the Good Way
by: Tim Kelley
The Feast of Tabernacles is considered to be the most Joyous of all God’s festivals. Being only one of the three ‘Pilgrimage’ festivals, it is the only one were we are explicitly told to rejoice. The Hebrew word for “rejoice” is “samach” (שָֹמַח - 8055) and it’s a word that's meaning matches the way it looks – – people dancing with hands raised high.
In fact, in regards to joy, this is how the Jewish Tnakh renders this festival command -
JPS Deuteronomy 16:15 15 You shall hold a festival for the LORD your God seven days, in the place that the LORD will choose; for the LORD your God will bless all your crops and all your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy.
The feast of Tabernacles pictures a new age that Christianity calls it the ‘Millinium’ – a one thousand year period when the Messiah will reign over the earth as mentioned in Isaiah chapter 11 and numerous other places. Though there is much debate as to the exact meaning of the term, many from the Jewish community call that age the “Olam Haba” or “World to Come”. For the sake of this message, I’m going to use the Jewish term “World to Come” as well.
The World to Come will be a time of great joy, especially for those who finally see the end of the 7-year period called the “Birthpains of the Messiah”, the time of Jacob’s Trouble, or what Christianity simply calls “the Tribulation”.
In the World to come, the Messiah will sit on the throne of David, ruling over Israel from Jerusalem in the literal “Kingdom of God’. It will be a time when God will begin to restore things back to the time when He said that all things were “very good”. Even the nature of the animals will be changed. The wolf will dwell with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), and ‘the lion shall eat straw like an ox’.
But will everything change over-night? Will world peace commence when the Messiah sets His foot on the Mount of Olives? What about mankind? Will God change the ‘human nature’ of man like He will the animals? I’m sure He could, but then we’d be like the animals, like robots who only do things instinctively. Is that what God wants?
And what about World Peace? Will it happen instantly? Certainly not unless changes are made to the way man thinks.
So how is God going to get the nations to submit to Him in the World to Come?. Can we come up with a scenario? I believe we can if we use the information God has given us in the scriptures.
In this message, I hope to tie together a number of historical and prophetic passages – place them on top of two scriptures that I believe to be foundational to understanding the Bible and Bible prophecy, and present a scenario of how I believe World Peace will come in the World to Come.
The first ‘foundational’ scripture is -
ESV Ecclesiastes 1:9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
I believe Bible prophecy can best be understood by considering Biblical history. For instance, I believe that the “Greater Exodus” of Jeremiah 12:7&8 will be patterned after the exodus out of Egypt, and that other end time events – including the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom of God – will be patterned after something that has already been on earth.
The other ‘foundational’ scripture that God does not change -
ESV Malachi 3:6 "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
Since God does not change, Israel will never be destroyed. What’s more, all that is prophesied for Israel will eventually come to pass.
Taking these two scriptures and building on them, we will see that -
- Israel’s purpose was to be a blessing to the nations
- Israel’s calling was to be witness of God’s greatness
- Israel’s job was to teach the Torah
After seeing these, we will be able to more clearly see -
- Israel’s Role in the Kingdom of God
Our scenario starts with Abraham.
There is much speculation as to why God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees? Did Abram simply see the foolishness of believing in many Gods? Was he too smart to accept the notion that there is NO God? Could it be that He had come to see that the laws and ways of the Chaldean people could lead to the self-destruction of the entire nation? Or was it that he was able to see the awesomeness and power of the one who had designed and created the entire universe?
We don’t really know for sure, but what we do know is that he had such trust and respect for God and His law that he was willing to give up everything to follow him. And because he did, God said this about His servant Abraham –
LXX Genesis 18:17-19 Shall I hide from Abraham my servant what things I intend to do? 18 But Abraham shall become a great and populous nation, and in him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. 19 For I know that he will order his sons, and his house after him, and they will keep the ways of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham all things whatsoever he has spoken to him.
What an incredible thing for the Creator of the Universe to say about a human being. Not only does it make a statement about Abraham’s character and commitment to God’s way, it’s also a prophecy about his descendants – that they too will fulfill all the things spoken (prophesied) about them.
Unfortunately, the Bible reveals that not everything spoken of Abraham and his descendants has yet to come to pass. What’s more, His descendants have failed to keep the way1 of YHVH and were ultimately cast out of the land promised to Abraham and today are scattered throughout the nations.
In the above passage, the Hebrew word for ‘ways’ is ‘derek’ (דֶרֶך– 1870). ‘Derek’ means a ‘road’, a ‘journey’, a ‘course in life’. It comes from a root word ‘darak (דָרַך - 1869) that means ‘to tread, bend, lead, and march’. It is first used in the passage where God placed cherubim in the Garden of Eden to protect the way to the tree of life.
Abraham was given a course in life that will ultimately lead to his descendants being a blessing to all nations. Though the promise was unconditional, his, and his descendant’s ability to perform their function and ultimately become that blessing was based on their willingness to ‘keep the ways of YHVH’.
Fast-forward 1500 years or so and we see that the northern kingdom of Israel is no longer a kingdom due to their failure to keep the covenant, and now the southern kingdom of Judah is headed down the same path. Judah had all but forsaken the Torah and the prophet Jeremiah is warning them that if they don’t turn back to the way of YHVH, they would face a similar fate. Speaking through Jeremiah, YHVH said -
NKJ Jeremiah 6:16 … "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.
“Walk in the ‘good way’” the prophet said, “and you will find rest … ”. What Jeremiah is saying is that the ‘good’ way is the only way to find rest. It’s the only way for Judah to avoid the inevitable. Unfortunately, the Kingdom of Judah chose the wrong path.
The phrase “the good way” is translated from the Hebrew phrase “derek hatov” (דֶרֶך הַטוֹב). We’ve already discussed the word ‘derek’, but what does ‘tov’ mean? According to Jeff Benner’s web site, ‘tov’ (2896) means2 –
“Fulfilling the action for which a person or thing is specially fitted or used, or for which a thing exists. A functioning within its intended purpose.”
When applied to the ‘way’ it means that the way performs the function for which it was designed. If Judah would follow the “good way”, they would avoid captivity and would remain a people living in the Promised Land.
So what is the good way? Moses describes it like this –
NKJ Deuteronomy 26:17 "Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice.”
So ‘the way’ is the statutes, judgments, and commandments given to Moses by YHVH. Solomon makes it more clear –
NKJ 1 Kings 8:35 " When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, 36 "then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk …”
So Israel was called because Abraham understood the ‘good way’ and would teach it to his descendants. They in turn were to teach it to their children, and by so doing, they would become a blessing to the all mankind.
The tiny nation of Israel is a piece of real estate strategically located along the trade routes between Asia Minor and the African continent. Along these roads, travelers would interact with the locals and exchange ideas and information along with goods and services. Just as we today would share what we had seen while vacationing to the mountains or to the coast, travelers would share what they witnessed and learned about the Hebrew people and culture. If Israel prospered, it would be a witness of the greatness of Israel’s god.
Thus Moses said -
ESV Deuteronomy 4:6-8 Keep (the commandments) and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
So Israel was supposed to be a witness to the nations. As foreigners passed through, they would be blessed by the hospitality of the Hebrew people. They would see a people who were happy, a people where justice prevailed for both the small and the great. And they would see the prosperity of the people because they lived within God’s framework – the Torah.
There is no greater example of Israel’s witness than that of Solomon’s Kingdom. Solomon reigned in Israel for forty years immediately following the death of his father, King David. Though David had his problems, he had immense devotion to the God of Israel, and during his reign, he set out to fulfill the territorial promises given to Abraham. By the end of his life, he had conquered, subdued, or made treaties with all the nations surrounding Israel. Thus when Solomon became the anointed King, there was peace on all sides.
Because Solomon did not have to deal with war, he was able to focus the energies of the Hebrew people on building justice and prosperity throughout the land. As a result, the fame of Solomon and Israel spread throughout the known world.
The story of the Queen of Sheba illustrates this.
NKJ 1 Kings 10:6-9 Then she (the Queen of Sheba) said to the king: "It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. 7 "However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. 8 "Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! 9 "Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you …"
Israel’s calling was to be a witness of God’s greatness. Through Moses, God prophesied that if Israel followed God, they would be blessed, and the nations would notice. On the other hand, if they turned from God, blessings would be withheld, the people and land would suffer, and the nations would notice. In either case, Israel is still a witness of God’s greatness.
After being thrust out of Egypt during the exodus, Israel – some 45 or so days later – arrived at Mount Sinai. It was there that YHVH ‘proposed’ to them and promised that if they would follow Him, they would become a kingdom of priests.
ESV Exodus 19:5-6 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation …”
The text points out that Israel’s response was both immediate and unanimous –
ESV Exodus 19:8 …"All that the LORD has spoken we will do." …
So when Israel became betrothed to God, she also become a kingdom of priests – this is, as long as they remained faithful to God and kept his way. Israel’s priests had a number of responsibilities, one of which is to officiate the offerings and sacrifices. Other responsibilities include making judgment in the case of leprosy, leading praise to YHVH in the event of war, signaling the need for an assembly or warning, and reading the Torah to the Israelite people every seven years at the feast of Tabernacles3. Besides all that, there is a responsibility that is alluded to in the Torah4, but is clearly found in the book of Malachi –
NKJ Malachi 2:7 "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law (torah) from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
Along with their other duties, the priests were to be the source of knowledge about the Torah5. They were to be the ones who could be consulted whenever there was a question about the Torah and the administration of it. That’s why we see Ezra teaching the Torah to the Jewish people who came out of Babylon and returned to the land of Israel –
NKJ Ezra 7:10 … Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel
Being that the original priesthood was composed of the firstborn male of each family, we can see that if Israel had continued to follow God, there would be a priest in nearly every family. Unfortunately, Israel’s infatuation with YHVH was short lived, and the priesthood was taken from the firstborn and given to the tribe of Levi.
Never-the-less, the calling remains and that’s why the writer of Hebrews said to those ‘Hebrews’ who were returning to the way –
NKJ Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God … .
So Israel has a job to do, and up this point, she has not done her job very well.
World to Come
If God does not change, and if what will be is what has already been, we should be able to take what we’ve seen about Israel’s purpose, calling, and job, and get a glimpse of her role in the World to Come.
We, like most generations before us, believe we are living in the end times and that a time of world trouble - the Birthpains of the Messiah – will precede the return of the Messiah and the restoration of His kingdom on earth. Prophecy seems to indicate that 1/4 of all mankind will die in war (Rev. 6:7-8) during the Birthpains, and that another 1/3 will die of pestilence (Rev. 9:18). That leaves only a little more than a third of the people making it through the Tribulation. With today’s world population of about 7 ½ billion people, that means that about 2 ½ billion people will survive the Birthpains and live on into the World to Come.
Many of them will become believers during their trial6, but, according to the scripture, most of those people still will not repent. Based on today’s society, they probably remain Buddist, Muslim, Humanist, or Athiests.
NKJ Revelation 9:20 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk.
This may seem hard to believe, considering the severity of the Birthpains. Never-the-less, a huge number of people will enter the World to Come with little more knowledge of the God of Israel and His ways than they did before the Birthpains.
So how are those 2 ½ billion people going to learn about God? What’s going to cause them to forsake idols and turn to the God of Israel? If God’s not going to change their nature like He will the nature of the animals, then He’s going to have to change their heart. They’re going to have to see the value in following Him and His commandments, and that’s going to be the role of the Hebrew people.
Israel’s Purpose in the World to Come
Going back to the beginning of this message - God told Abraham it would take Israel “keeping the ways of YHVH” for Him to fulfil in Abraham all things He had spoken to him. (Gen 18:17-19). That means that once Israel turns to YHVH and His Messiah, God will be able to give them all the land that had been promised to them, and it also means that Israel will then become a blessing to the nations. So does Israel return to YHVH during the Birthpains? According to the scriptures, she does –
NKJ Jeremiah 30:4-9 Now these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. 5 "For thus says the LORD: 'We have heard a voice of trembling, Of fear, and not of peace. 6 Ask now, and see, Whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins Like a woman in labor, And all faces turned pale? 7 Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob's trouble, But he shall be saved out of it. 8 'For it shall come to pass in that day,' Says the LORD of hosts, 'That I will break his yoke from your neck, And will burst your bonds; Foreigners shall no more enslave them. 9 But they shall serve the LORD their God, And David their king, Whom I will raise up for them.
So Israel will finally turn to YHVH. She will have learned her lesson and will fully submit to Him. What’s more, Israel will now be willing to do the job she was called to do – be a blessing to the world. She will accept Yeshua as her king and will establish His thrown in Jerusalem. This will be the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom of Israel in the World to Come.
Though Israel will have inherited all the lands promised to the patriarch Abraham, Israel will still be a tiny nation in the eyes of the world. But that’s not a problem, because Yeshua foretold it to be that way.
NKJ Mark 4:30-32 Then He said, "To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 "It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 "but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade."
So we see that the kingdom of God will start out small, but will eventually encompass the earth. We also know that the Torah will go forth from Jerusalem (Micah 4:2). That basically makes Israel the center of the universe and the starting point for the spreading of the Kingdom of God that will eventually encompass the entire world.
The spreading of the Kingdom will begin locally. The impact of the Messiah liberating the nation of Israel and restoring Torah government to it will make a tremendous impact on the nations surrounding Israel. Take the example of King Hiram of Tyre, a city/nation that bordered Israel on the north. Although a pagan king, Hiram was apparently well aware of David, the Hebrew lad who killed the Philistine giant and eventually became the King of Judah. He was aware of David’s conquests, especially his defeat of Hiram’s southern neighbor Israel. But when the defeated people of Israel turned and asked David to be their king as well, Hiram realized that David was not only a mighty warrior, he was also a benevolent king, and it would be better to be a friend to David than to be a foe.
NKJ 2 Samuel 5:10-12 So David went on and became great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him. 11 Then Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters and masons. And they built David a house. 12 So David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted His kingdom for the sake of His people Israel.
Hiram’s willingness to build David a house apparently signaled to David that Hiram was willing to submit to David as the King of Israel. This is confirmed in Hiram’s words many years later when Solomon is building the Temple.
NKJ 1 Kings 5:1 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, because he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram had always loved David.
The passage continues with Solomon relating to Hiram his desire to build the Temple that David had designed and then Hiram’s reply –
NKJ 1 Kings 5:7 So it was, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly and said, Blessed be the LORD this day, for He has given David a wise son over this great people!
I presume that it will be the same with King Yeshua, the son of David. When the nations surrounding Israel hear of Yeshua’s successes in freeing His people, they too will they see the hopelessness in resisting King Yeshua. Instead of resisting, nations will wish to become vassals of Israel and her King. This will then require those nations to submit to the Laws of Israel, and it will become the role of the leaders to lead the people through their example. As those peoples adopt those laws, they will enjoy the blessings that will showered down on them as a result. For instance – Egypt will for the first time experience rain in due season.
With today’s technology, the world is a much smaller place than it was 3500 years ago, making travel to and from Israel much easier. Even though the trade routes will not play as big a role as in ancient times, many will visit the land of Israel simply to see if the news reports are true.
We all know that there is nothing like actually visiting a foreign country to experience its culture. The same will happen with Israel.
As the nations begin to rebuild after the Birth Pains, pictures coming out of Israel will show the rapid growth of peace and prosperity in the tiny Hebrew nation, and naturally, many people will want to visit and experience it. And just as it was in the days of Solomon, they will travel to Israel to attend seminars where King Yeshua explains the mind of man and how peace is obtainable through obedience to God’s way and judgments based on His laws.
NKJ 1 Kings 10:24 Now all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.
When they arrive, they will see doors with no locks, “honor system” fruit stands in the various bazaars, streets filled with playing children, and a general sense of peace and security. They’ll witness people happily discussing the new initiatives coming out of the palace of The King, and they’ll see a people who love and respect the Law.
They’ll wonder if this is the same Hebrew people who had rejected God and His law, and question the store attendant, who will reply – “Yes we are, but we have repented of our ways and have returned to our God, and He has taken us back”.
When they return to their homes, they’ll take the images and ideas they saw and share them with their friends and neighbors, basically the same way it was in the days of King Solomon.
As word filters up to the leaders of those nations, they – like the Queen of Sheba – will want to visit Israel themselves in order to see if what they are hearing is true, but also to see if they can bring that same happiness back to their home nation. If those leaders have the opportunity to visit the King, they will see that the key to peace and prosperity is to follow the Laws of the God of Israel.
Israel Fulfilling Her Calling –
Though the two previous methods are somewhat passive, they alone would eventually spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God throughout the world. Nation after nation would want to come under Yeshua’s leadership either by being annexed into Israel or by becoming a vassal nation. But I don’t believe that will happen fast enough to satisfy the King’s plan for world peace and prosperity. Therefore, it’s likely that Yeshua, after being established as King over Israel and Judah, will immediately call Israel to perform the role for which she was called.
You will remember that Israel was called to be a witness to the nations, and that the people were to become a nation of priests - priests who were to teach the understanding of the Torah to the people.
Paul said – when speaking about Israel and her calling – that –
NKJ Romans 11:29 “… the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
Israel was called to be a witness to the greatness of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and she has yet to fulfill that calling; but it will be fulfilled in the World to Come.
Speaking of post-tribulation Israel, YHVH said –
ESV Isaiah 66:19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations.
Teaching the Torah – the Good Way of God to the nations, will be Israel’s primary role in the expansion of the Kingdom of God in the World to Come. I imagine Yeshua will use the same tried and tested program He used 2000 years ago when he sent out disciples two-by-two to the nations and they – within about 40 years – turned the world upside down7.
He will likely set up schools where the firstborn – the priest of every family will go for special training in how to convey God’s way of life to the nations. They will be His talmadim – his disciples - and will follow His charge to -
ESV Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in1 the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
They will be – to borrow Paul’s term – “ambassadors8 for Christ”9 – disciples who raise up more disciples so that eventually every town in every nation will have God’s way being taught in their local community. They will be given the power to heal sicknesses, give sight to the blind, restore limbs to those who were injured during the Birthpains, and perform various other signs.
And as more and more people in the community turn to the God of Israel, that community will be blessed, and neighboring communities will join together with the same blessings until that nation is taken over by people enjoying the blessings of following the “Good Way”, the Torah of the God of Israel. That nation will in turn, join the Commonwealth of Israel10 and The Kingdom of God will continue to expand.
All this can be summarized in Micah’s prophecy –
NKJ Micah 4:1-2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it. 2 Many nations shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
When the Tribulation ends, the world will be tired of war and death. Instinctively, they will turn to their leaders for answers. But mankind doesn’t have the answers, for the only way to peace is for the nations to turn to “the Good Way”, the ancient way of the God of Israel and His Messiah. When they decide to do so, the descendents of Abraham will step up to the plate and God will be able to use them to bless the world. We who are here today and at various festival locations throughout the world are some of those descendants, and we will have a large part in teaching the truth about our God, our Messiah, and the Good Way that He wants to offer to all mankind.
Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.”
1 in the Masoretic Text, the word ‘derek’ is singular;
3 Deut. 31:9-13;
4 Lev. 10:11;
5 see also Lev.10:8-11; Deut. 33:8-11;
6 Rev. 7:9,11;
7 Acts 17:6;
8 ‘presbeuo’ (4243) - to be older, prior by birth or in age;
9 2 Cor. 5:20;
10 Eph. 2:12