The Hebrew Bible is often mysterious and hard to understand. Most people realize the language is archaic and the traditions are foreign. But unless you know the multi-dimensional aspects of this holy tongue and the idiomatic expressions that involve complex concepts of ancient culture and thought, the deeper meanings may be lost to you.
For example, the phrases “Narrow is the Way”, “Paths of Righteousness”, and “Walking Upright” are Hebraic coined locutions for righteous living. In all these instances, there seems to be a spiritualized pattern of thought regarding walking.
We live in the 21st century, and many of us are steeped in a western society with a mindset not attuned to the “ways” of Biblical Middle Eastern times. In contrast to these times, we are highly educated in western world views; we travel by cars, planes and mass transit; women have equal rights and opportunity; we rely greatly on technology, and we have the convenience of food at our fingertips. Most of us don’t grow our own grains and bake our own bread nor do we pack up a donkey and travel on foot.
In order to lead others in the faith of our Jewish Lord, we must comprehend the Scriptures more effectively by submerging ourselves into the time and perspectives of His antiquated Biblical life.
Numerous Scriptures paint a picture of “walking.” As this was the most common way people moved from place to place, there were major considerations involved. Do I know the way where I’m going, or could I get lost? Is there a safe passage or is it treacherous? How much time will it take to arrive at my destination? How much provision should I bring?
The physical aspect of walking was principal, and because it was a major occupier of thought, many “walking” idioms were used to express deeper elements of life.
The Concept of Walking
The Hebrew word for “he walks” is holake. The idea of walking became synonymous to behavior and morality. Not only a description of traveling from one place to another on foot, “walking,” in Biblical lexicon also translates to a deeper meaning of conduct. How does one walk about in public places among men? Is his or her walk upright and admirable? In their walk, do they display character in business dealings where they travel? Are they courteous or helpful? Are they worthy of Following?
The parable of the good Samaritan comes to mind.
Yeshua replied, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was attacked by robbers, who stripped him and beat him. Then they left, abandoning him as half dead. 31 And by chance, a kohen was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he passed by on the opposite side. 32 Likewise, a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the opposite side. 33 But a Samaritan who was traveling came upon him; and when he noticed the man, he felt compassion. 34 He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then setting him on his own animal, he brought him to a lodge for travelers and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[f] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him. And whatever else you spend, upon my return I will repay you myself.’ 36 Which of these three seems to you a neighbor to the one attacked by robbers?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” Then Yeshua said to him, “Go, and you do the same” (Luke 10:30-37 TLT).
In Biblical lexicon, “walking” is “being” among the living.
As one walks this earth and experiences life, you find that some people operate with a “credo” or a mindset that is governed by convictions, conscience, and personally kept morals. They often help people in distress, open doors for the physically challenged, give up their seat on the subway to the elderly. Maybe some go the extra mile and talk to strangers to encourage or compliment. This approach to interact with others is known in the Bible as “doing unto others.”
It may be said of this caliber of people that, “they walk the high road” instead of merely passing by on the opposite side. Conversely, some people ignore, cheat, or lie to others. Yeshua’s advice to “Go and do the same” is a mandate to walk in the way of mercy and compassion for one another.
In ancient times people listened to the rabbis and Torah teachers to learn “how to walk.” Obviously, this wasn’t a lesson in physical walking, as in how to put one foot in front of another and propel yourself forward. This “walking” was much deeper. That is, how to govern themselves among men as well as how to approach their God. It was often asked by people of that time, “Who’s dust is on your shoes?” implying, “Who is the Rabbi that you follow?”
The roads in those days were always dusty, and most people wore sandals. It was necessary that travelers washed their feet after a journey even if it were only a short distance.
When Yeshua knelt to wash the feet of His disciples, Peter quickly objected and said, “You shall never wash my feet!” To which Yeshua replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8 TLV).
The curious response by Yeshua is very Hebraic and is not often understood by those who possess a strictly western mindset. He was showing them- if one does not allow the cleansing act of Messiah to wash his walk (that is the nature of the old man) then one cannot enter into the covenantal promises of salvation.
A Way to Walk In
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).
God’s ways are holy, upright and perfect. But man, by nature, is selfish and limited on knowledge and good judgment. When we submit to God and become born again, He begins to change our nature and transform our minds. We learn about His goodness and character, and He begins to operate through us. We become students of the Lord learning to walk in His ways, thereby blazing a path for others to follow in.
As God takes away our selfish nature, He renews and regenerates us! The Bible says, He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name (Psalm 23:3).
In Judaism, there is a word that is used that defines our effort to walk in God’s ways. It comes from the Hebrew word holake – it is hallachah. The rabbis would determine hallachah by interpreting Scriptures or laws thereby teaching their followers how to live out or walk out these laws.
We see a great example of implementing God’s ways through a Hebrew idiom spoken by Yeshua when he decided to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead.
“Rabbi,” the disciples say to Him, “just now the Judean leaders were trying to stone You! And You’re going back there again?” Yeshua answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in the day? If a man walks in the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of the world. 10 But if a man should walk around at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:9-10 CJB).
“Aren’t there twelve hours in a day?” is an idiomatic phrase that emphasizes the concept of walking in goodness or in the light. Making a clear phrase in English would be “If even the daylight has 12 hours to shine light in order to illuminate a good path to keep one from stumbling, shouldn’t we who are always full of light, walk in the ways of goodness?”
As Gentiles learning to walk in the ways or hallachah of Yeshua, it is, at times, challenging. Many ways of Yeshua are steeped in Jewish customs and traditions. Though unfamiliar to non-Jews, these traditions or ways were close to our Lord’s heart. Should we also learn how to enter into these blessed ways and help others do the same?
It’s not uncommon to find that when two people from different cultures marry they often desire to learn each other’s customs to pass these heartfelt ways on to their children.
Crossing or Walking Over
Abraham was from Ur of Chaldee. He was a Gentile that “crossed over” to learn God’s ways. The word “Hebrew” literally translates in English as “crossing over.” Shouldn’t we, Gentiles, like Abraham, cross over from our national or ethnic barriers and allow Him to graft us in into His cultivated tree? Shouldn’t we learn how to grow from a deeper root system? To be a Hebrew at heart?
He told us implicitly to allow Him to wash the dust and filth from our feet – from our ”old sinful ways” and “our old erroneous paths”. And then to be a servant by helping others do the same.
Now if I, the Lord and Rabbi, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet. John 13:14 CJB
May we be willing to help those who are wandering on paths that lead to nowhere to be clean and lost no longer.