Ta’ah: To Go ASTRAY, to WANDER Away

To GO ASTRAY, to WANDER: Ta’ah (Strong’s 8582).

Root: תעה

This week we celebrated Passover and we remembered Yeshua’s (Jesus’) painful sacrifice which redeemed us and set us free from the heavy burden of death. Isaiah 53 was a Messianic prophecy, outlining this great sacrifice:

Isaiah 53:5-6

But He was pierced for our offenses, He was crushed for our wrongdoings; the punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.

All of us, like sheep, have gone astray [ta’eenu], each of us has turned to his own way; but YHWH has caused the wrongdoing of us all to fall on Him.

We have all gone astray.

This was a Biblical theme. Turning away from YHWH was wandering down the wrong path. This kind of going astray led to death.

Proverbs 21:16

A person who wanders [toh’eh] from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead.

This path to death was a metaphorical wandering in the wilderness, a place of exile from YHWH.

But YHWH would do everything in His power to bring them back home. He would find a way to redeem them so that anyone who chose to see the face of YHWH could do so at the end of their days:

Psalm 49:14-15

Like sheep they [the foolish] sink down to Sheol; death will be their shepherd; and the upright will rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume. So that they have no lofty home.

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah

However, going astray wasn’t always about leaving God. Sometimes people were actually forced to wander in the wilderness without their choosing. This was what happened to Hagar. Abraham sent his son and concubine into the wilderness to wander a lifeless path:

Genesis 21:14

So Abraham got up early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about [w-tehta] in the wilderness of Beersheba.

Hagar had done nothing wrong, but she was sent out of Abraham’s camp to wander in the wilderness. YHWH, however, had other plans for her. He recognized that her heart was good and that the wilderness was not where she belonged:

Genesis 21:15-19

When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, “May I not see the boy die!” And she sat opposite him, and raised her voice and wept. 

God heard the boy crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Get up, lift up the boy, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 

Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness and prepared to die… until God met them there and offered the water of life.

It’s a beautiful image: wandering in the wilderness does not have to be a death sentence for those who find, and love, YHWH.

Wandering Away from YHWH

Although Hagar was sent out to wander without a choice, most of the time in the Bible, we hear about people who willingly chose to wander in the wilderness, away from God.

This was why the prophets repeatedly chastised the people who had turned away from YHWH and turned towards hand-made idols of foreign deities:

Hosea 4:12-14

[YHWH:] My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them; for a spirit of infidelity has led them astray [hi-t’ah], and they have been unfaithful, departing from their God.

They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains and burn incense on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters play the prostitute, and your brides commit adultery.

I will not punish your daughters when they play the prostitute, or your brides when they commit adultery, because the men themselves slip away with the prostitutes and offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; so the people without understanding are ruined.

YHWH was always ready to forgive, but for those who wandered away and did not ask to return to God, their punishment would stand:

Amos 2:4-5

This is what YHWH says:

“For three offenses of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because they rejected the Law of YHWH and have not kept His statutes; their lies also have led them astray [wai-ya’t’um], those which their fathers followed.

So I will send fire upon Judah, and it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem.”

Bad Leadership: Leading Astray

It wasn’t just the people deciding to go astray from God, no, most of the time they were led into the wilderness by their own religious leaders:

Micah 3:5-7

This is what YHWH says concerning the prophets who lead my people astray [ha-ma-t’im et ammi]:

When they have something to bite with their teeth, they cry out, “Peace!” But against him who puts nothing in their mouths they declare holy war.

Therefore it will be night for you—without vision, and darkness for you—without divination. The sun will go down on the prophets, and the day will become dark over them.

The seers will be put to shame, and the diviners will be ashamed. Indeed, they will all cover their lips because there is no answer from God.

They abandoned God, and God would respect their decision and leave them. They would not cry out to Him, and He would not answer their silence.

Isaiah 3:12b

My people! Those who guide you lead you astray [ma-t’im] and confuse the direction of your paths.

But it wasn’t just the local prophets that led people astray. Their own kings would send them down a path filled with destruction.

Manasseh, king of Judah, turned his back on YHWH and opened up the doors to Baal worship:

2 Kings 21:3-9 (see also 2 Chronicles 33

For he [Manasseh] rebuilt the high places which his father Hezekiah had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, just as Ahab king of Israel had done, and he worshiped all the heavenly lights and served them. And he built altars in the house of YHWH, of which YHWH had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” He built altars for all the heavenly lights in the two courtyards of the house of YHWH. And he made his son pass through the fire, interpreted signs, practiced divination, and used mediums and spiritists. He did great evil in the sight of YHWH, provoking Him to anger. 

Then he put the carved image of Asherah that he had made in the house of which YHWH had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. And I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will take care to act in accordance with everything that I have commanded them, and with all the Law that My servant Moses commanded them.” 

But they did not listen, and Manasseh encouraged them [led them astray: wai-ya-t’em] to do evil, more than the nations whom YHWH eliminated from the presence of the sons of Israel.

Moses had led the people out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, and YHWH said He would not make the feet of Israel wander anymore. But some kings would do their very best to make the people “go astray” from God, which would lead them into a new kind of exile. Foreign powers would come in and drag people out of the land into an unrecognizable wilderness because their own leadership had rejected YHWH, and they followed their leadership without question. 

However, even though they wandered away from YHWH, He always held out His hand, ready to take them back and place them on His path:

Isaiah 9:16-17

For those who guide this people are leading them astray [ma-t’im]; and those who are guided by them are confused. 

Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, nor does He have compassion on their orphans or their widows; for every one of them is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth is speaking foolishness.

In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away, and His hand is still stretched out.

Even though YHWH was always ready to hold out His hand in forgiveness and mercy,, the people continued to go astray, and eventually Babylon came and dragged them into exile. But YHWH would not rescind His offer of forgiveness, and He would also not leave Babylon unpunished:

Isaiah 47:12-15

[To Babylon:] “Persist now in your spells and in your many sorceries with which you have laboured from your youth; perhaps you will be able to benefit, perhaps you may cause trembling.

You are wearied with your many counsels; let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you.

Behold, they have become like stubble, fire burns them; they cannot save themselves from the power of the flame; there will be no coal to warm by nor a fire to sit before!

So have those become to you with whom you have laboured, those who have done business with you from your youth; each has wandered [ta’u] in his own way; there is no one to save you.

Babylon would fall because their own people would wander away from them and they would not unite to save themselves.

As for YHWH’s followers, who had been dragged into Babylon, they would be redeemed and brought back onto YHWH’s path:

Isaiah 35:8-10

A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks that way, and fools will not wander [yi-t’u] on it.

No lion will be there, nor will any vicious animal go up on it; they will not be found there.

But the redeemed will walk there, and the redeemed of YHWH will return and come to Zion with joyful shouting, and everlasting joy will be on their heads.

They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

That’s the beauty of the story… no matter how far we roam, YHWH will always be there, waiting to take us back.

Image by Daniel MacDonald. Scotland. (Unsplash.com)

Sheep Who Have Gone Astray

We can sit back and judge Israel for the repeatedly bad choices they made but, the truth is, we’ve all wandered away from God at one point or another. This brings us back to YHWH’s Messianic prophecy:

Isaiah 53:6

All of us, like sheep, have gone astray [ta’eenu], each of us has turned to his own way; but YHWH has caused the wrongdoing of us all to fall on Him.

At the early stages of Yeshua’s ministry John the Baptist saw Him and called out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

In fact, Yeshua Himself announced His Shepherding role:

John 10:11

“I am the Good Shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

Yeshua would literally die for the people who went astray. He would die to take them off the path that led to death, and put them back on the path that led to true life and eternal living.

The leaders of God’s people were meant to be like Good Shepherds, but in Jeremiah’s day leaders were far from ideal sheep-herders:

Jeremiah 50:6-7

“My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray [hi-t’um].

They have made them turn aside on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place.

All who found them have devoured them; and their adversaries have said, ‘We are not guilty, since they have sinned against YHWH who is the habitation of righteousness, YHWH, the hope of their fathers.’”

These were not good shepherds. Yeshua, on the other hand, outlined what a good shepherd looked like:

Matthew 18:12-14

“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray [Greek: planethe], will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains, and go and search for the one that is lost [astray: planomenon]? And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that have not gone astray [Greek: peplanemenois]. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven for one of these little ones to perish.”

The writer of Psalm 119 recognized that he was a wandering lost sheep, waiting to be found and rescued by His Great Shepherd: 

Psalm 119:174-176

I long for Your salvation, YHWH, and Your Law is my delight.

Let my soul live that it may praise You, and let Your ordinances help me.

I have wandered about [ta-i’ti] like a lost sheep; search for Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.

Yeshua’s disciple Peter also knew, full well, what it was like to go astray. He abandoned Yeshua at His most critical hour. When Yeshua was arrested, Peter denied ever having even met Yeshua. He turned far away from the face of his Rabbi and ran into the darkness.

But YHWH’s hand of forgiveness was always outstretched to His children, and Peter was no exception. He denied his relationship with God three times, but it wasn’t enough to stop God from loving him and forgiving him. Peter’s redemption was no more remarkable than our own, but he never forgot the great sacrifice that His Rabbi gave to save us all:

1 Peter 2:21-25

For you have been called for this purpose, because Messiah also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you would follow in His steps, He who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being abusively insulted, He did not insult in return; while suffering, He did not threaten, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself brought our sins in His body up on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying [Greek: planomenoi] like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

By His wounds we are healed! Don’t wander on the path that leads to death. Turn to YHWH, grab His hand, and walk your life together with Him. He’s not waiting on the other side of the gates for you; His Spirit is right there with you, walking towards eternal life. Yeshua died to open the gates so that all who follow Him can enter freely, but we’re not there yet. The journey is now and the destination awaits! Do not go astray; stay on the path, for the reward at the end is greater than you can imagine!

Next week: escape/deliver

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.