meant to be God’s reflection on earth, and for those who love YHWH, we do our best to live upright lives. But life is complicated and sometimes the straight path we’re meant to follow goes wibbly-wobbly from the choices we make.
Right in His Sight
The history of the Hebrew people can be mapped out as an up and down path which sometimes went straight towards YHWH and sometimes went terribly crooked, well off the marked path.
The first instance of the word yashar can be found in Exodus, and in the passage God defined how to become right in His sight [w-ha-yashar b-enaw]:
And He [God] said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His sight [w-ha-yashar b-enaw], and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, YHWH, Am your healer.”
Being right in His sight meant listening to God’s commandments and actively doing them. If you wanted God to show mercy you would have to…
…“listen to the voice of YHWH your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right [ha-yashar] in the sight of YHWH your God.”
Before the time of kings everyone did their own thing, and followed their own ways: In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right [ha-yashar] in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6. (See also Judges 21:25)).
But YHWH was watching:
Every man’s way is right [yashar] in his own eyes, but YHWH weighs the hearts.
Eventually the Hebrew people demanded a king. Perhaps their hope was, by having a ruler, they would be able to achieve rightness in God’s sight. But as soon as they did this, they realized their error. They had not recognized that God was their King. He would help them stay on the upright path far better than any human king would:
1 Samuel 12:19
Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to YHWH your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.”
The prophet Samuel replied with a warning:
1 Samuel 12:23-25
“…As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against YHWH by ceasing to pray for you. I will instruct you in the good and right way [ha-tovah w-ha-y’sharah]. Only fear YHWH and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.”
Samuel made the point that an earthly king wasn’t a guarantee that they would follow the right path. As prophet he would instruct them in the good and right way, but it was up to them to sincerely serve God with their whole heart.
The people were eventually blessed with David as their king, and he understood what it meant to walk upright under God’s guidance:
1 Chronicles 29:17-19
David’s prayer: “Since I know, O my God, that You try the heart and delight in uprightness [u-meysharim], I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to You. O YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of Your people, and direct their heart to You; and give to my son Solomon a perfect heart to keep Your commandments, Your testimonies and Your statutes, and to do them all, and to build the temple, for which I have made provision.”
David was a king renowned for walking the straight way of YHWH. He occasionally strayed off the path, but he always made his way back. However, David’s descendants did not. God told Solomon, David’s heir, that if he followed His straight path, his throne would rule in Israel forever:
1 Kings 9:4-5
YHWH to Solomon: “As for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness [b’tam levav u-v’yosher], doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
As we know, Solomon just couldn’t do it, and the throne disintegrated not long after his reign. Israel was split into the ten tribes, and Judah & Benjamin were separated to form the kingdom of Judah:
1 Kings 11:31b-39
YHWH: ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes (but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right [ha-yashar] in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did.
Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of My servant David whom I chose, who observed My commandments and My statutes; but I will take the kingdom from his son’s hand and give it to you, even ten tribes. But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name. I will take you, and you shall reign over whatever you desire, and you shall be king over Israel. Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right [ha-yashar] in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. Thus I will afflict the descendants of David for this, but not always.’”
After this point, the kings of Judah were essentially graded on whether, or not, they were “right in the sight” of YHWH.
King Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, was graded as an upright king:
2 Kings 18:3-6
“He [Hezekiah] did right [ha-yashar] in the sight of YHWH, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. He trusted in YHWH, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to YHWH; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which YHWH had commanded Moses.” (See also king Asa (1 Kings 15:11)).
Many kings did “right [ha-yashar] in the sight of YHWH”, but still had one hand holding onto pagan traditions:
1 Kings 22:43
Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, did “right [ha-yashar] in the sight of YHWH. However, the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burnt incense on the high places. (See also: Jehoash (2 Kings 12:2), Amaziah (2 Kings14:3-4), Azariah (2 Kings 15:3-4), Jotham (2 Kings 15:34-35)).
And some kings just did the opposite of what was right in YHWH’s sight:
2 Kings 16:2b-4
Ahaz, son of Jotham, “did not do what was right [w-lo asah ha-yashar] in the sight of YHWH his God, as his father David had done. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom YHWH had driven out from before the sons of Israel. He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.
The last king of Judah to be judged with these words, passed the test:
2 Kings 22:2
Josiah, “did right [ha-yashar] in the sight of YHWH and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left.”
Josiah never veered; he stayed consistently on the straight path.
It is worth noting that most of these kings of Judah, good and bad, can be found the genealogy of Yeshua outlined in the book of Matthew (1:1-16). Only Hezekiah and Josiah were noted to have remained steadily on the straight path leading to YHWH.
However, in the history of humanity, so many people chose to do what is right in their own eyes, rather than doing right in the eyes of God. According to Proverbs, they were fools:
The way of a fool is right [yashar] in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Straight & Crooked Paths
Prophets warned the people that the upright would rise and the sinners would fall. Hosea was a prophet in Northern Israel at the time of its fall to Assyria (c. 755-715 BC):
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of YHWH are right [y’sharim dar’ke YHWH], and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.
Their crookedness of Israel led them directly into the hands of their enemies:
Do good, O YHWH, to those who are good and to those who are upright [w-lysharim] in their hearts. But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways, YHWH will lead them away with the doers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel.
Micah (c. 737-690 BC) was a prophet in Judah around the same time as Hosea (or just shortly after). He knew that the crookedness of the people would be their ruin. Both Judah and Israel had brought a curse upon themselves:
Micah 3:9-10, 12
Now hear this, heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and twist everything that is straight [hay’sharah], who build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with violent injustice… Therefore, on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest.
A few chapters later Micah lamented that there was no uprightness in humanity, at most they were as upright as a thorny hedge (Micah 7: 2-4). Humanity had become twisted… the path of God was rejected… and they would march unwittingly towards their enemies.
Crooked paths led the people away from YHWH, but paths of uprightness was the way to God. Those crooked paths tended to be wide and easily available. Yeshua (Jesus) also warned about this:
“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.”
In Proverbs 2, Solomon wrote that wisdom, discretion and understanding would…
Proverbs 2:12-15 (See also Proverbs 4:10-15)
…deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness [yosher] to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways…
Solomon implored the people to…
…walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright [y’sharim] will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.
But Solomon failed to heed his own advice, and most of the subsequent kings of both Israel and Judah also did not listen. A few centuries after the Assyrian conquest, the Babylonian threat (c. 630-530 BC) was the result of the Israelite people following their own crooked ways. During that time the prophet Jeremiah faced his accusers, who wanted to kill him, and he told them to do what was right in their own eyes, but to beware:
“But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right [ka-tov w-kai’yashar] in your sight. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city and on its inhabitants; for truly YHWH has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”
Jeremiah was spared from death, but the people still carried the guilt of so many things. They were of rejecting YHWH; they were guilty of turning to other gods; and they were guilty of taking innocent blood:
‘Forgive Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O YHWH, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.’
And the bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven them. So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right [ha-yashar] in the eyes of YHWH.
The people needed a Redeemer to remove the guilt… and God would provide, as promised, an Anointed One (Messiah) from the line of David to free the people from their guilt.
God knew that the Hebrew people would eventually cry out for forgiveness and redemption. After the exile to Babylon, and after all the heartache, they would seek out the straight/upright path of YHWH:
YHWH: “With weeping they will come, and by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path [b’derek yashar] in which they will not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.”
Hear the word of YHWH, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.” For YHWH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he.”
The lesson was, after seeking forgiveness and observing the laws of YHWH, He would guide them down the straight path. They would be redeemed and led home. But where was home? What was the final destination at the end of the upright path?
A Blameless & Upright human
There is an end to every human on the planet. The wicked will be cut off and destroyed, but those who live upright and blamelessly will have a good end because YHWH will deliver and save those who take refuge in Him:
Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright [yashar]; for the man of peace will have a posterity. But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked will be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is from YHWH; He is their strength in time of trouble. YHWH helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.
The upright would be delivered and have a posterity, or a good end, but the wicked would be cut off. This was a common theme in the Bible:
Proverbs 14:2, 9-12 (See also Proverbs 16:25)
He who walks in his uprightness [b-yash’row] fears YHWH, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him…
…Fools mock at sin, but among the upright [y’sharim] there is good will. The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy. The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright [y’sharim] will flourish. There is a way which seems right [yashar] to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Death would be the end for those who walked in the way that seemed right to them; they took their own path and it lead them only to the grave. But there were two humans in the Tanakh whom God called blameless. Noah was righteous and blameless (Genesis 6:9) and Job was blameless and upright:
Job 1:1, 8-11 (see also Job 2:3)
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright [w-yashar], fearing God and turning away from evil…
…YHWH said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man [ish tam w-yashar], fearing God and turning away from evil.”
Then Satan answered YHWH, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
And that was the question. Are we able to remain upright with all the sadness and destruction that surrounds us? When life gets tough, do we just twist up and crumple down? Do we curse God for our afflictions and trials?
God said Job was upright, but Job’s friend, Bildad, questioned his uprightness:
If you are pure and upright [zak w-yashar], surely now He [God] would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate.
Clearly, thought Bildad, Job couldn’t be all that upright if was suffering so much. His suffering must have been be his fault. But YHWH never said our lives would be easy. He never said life would be perfect if we only loved Him. We may walk the straight and narrow path, but sometimes we have to walk through shadows. Life on this planet can be excruciatingly difficult. We need to live the best life we can, honouring God in all we do, so that when we breathe our final breath on this earth, we will face YHWH in eternity… where living will not be hard, but joyously right.
Elihu, the fourth (and rather mysterious) man who conversed with Job, understood our purpose:
Job 33:3-4, 23-28
Elihu: “My words are from the uprightness of my heart [yosher libbi], and my lips speak knowledge sincerely. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life…
…“If there is an angel as mediator for him, one out of a thousand, to remind a man what is right [yash’row] for him, then let him be gracious to him, and say, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom’; let his flesh become fresher than in youth, let him return to the days of his youthful vigour; then he will pray to God, and He will accept him, that he may see His face with joy, and He may restore His righteousness to man.
He will sing to men and say, ‘I have sinned and perverted what is right [w-yashar], and it is not proper for me. He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, and my life shall see the light.’”
A Light for the Upright
Elihu said that his life would see the Light. We have all sinned and perverted what is right, but we have been redeemed. And because of this redemption, the light shines through us.
Light is sown like seed for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart [u-l’yishreh lev sim’khah]. Be glad in YHWH, you righteous ones, and give thanks to His holy name.
The righteous and upright in heart will shine for YHWH. We were meant to be his walking and talking presence… those who build his community on earth, by following His commandments and loving each other. When Yeshua commissioned the Spirit to live within us, the seed of light was sown in each person who chose to follow Him.
According to the Gospel of John, Yeshua was the Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
The author of Psalm 33 expressed that the Word of YHWH was upright:
For the Word of YHWH is upright [ki yashar d’var YHWH], and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the lovingkindness of YHWH.
YHWH’s word was upright, but also there really was no one as upright as the Word, Yeshua (Jesus). He was the promised Messiah, a Light for the nations (Isaiah 49:6). And through all the darkness we find the world in, Yeshua is the Light. He went through great darkness on the cross, conquered death, and rose up for the upright:
Light arises in the darkness for the upright [zarakh ba-khoshek owr lay’sharim]; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous. It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; He will maintain his cause in judgment. For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever.
Yeshua, gracious, compassionate and righteous, was the Light that arose for the upright. Before Yeshua began His ministry, John the Baptist became the voice that would clear the path for His arrival. Isaiah prophesied about him, 700 years earlier:
A voice is calling, “Clear the way for YHWH in the wilderness; make smooth [straight: yash’ru] in the desert a highway for our God.”
In the Gospel story, John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy:
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
John’s voice and words would clear the path so we could clearly see the One who would guide us to the way which would lead us home. John pointed to Yeshua as the true pathfinder:
…In the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the Word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the LORD, make His paths straight. Every ravine will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be brought low, the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh will see the salvation of God.’”
Yeshua, whose name literally meant Salvation was the light illuminating the straight path to God. And beholding God’s face at the end of our earthly days was to be the impelling force driving us to live an upright life:
YHWH is in His holy temple; YHWH’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. YHWH tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain snares; fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. For YHWH is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright [yashar] will behold His face.
Yeshua faced death, conquered it, and rose up. His sacrifice paid the price so that we could behold God’s face and dwell in the presence of YHWH when our heart thumps its last beat:
I know that YHWH will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor. Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name; the upright [y’sharim] will dwell in Your presence.
All YHWH really wants from us is a relationship… a connection with His Creation. He wanted to live with us in the Garden, where we could dwell in His presence. But when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, humanity ended up exiling themselves away from the presence of God.
But YHWH wouldn’t give up on us. He immediately made a plan to bring us back. A Messiah would lead us back to Him. Yeshua’s sacrifice would allow upright humans to dwell in YHWH presence once again. Death wouldn’t be an end for the upright. We would go back to the Garden and see YHWH face to face.
King David asked to be preserved in integrity and uprightness, as he waited for the day when he could look at his Creator directly in His face.
Psalm 25:8-10, 21
Good and upright is YHWH [tov w-yashar YHWH]; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of YHWH are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies… Let integrity and uprightness [wa-yosher] preserve me, for I wait for You.
The crooked path leads to Death, but the straight path leads to Life. It’s time to get on the straight path and wander towards home. Follow YHWH’s commandments with an upright heart and He will lead you where you need to go… so that one day, by the brightness of the Light, you will see YHWH’s face.
Next week: Sustain/Lean/Uphold/Support