Pictorial Language Series
Isaiah 48:17 indicates that God instructs his people in “the way in which you should walk.” What is the point of his admonition? Is it merely for him to exert his authority over those who are willing to listen to his guidance? The preceding sentence fragment somewhat answers that. It says it is to teach each one to “benefit yourself.” But benefit how? Isaiah 49:10 says that those obeying him will not end up in a desolate, barren, arid place but rather “he will guide them by springs of water.”
Recently a speaker at the Kingdom Hall used this scripture as his key point. He illustrated it by referencing some of the more challenging national, state, and regional hiking paths. He referred to a casual hiker whose self-confidence exceeded his experience level. That hiker was checking in at the ranger’s station. The ranger, after determining the hiker’s experience level, recommended a specific path to avoid. Unfortunately, like so many others, when a person is told “don’t do this,” that is exactly what they choose to do. In quick order, that hiker found himself lost and in danger. Just at the moment the hiker realized his arrogance got him in trouble, the ranger appeared and guided the hiker out. That pretty much is the condition of mankind. Ever since Adam and Eve chose to do the very (singularly simple) thing that God told them not to do, they did it. Ever since that time we (imperfect humans) have been attempting (with arguably miserable results) to likewise direct our own steps.
Given mankind’s results not only in governing on a communal level, but even in controlling one’s personal desires, it is no wonder that our “rangers,” Jehovah God and his son Jesus Christ, urge us to not only listen but heed the direction of the path they want us to take. It is for our own health and benefit that we obey.
As a side-note, look at the second translation listed here, the New Living Translation. They render the key point here that God “leads us along the paths you should follow.” I’m not sure if their thinly vailed insinuation here is that there are multiple paths (i.e. religions or beliefs) that are acceptable, however this is blatantly wrong for more than one reason. First, because it is not what the original Hebrew language says. On that point, notice the Hebrew interlinear rendering of the phrase “on the way.” Notice that in that link it shows every use of the Hebrew “bə·ḏe·reḵ” which occurs 54 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Every instance, without exception, shows it is just ONE way that is being referenced. Second, because it is not what the Greek Scriptures say. Indeed, it is not as if there are multiple acceptable paths. Rather, God’s way has always been a single path. It is like finding the all-too-familiar sign that commands: