Mark Twain is reported to have said that the game of golf is “a good walk spoiled.” John Feinstein wrote a book about golf and gave it that title. This piece is not about golf. It’s about walking.
Our progress through life is like a journey on foot, a long walk, a pilgrimage. It is one in which we may walk in the company of God himself. This is a word picture that is used frequently in the Bible. “Noah . . . walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9, NIV).
The Old Testament has well over 200 references to walking. Some of these refer literally to walking from one place to another. Most of them, however, are figurative uses of the word “walk” as a metaphor for living life. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in the way of the wicked’ (Psalm 1:1, NIV). Sometimes contemporary versions of the Bible translate the word “walk” as “live” or “behave.” “Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live” (or walk, Exodus 18:20, NIV).
This lifelong walk is seen as a purposeful, resolute trek, with God as a faithful guide and companion on the journey.
For the people of Israel, this was serious business. This meant that they were to walk (live) in accordance with God’s laws. “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules, and keep my statutes, and walk in them. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 18:3-4, ESV).
Living this way was for their protection from tyranny, disease, and moral confusion. Living this way insured civil order, happy homes, and economic justice. This was called “walking in God’s ways.” (This phrase is used repeatedly in the Old Testament to illustrate how the Israelites were to walk in the direction and on the path that the Lord God had chosen for them as his people.)
Living (walking) this (in his) way also insured that the Lord himself would accompany them on their journey. “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 26:12-13, NIV).
In my hikes on the Appalachian Trail, I relied upon white blazes (two inches wide by six inches) painted on trees, rocks, or fence posts to mark the trail. These markers, usually about a quarter mile apart, are for hikers’ guidance and safety, to help them stay on the path. That was the function of God’s law for Israel. His “way” for them to walk was always good. “Teach them the good way in which they should walk” (1 Kings 8:36, ESV).
Like warning signals, the Lord also issued cautionary words to inform his people of the consequences of resisting his will. It was a dangerous thing to oppose the Living God. In Leviticus 26, he gave his people a litany of terrible things that might happen to them if they “walk contrary to” his way.
The worst result would be this: “If you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I will discipline you sevenfold for your sins” (Leviticus 26:27-28, ESV). Those words are more stark and disturbing then a bomb scare or a tornado warning.
It is better to walk with God.
His presence is wisdom. “For wisdom will enter your heart . . . Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:10, 20, NIV).
His presence is guidance. “Whether you turn to the right hand or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (Isaiah 30: 21, NIV).
His presence is peace. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4, NIV).
His presence is blessing. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him” (Psalm 128:1, NIV).
All these advantages, and more, were true of Abraham, to whom the Lord said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1, NIV). He was later able to testify of “The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully” (Genesis 24:40, NIV). This meant that every step Abraham took through life, he was conscious of God’s presence. He experienced the Lord close at hand in personal fellowship.
Is this a possibility for us today? If the Old Testament is foundational to our understanding of the New, then surely the theme of walking with God will be expanded and explained more fully there. In the weeks to come we will examine some New Testament passages that show us how to walk through life in fellowship with God.
Pastor Randy Faulkner