A Good Walk Shared

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

Good News for Everyone

There are good reasons to read Romans chapter ten. For one thing it conveys the world’s most important message in terms so clear that any person can understand. The chapter also magnifies God’s grace, demonstrating that salvation  is not a matter of doing, but believing. It shows God’s loving concern for all people everywhere. Romans ten is saturated with quotations from the Old Testament, emphasizing its continuing relevance and authority.

What is the world’s most important message? It is the good news that through faith in Jesus Christ, people everywhere may be given the gift of righteousness (v.4). It is the good news that Christ and his righteousness are accessible, not remote and distant. In verses 7-8 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30 to show that what Moses said about his teaching and the law, is now true of Christ and his gospel.

Romans ten shows us that it is possible to have misdirected zeal. The people of Israel in Paul’s day were pursuing righteousness the wrong way. They were trying to produce righteousness by religious works instead of by faith. In Verses 4-5 Paul contrasts works righteousness and faith righteousness to explain that it is not a matter of doing, but believing.

What is it that is to be believed? It is the truth that “Jesus is Lord” (v.9). This profound declaration was perhaps the earliest Christian creed. It was the confession that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was the “Lord,” or Yahweh revealed in the Old Testament. This is the Christian belief that God is revealing himself in Jesus Christ.

It is also necessary to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. Christ came to earth, died on the cross, was raised from the dead by the power of God, and is now accessible to all who will have faith in him. Paul writes, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:10). To be “justified” is to be declared righteous before God.

This righteous standing is given as a gift of grace to those who trust in Christ and call on him for salvation. Paul quotes the Old Testament again (Joel 2:32) when he writes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). To “call” is to appeal, or to ask. It honors God when we ask for what he has promised to give. It dishonors him when we doubt his promise or try do do for ourselves what only he can do (Romans 10:3).

Romans ten shows God’s loving concern for all people everywhere. “There is no difference” Paul says (v.12). There is no favoritism with God. Racial and cultural distinctions are real, but when it comes to salvation, they do not matter. God wants his gospel to spread all over the world and Paul quotes Psalm 19 to illustrate this fact (v.18).

God has raised up messengers who will spread the good news to the nations of the world. Evangelists, missionaries, witnesses, ambassadors are commissioned to proclaim the gospel as heralds of salvation. Christ sends them, they preach, people hear and believe the message, and they call on the Lord for salvation. According to the Bible, those who call are saved.

This missionary impulse is what is behind Paul’s impassioned prayer for his own people in verse 1: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” Paul quotes the prophetic vision (Isaiah 65:1-2) that underlies the desire to spread the message. Referring to the Jews’ rejection of Jesus, Paul describes the compassionate God as a rejected parent holding out his hands to rebellious children, inviting them to come home (vv. 20-21).

Here, then, are some good reasons to read and meditate on Romans ten: the clarity of the gospel, the beauty of grace, the accessibility of Christ, God’s loving concern for all people, and the continuing authority of both the Old and New Testament scriptures.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Old Testament Lessons for Today

I recently read a book review in a religious magazine. The book’s author, a prominent pastor, claimed that the Old Testament is not as authoritative as the New Testament. Perhaps he meant to say that it is not as applicable, or relevant as the New Testament. But to say that it is not authoritative is to question its truthfulness and value, something no Christian should do.

The New Testament plainly says that Christians should study the Old Testament and apply its lessons to our lives. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul based his teaching to New Testament Christians on the experiences of Old Testament people. In verses 6 and 11, he repeated the phrase, “These things happened to them as examples, and were written down as warnings for us.”

When Paul wrote to Timothy that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16), he was not saying that every Old Testament Scripture is equally useful or applicable to Christians today. But he was saying that it is useful and practical for what it teaches about God, his will, his mighty acts in history, and how he worked in the lives of his people in the ancient past.

One example might be the life of King David. When he was at his best, David provides a model for us in how to live with a heart for God. When he stumbled morally, his story is a solemn warning about the consequences of sin.

David provides an example of a warrior spirit, courage and boldness. He discovered that if he obeyed God’s will, the Lord himself would be with him (1 Samuel 16:18). When the youthful David fought the Philistine hero, Goliath of Gath, he recognized that he was facing more than a military problem. This was a theological problem. Goliath was insulting the Living God! And you know what happened to Goliath.

We are tempted to think of our problems as financial problems, or psychological problems, or interpersonal problems, or health problems. And to us they are. But on a deeper level they reveal our opinion of God. If we, as David did, recognize God as “the Living God,” then we are in a position to entrust our problems to him, as David did.

On the other hand, when David sinned, his story is a warning to us about the terrible cost of disobeying God’s moral law. Even though David confessed his sin and repented, the natural consequences of his failure brought devastation to his family and to the nation of Israel. Hundreds of lives were lost in the civil war that ensued. David’s sons fought among themselves and brought grief to the heart of the king.

One of the timeless lessons from this part of the Old Testament is that God’s children cannot get away with sin. Our heavenly Father disciplines his children. His correction is always because of his love (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Another lesson from the Old Testament story of David is that it is possible to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. David’s psalms teach us that, especially Psalms 32 and 51. The sorrows that followed David’s great sin changed him and prepared him to resume his role as the anointed king of Israel. He passed along a legacy of faith to his son and successor, Solomon.

The theme of David’s life was that he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Psalm 89). I think this means that at the core of his being, David’s heart was compatible with God’s. Surely this is what we want to be true of ourselves. We learn these lessons from the Old Testament.

It is truthful, trustworthy, practical, applicable, divinely inspired, and, yes, it is authoritative. These lessons from the life of David are proof of what our Lord Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4). Every word, the Old Testament as well as the New.

Pastor Randy Faulkner