“You have made known to me the path of life [orach hayim in Hebrew]; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11
The path of life mentioned here is also pictured in the Law of the Lord given through Moses. In Deuteronomy 30:19 Moses challenges Israel with the Law: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.” Today many people think that the Law of God is surely designed by a mean old creator in order to take all the fun out of life. We see something quite different in scripture. In Deuteronomy 10:13 we learn that the commands of God are given for our own good.
THE PATH OF DEATH AND THE WAY OF REBELLION
It is not likely that any person would deliberately choose a path that leads to death. Satan, the great enemy of our souls, is too wise to present such a path to humankind. Instead, Satan deceives us and we begin thinking that the path of death is really the path of life. We see this deception clearly in Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” There are millions of people today who sincerely think they are on the path of life, but unfortunately they are on the path of death and destruction. The path of life is only revealed through the God of Israel, through his holy word, the Bible, and through his Messiah, whom we Christians believe is Jesus or Yeshua.
Let us first look at some things the Bible tells about the path of death. In the Book of Proverbs we see the way of death exemplified foremost in the immoral woman. Why is this? Obviously womanhood pictures for us the very cradle of life. It is from the woman that natural life on earth is both brought forth and nurtured. When the woman lets go of this great virtue it is a tragic loss for humanity. Proverbs 5:6 says of the immoral woman: “She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.” In Proverbs 2:16-19 we read of another immoral woman, who has ignored God’s covenant, who has left her mate and who is busy as a prostitute. Proverbs says: “For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return or attain the paths of life” (18-19).
Since womanhood, marriage, family and child rearing are at the very heart of the divine program, we can expect that Satan would launch his greatest attack against these institutions. The godly marriage is also ultimately seen as a type of Christ and his church. There are no pictures in all of creation as precious as those of human love expressed in godly marriage, and in the birth and nurturing of godly children. The picture of a loving mother is a most precious and tender one. Tiny babes in their first few months are almost totally dependent upon the mother. How tragic when this institution is corrupted and destroyed by the lies, deceptions and pressures of this evil age.
How devastating are the current practices of fornication, adultery, divorce, abortion, homosexuality and lesbianism. Many praise such things but obviously they lead to great destruction and even to death. Indeed if homosexuality is the “ideal lifestyle” as many would propose, what would happen if everyone on earth adopted this “ideal lifestyle”? Obviously, the human race would draw to an end. God despises homosexuality (Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27), but he also hates adultery and divorce (Mal. 2:16). All these paths lead away from life and they become paths of death and destruction. This has always been true in a spiritual sense but in recent years it has become manifestly true in the natural sense with the worldwide spread of AIDS.
There are many other sins that lead directly to death. In fact, all sin leads to death in the last analysis. This is true both naturally and spiritually. In Proverbs 11:19 we read: “The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.” Also in Romans 6:23 we are assured: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We do not have space to deal with it, but the Bible points out how many common sins result in our death. For instance, in Proverbs 1:19, we learn that greed takes away one’s life. In Proverbs 14:30 we learn that envy rots the bones. In 1 Peter 3:10 we see that even a sly tongue can bring about our early demise.
THE PATH OF LIFE
In Jeremiah 6:16 the prophet gives this advice for us moderns and postmoderns. “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” So we see by this prophetic word that there is an ancient and true way. It is too bad today that so many in our post-Christian societies have cast away and obscured this true path. Our “enlightened” societies have come to look with scorn and open ridicule on the Bible and its way.
Long ago in a darkened pagan world God chose himself a man who would introduce the world to him and to his way. That man was Father Abraham. In Genesis 18:19 God says of him: “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Through Abraham and his faithful seed God’s covenants and his word were introduced to the world. In time God saw fit to trust his commandments and his law to the people of Israel. What a difference that law has made to humankind! Even many of our governments today are still regulated according to this ancient biblical law. But how tragic that our society is willing to toss away over four-thousand years of teaching and instruction, dating back to the ancient days of Father Abraham and even beyond!
In Proverbs 12:28, the writer tells us: “In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.” The Psalmist exclaims: “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psa. 56:13). The ancient world was full of darkness, idol worship, all kinds of gross evil and cruelty, but in Israel there was a light for the nations because of God’s word. Still God was not finished. The true light and true path was yet to be revealed.
JESUS, THE WAY OF LIFE
It is clear in the Bible that all the types, shadows and patterns of “the way” in the Old Testament point directly to Jesus. In John 14:6 Jesus boldly proclaims: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In 1 Peter 1:18-19 he speaks of Jesus and his work in these words: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” To accept Jesus and his way is to set ourselves on the path of eternal life.
In the New Testament we see that the movement instituted by Jesus was first referred to as “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23). When we look at the early church we have to admit that it was “all about life.” Because of the gospel of Jesus, people were filled with new life, with joy, with excitement and with an abundance of blessing. The New Testament expresses simple but sound teachings about how we should live in Jesus, with righteous deeds, thoughts and intents of the heart.
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus lays down his basic rules of life (Matt. 5-7). He teaches us to be humble, sensitive and meek. He challenges us to hunger for God with all our hearts and to be merciful to others. We are told to be pure in heart, peacemakers and not to shun persecution when it comes our way. We are to be light and salt to this world. We are to avoid anger, adultery (even in thought) and remain true to our spouses. We are to love our enemies and in a very real sense, to be “perfect.” The sermon goes on with many other guidelines for the faithful, like avoiding doubts, greed, and judging others.
In Titus 2:3-5 we see some simple instruction about godly women and how they should walk in the way of Christ: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
Although our world today is filled with hatred we see that the path of God as revealed in Jesus is forever the way of love. The disciple John, who was likely the closest to Jesus, says: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 Jn. 3:14).
Thus “The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave” (Prov. 15:24). Indeed as the scripture says in Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”
This article is an abbreviated edition of a teaching delivered at Narkis Street Congregation, Jerusalem, Israel, June 9, 2007
Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons, John Liston Byam Shaw (1872-1919), Pilgrim’s Progress, public domain