I’m not exactly sure why, but it really tickles my funny bone that Hawaii — which is arguably the remotest piece of civilization on earth, if you are measure by the distance to the nearest continental landmass — has an interstate highway system.
It could be argued that it would be more feasible to build a combination of bridges and tunnels across the Atlantic Ocean to connect North America with Europe than to connect any of Hawaii’s Interstate Highways with those of the continental United States. In addition, the numbering scheme doesn’t follow the North American standard of odd numbers indicating North-South and even numbers for East-West directions! Hawaii’s H1 is an east-west highway!
As my mother would say, I didn’t float up the river Clyde on a banana skin, so I actually do know why those roads are called Interstate Highways, it’s because they are built to Interstate Highway Standards, not because they connect with other states. But I still think it’s humorous!
Anyway, the thought launched me down the rabbit-hole of why we call roads highways in the first place and if they make any appearance in the Bible.
When my wife and I lived in the UK, virtually every town and village of note had a street called “High Street”. To this day, the press refers to local business sentiment as that expressed “on the High Street”.
The name comes from the engineering genius of the Romans.
Rather than just re-using cattle and foot paths to move their military from place to place, the Roman legions built roads that would stand up to heavy use by horses, chariots and wagons. This involved a process almost identical to the one used in modern times of surveying a path, making it straight and then building it up, layer by layer with smaller and smaller rocks, pebbles and sand to achieve a smooth and durable surface. The resulting built-up road would often be as much as four feet above the surrounding land. Hence the name “High Street” or “High Road” or just “High-way”.
As testament to their durability my wife and I lived very close to a “high way” running from Canterbury to London called Watling Street, built by the Romans over two thousand years ago and still in regular use today!
As the old saying goes, “all roads lead to Rome”, and the Romans had roads to move their armies all over Europe and the middle east. There was a Roman road stretching from Egypt all along the coast of the eastern Mediterranean to Syria in the North that would be well known to travelers and traders of the first Century. These roads were wide (by their standards), and fast because impediments and obstacles had been removed. There were stops for food, rest, and replenishment along the way, making them a popular choice.
This is probably what Jesus had in mind when he taught his disciples about the difficulty of achieving approbation under the law:
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13,14 NLT
In hilly terrain like Judea, the metaphor of rolling downhill to destruction with a crowd on a wide road, and having to struggle uphill to righteousness on a lonely twisty path would certainly resonate.
Jesus also seems to be saying that there are a number of easy on-ramps to the wide road, so following the crowd is an easy option. Finding your way on to the narrow path requires some research and local knowledge and perseverance on the part of the seeker after righteousness.
However, Jesus gives us a (not so subtle) clue when he proclaims: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NLT [emphasis mine]
One of the reasons finding righteousness seems so difficult is because not only are there not many choices, in fact there is only one choice — and that is through Jesus!
There is, however, another reference to a highway in the scripture that looks forward to the triumphant procession of Jesus-followers:
And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Isaiah 35:8 NLT [emphasis mine]
So although things might not be so easy on this part of the journey we can look forward to hitting the high road in the future.
There is wise counsel from the Book of Proverbs:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. Proverbs 3:5-7 NIV [Emphasis mine]
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black
P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/chronicle/?category=Bible%20Study