For years the image of “walking with God” has stuck in my head. To walk with God is such a lovely turn of phrase. It reminds me of the refrain from the old hymn ‘In the Garden,’ by C Austin Miles
“And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.”
I often think of Enoch walking with God as a euphemism for being taken up to heaven. A closer reading though reveals that he walked with God and then he was no more or disappeared because God took him. In fact Genesis 5:22 states that after the birth of Methu’sela, Enoch walked with God for 300 years. Enoch walking with God on earth seems to be connected with life everlasting.
Let us look at two more instances in Genesis of “walking with God.”
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Continuing on in Genesis 6, God says: “For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh…” (vs.17-19). In this narrative, walking with God is connected to a covenant with God and preservation of life.
As I dug deeper into this image of “walking with God” found in both narratives, I happened upon this footnote:
Instead of simply saying that Enoch lived, the text observes that he “walked with God.” The rare expression “walked with” is used in 1 Sam 25:15 to describe how David’s men maintained a cordial and cooperative relationship with Nabal’s men as they worked and lived side by side in the fields. In Gen 5:22 the phrase suggests that Enoch and God “got along.” This may imply that Enoch lived in close fellowship with God, leading a life of devotion and piety.
This sounds a lot like our old hymn, doesn’t it?
The last example given in Genesis of someone who walked with God is Abraham. Here we see what might be termed the second pre-Mosaic covenant. Chapter 17 begins “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous’” (17:1-2). Again we see the connection between walking with God and covenant, but the context and language are slightly different. The Hebrew word translated as “walk” means to walk back and forth; to walk about; to live out one’s life and another reading of “before me” is “in my presence.” Here God is speaking. Here we have a command. We shall see this imagery used again in the Mosaic Covenant.
In the 26th Chapter Leviticus God speaks to Moses on Sinai saying: “If you walk in my statutes and are sure to obey my commandments, I will give you your rains in their time so that the land will give its yield… (26:12). I will walk among you, and I will be your God and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:3-4, 12).
Here we see again this image of walking with God connected to covenant, obedience to God and blessings.
In the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants we have commands from God or a “top down” approach: God speaking to us – giving us commands. Psalms in contrast could be understood as a “bottom up” type of scripture: us talking to God. If Torah is God’s teaching – God’s way – the psalms are our response to God, or even dialogue with Him. As one might expect they are full of this walking with God imagery. Psalm 86 gives us a fine example, especially suited to today’s meditation:
Teach me thy way, O Lord,
that I may walk in thy truth;
unite my heart to fear thy name.
I give thanks to thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify thy name for ever.
For great is thy steadfast love toward me;
thou hast delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol (Vs.11-13). [emphasis added]
Let us analyze this verse. The psalmist asks to be taught to walk in God’s truth. Then, he gives thanks promising to glorify God forever. Here again God is revealer and teacher of His way. The images of thanksgiving, eternal praise and salvation illustrated so beautifully by the psalmist evoke the Liturgical worship of the Christian church. We offer the Eucharist (from the Greek word for Thanksgiving), we glorify Father, Son and Holy Spirit in all of our prayers ending this glorification with “now and ever and to the ages of ages.” In v. 13, God’s steadfast love has delivered his soul (or life depending on the translation) from Sheol (Hades, death). This is an amazingly clear prefiguring of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Mat. 5:17-20
The Incarnation is both a descent of God and ascent of man (our “top down bottom up” image). Christ is the man who perfectly obeys the law- who walks with God – who is God!
Walk with God brothers and sisters.
Dedicated to my Grandma. May her Memory be Eternal