Walking with God. Have you heard that phrase before? I know, it’s one of those ambiguous statements of Christianese; those of us who are fluent in this cultural language use it frequently, yet we have little regard for what it means or how it ought to affect our relationship with God.
So, what is walking with God? Well, for one thing, it is not just an overused idiom that is popular in Christian culture, but an idea that first came to us from Scripture. Therefore, to accurately decode this, lets dig into what it says. To do that, lets go to the beginning of the Bible, starting with the first book, Genesis. You can follow along with me by using this link to Biblegateway.com where I have searched for verses that contain the phrase walked with God:
Now, we begin by reading that Enoch walked steadily with God. We also note that he lived a long life. (chapter 5, verse 21)
This same phrase is repeated again three verses later, with updated information: Enoch didn’t die, he simply was no more; the explanation we find is that God took him.
So, already we recognize that walking with God is no joke. At least in Enoch’s case it makes for a very unique life and entrance into eternity (since there was no death).
Already I can hear you echoing my observation, “This is getting a little weird,” but lets not quit before we’ve actually discovered anything we can personally apply. There is more to read and we will be better able to make sense of what we’re finding when we’ve gathered more information.
Next we have the story of Noah. And again, the most important aspect of his life to be passed on to us is that Noah walked with God. He was the builder of the ark, and his sons would later repopulate the earth after the Flood, but none of this is mentioned when God sums up who he was. That one sentence we are looking at is what was of chief significance to God; He doesn’t count anything else of greater interest to Him or us than that Noah was unique because of his relationship with God.
Skipping ahead 18 chapters, we come to Genesis 24 where we get our first statement on walking with God from a man’s perspective. Abraham, the man who was chosen by God to be the father of a holy nation for the LORD, spoke of God this way:
God before whom I’ve walked faithfully will send his angel with you and he’ll make things work out
He walked with God faithfully because He had learned to take Him at His word and trust Him in spite of the most impossible of circumstances. He knew God would work things out before he saw it with his own eyes because he was on such a short wavelength with God; he knew what to expect of God based on the interaction he had with the Divine character on a daily basis his entire life.
Right at the end of Genesis, chapter 48, we meet Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. He is blessing his own grandsons (the fourth generation of promise) before he meets death. These are the words he offers to the children before His God:
The God before whom walked my fathers Abraham and Isaac, The God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this very day, The Angel who delivered me from every evil, Bless the boys.
In this text we are privy to a lot more first-hand information on what God is like, and how walking with Him may be described. He treats His chosen as a shepherd who directs his charges with understanding that both safeguards and provides for them. And just as a celestial warrior-messenger God goes ahead of the one who trusts in Him, preparing for him deliverance from every evil that awaits him.
When we invite God to enter our private experience, it is an all-in-all proposition. He is with us for everything. As we learn to abide at His side, our lives will become a personal legacy of grace and mercy. I mean, look how much God did for Jacob in his lifetime. Read through chapters 25 to 35, and notice what kind of man Jacob is and what God does with him. Here’s a snippet of what you’ll find:
God who chose Jacob — just as He did Abraham and Isaac — to be His follower, dealt with a lot of bull-headed-ness and egocentricity with this guy. Any idea that God chooses only people who make Him look good, or who treat Him reverently must be discarded at this point. And while you’re at it, forget assuming that God instantly distances Himself from anyone who makes a mess of their lives by constantly making the wrong choices. Jacob fits all of these spiritual worst-case scenarios quite well, and yet He found God chasing after Him, rather than running away. Do you know why? Because God is a Redeemer.
Yes, God is the Creator, the King, and the Judge, but none of these roles compromise the status of His plan to meet man in sin and renew him. This is what the theme of walking with God teaches us: God is not only willing, but specifically intent on bringing men into a companionship with Him — a companionship that opens Him up to all their sin, but at the same time opens them up to all His righteous. As we walk in this type of relationship He stirs up our faith, and enables us to see with Him with new eyes. We grow to both accept and depend upon Him in ways that we never could have from a distance. And we watch with absolute astonishment as He manifests His perfect character and holiness in us. Sin is washed away as rebellion is broken by the welcomed He extends to become His closest confidants.