Walking with God
In scripture walking with God is a figure of speech meaning one's manner of life, or how one conducts oneself. The passages quoted above, all in the Ephesian letter, as by way of example, illustrate this principle; to sum up Paul's words: let's live up to what we profess. The Bible has much to say about walking with God. This article will briefly look at it from considering four men in scripture of whom it was said that they walked with God.From this we can learn much and encourage ourselves in our own personal walk with God.
The four men are: Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Zacharias. Three of them are found in the Book of Genesis, and the fourth at the beginning of Luke's Gospel record. Of course what was true of one man about his walk, is true of all of them, but for each of the four men one particular aspect more than others is emphasised, and this for our benefit and learning.
The first of these four men is Enoch. And we read that after Methusaleh was born Enoch walked with God. What happened because of the birth of his son we are not told, but we can make a reasonable guess. Methusaleh's name means: 'when he is dead it shall be sent'. A strange name to give to someone! But this is unquestionably prophetic, but of what? By computing Methusaleh's age it can be established that he died in the same year as the Flood. Not that he died in the flood, but that his demise was in the preceding months before God sent the great deluge. We can safely conclude that the great prophetic event was the universal flood that God sent in the days of Noah. So Enoch was given this word of prophecy of the pending great judgement of God on the sinful and corrupt world. It seems that God's words had its first impact on Enoch himself. Before that he walked not with God, but there was a change; he turned around and began to walk with God. This is known as repentance, and before anyone can walk with God there has to be repentance.
Dear reader have you started to walk with God? If not then you are walking not with God, but away from Him. You need to understand that another judgement is coming, this time not another flood, but rather the final judgement, where men's eternal destinies are determined. Those whose names are not in the Lamb's book of life will be cast into the eternal lake of fire. If you are not walking with God then you are on the road to that destiny, to escape you have to repent of your sin, your way of life, and put your trust in Christ alone. Then, and not until then can you begin to walk with God.
We then see that Enoch's testimony was that he pleased God, and since no one can please God except by faith, we conclude that he had the faith of which the writer to the Hebrews speaks. And it is in two parts: firstly that he believed God is, that is He exists. The condition of Enoch's day must have been terrible, if some 900 years ahead lay the great universal deluge of judgement. His life an open book, so to speak of God's existence to a world that was heading to judgement; to those who were atheists, or those who lived carelessly as if God didn't exist, which is just atheism in practice. Enoch though lived under the all seeing eye of God; even though Enoch could not see God visibly he knew He existed and had the true faith and walked accordingly.
How do we live? Do we say that we believe God yet live as if He didn't exist? Are we practising atheism in our lives? If so then we are not walking with God, for our conduct is saying otherwise. If we have the true faith of which the Bible speaks then even though we cannot see God with our eyes we see Him by faith and live accordingly.
Enoch believed that God is and a rewarder of those who seek Him. Not that the reward is the motive, but that God is a rewarder and not a hard taskmaster, as some would have us believe. That is having a true perspective of God's character. Enoch's walk was indeed pleasing to God. Consequently he was translated so as not to see death. This makes him only one of two people who left the earth in such a way, the other being Elijah.
Why God took Enoch this way we are not told, but He did. For the rest of humanity death is the way before us all, but it is the way into the next life. If we are walking with God then whenever the time comes for our removal from the earth, we shall go to be with Him, the one who loved us so much. Of course it could be that before that day, Jesus may return and catch those who are alive and are His own, to be with Him forever! But by whatever means we leave this world, providing we are walking with Him, we shall be with Him in the next.
Finally we see that Enoch's walk was an habitual walk. That is, it wasn't a one off occcaion, but a day by day walk. Constantly he was listening to God and walking with Him. Jesus talked about enduring to the end. Being a Christian is not just about getting a ticket to heaven, and escaping Hell, it's much more. It is about knowing God and living the life that He plants in us; it is a daily walk. On new birth we are new creatures in Christ, we enter a new way of living, in fact it is the very life of God Himself that is planted in us; we are no longer to walk as the unbelievers do. Just as the unbelievers walk habitually after the flesh, so likewise are we to walk habitually after the Spirit.
How then can we summarise all this? Enoch walked by faith, and in so doing pleased God. We too need to learn this lesson. In a day of stubborn unbelief in God we need to have the one true faith that comes from above. We need to understand that: faith comes by hearing the [^spoken] word of God Rom 10:17. Enoch at some stage heard the Word, so must we. And this is not a one off either, day by day we must, as Enoch did, walk habitually, that is make it our habit, of walking with God, listening to Him and allowing that faith to grow. All around us we see men and women living as if there is no tomorrow, but those in Christ know that there is another judgement ahead II Pet.3:9-13. This time, not a watery one but, one of fire and eternal judgement. Others may scoff, but let us like Enoch so walk in faith, please God and believe. In scripture that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. The world may live and walk by those things that they see, but we are to walk by faith and not sight II Cor.5:7.
The second man for our consideration is Noah; we have the link with Enoch in that he too had the faith that pleased God. We are now introduced to a new idea: not only was Noah a just (righteous) man but he was also perfect in his generations. Perfect! A word that sends some believers into panic mode, and then they try to explain the word away! The reason for this is a clear lack of understanding as to the use of the word in Scripture. When the word 'perfect' is used, more often than not, because of pre-conditioning, people tend to think that it means 'sinless perfection', that is whereby it is impossible to sin. But that is not what the Bible means when it is applied to people living for God.
Indeed the NT has much to say about believers being perfect in many ways.
The above is a sample of NT scriptures on the subject; clearly the context of the passage shows how the writer intended its use. We shall not be looking at them in detail but use them to point out: firstly, that the word is used of believers in this life, and not just the one to come. So there is at least one sense in which believers are to be perfect. Secondly looking at Jesus' words we see that there is an expectation for us to be perfect; indeed the rebuke given to Sardis was that their works were not perfect!
Returning to Noah, it is of importance to note that this is the first mention of the word perfect in the whole of the Bible. So by considering Noah we can see a clue as to how Scripture intends us to understand this word. Noah's life is explained as in complete contradistinction to the rest of humanity. The wickedness of man was great; Noah was righteous. That is, the worldings of the time were unrighteous, whereas Noah who was the very opposite. The thoughts of men were continually evil; note that, their thoughts were habitually wicked; Noah habitually walked with God.
Thus Noah had no mixture, he was separated from the world's condition of wickedness and habitual evil thought, there was no compromise in him at all. And it is in this context that it said that Noah was perfect. In fact he was the only man perfect in a world otherwise corrupted thoroughly and throughly with sin. (Does this imply his wife and sons were wicked?) .
What can we learn for our lives in the NC? What lessons does Noah's life teach us as to how we should walk with God now?
From Noah's testimony we learn that we are not to be conformed to this world. The word conform means to fashion oneself to another's pattern, in this case the world. We are not to allow the fashions, attitudes an whatever of the world to mould us to its form. When we were unregenerated our sate was conformity to the world and all its lusts but on regeneration we are no longer to remain on its path. Eph. 2:1-2. If we walk like the men of the world then we are Carnal I Cor. 3:1-3. Noah's world was to end, it was under the judgement of God; likewise our world is now waiting the final judgement of God, the exhortation for God's people is to walk with God separated from the world.
Moving on to our next example with Abraham, we see another aspect of walking with God: this time it is a command from the Lord, for Abraham to walk before God and be perfect. This is an interesting command, for whilst up to this point Abraham had believed God and obeyed, there was something still lacking that needed to be dealt with. These comments in no way diminishes the greatness of Abraham, but shows how God deals with his people in bringing to fulfilment His purposes. What then was it? For by now this great man of God was 99 years old!
The key to understanding Abraham's life is his obedience, or otherwise to God. If we look at his life we see that at times there is complete obedience and at others not so. A brief resume of his life shows this. In the original call he did not at first leave his family or place of birth completely until his father was dead. (Gen.11:27 - 12:4 compare Acts 7:1-4). Then when the famine came he left the land, that God had promised and led him to, and went into Egypt and lied to Pharaoh about Sarah. Gen. 12:10-20.
Later he receives the praiseworthy comment that he believed God, when he heard that his seed, from his own body, would multiply and become a great nation. Gen. 15:1-7. But then disaster! Sarah entices her husband to have a child by their handmaid Hagar! God's plan was going to be fulfilled, so they thought, by their own efforts. Abraham listened, and obeyed not God's voice now, but his wife's; he had moved from the ground of walking by faith to that of the flesh. and look at the consequences! Not least God is not recorded as speaking to Abraham again for at least another 13 years ( compare Gen.16: 16 & 17:1). This was an outworking of the principle of Gal.6: 7, what a man sows that shall he reap. Abraham sowed to the flesh by listening to another's voice, and so God withdrew from speaking to him. and it is only, because of God's grace that he spoke once more.
This time God's message was clear Abraham was walk before Him and be perfect! Abraham's obedience had to be perfect, no more partial obedience, listening to other voices or as we would now say, no more walking after the flesh.
From Ch. 17 onwards we see what God required of Abraham. Firstly he had to keep the covenant and circumcise every male. Then God renewed the promise of a son from his own bowels, through Sarah even though Abraham had a moment of pleading from the flesh (Gen.17:17-22), God had to remove this from him. And finally as the ultimate test Abraham had to sacrifice Isaac - the only one through whom the promised seed was to pass! Abraham past that test, he took Isaac and went unquestioning, and without consulting Sarah, and believed God that both he and Isaac would return. Gen.22:5.
What then of the lessons. Already it should be plain that we are talking of walking in the Spirit and not the flesh. That is we are listening to and obeying what the Spirit is saying to us. Before anyone can walk in the Spirit they have to enter into the covenant. In the OC it was by circumcision, but in the NC it is by new birth, being born again by the Holy Spirit. Physical circumcision is but just a figure of it. The old life has to be cut off and we have to put on the new man. Col.2:11-14. By the one spiritual baptism a person is immersed into the death and life of Christ. The old passes away and we become new creations in Christ Jesus. Reader, have you enter into the New Covenant? If not this is your starting place. Repent of your sins and turn to Christ with your whole heart and receive His Spirit that you may become born anew, from above and become a child of God.
To walk in the Spirit means obedience to God, and not listening to the world, flesh or the devil. Paul makes an interesting statement of fact on this subject.
Whoever, and whatever we obey we are their servants. If we obey our fleshly desires then we are servants of those desires; if we obey our fleshly mind then we are servants of our mind, and so on. As born again believers we are not to walk after the ways of the flesh but after the Spirit, and walking after the Spirit is the only way we can makes sure we don't fulfil the desires of the flesh.
The last written word from God to what we call the Old Testament was some 400 years or so before Zacharias' day. That word was penned by Malachi, and the prophecy was with regards to the coming Messiah and the coming Elijah. This Elijah that was to come was John the Baptist, for Jesus tells us plainly that! Mtt.11:11-15. But Zacharias didn't know that he was to be the father of that coming prophet!
Just think, 400 years with no open revelation from God, what did the Jews think? Were they discouraged? During that time many changes had happened in that part of the world. Palestine had been under many rulers, invaders and some Jews even attempted to restore the Davidic monarchy! The world of Zacharias was totally different: Israel was now occupied by the great Roman empire; no longer a republic it was governed by emperors. In fact the one reigning was Augustus, the first emperor ( the one who defeated Mark Anthony). Much had changed, but there was still no word from God.
Zacharias was a priest and he went to the temple Temple to carry out his duties. How old he was we are not told, but we know from the OT that a priest could only function from age 30 to 50, as seen by the numbering in Num. 4:1-3. Whether or not that was still adhered to in Zacharias' day the Bible record gives no hint. But what we are told is that both were advanced in years. Lk.1:18.
Day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year Zacharias would perform his duty. The text tells us that both he and Elizabeth were righteous and walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless. Just think of what happens in a lifetime: illnesses, family crises and general problems due to living, yet they were righteous, that is they lived and did that which was right in God's eyes. Remember there was no open revelation of God in those days, the heavens must have seemed as brass, yet they remained faithful.
Their behaviour was one of walking in God's commandments, even though the last word from God was 400 years previous. What went through their minds? When would God fulfil His word? Would they have had doubts? All this we are not told, but whatever the case they were faithful and remained so, and then - God in His time spoke the word and so began the fulfilment of Malachi's prophecy.
They were faithful to their calling, and were called blameless, are we? God calls us to faithfulness, to walk by faith and not sight; just just as Enoch, Noah and Abraham walked by faith when they were in a situation where the outward circumstance was contrary to them, so Zacharias and Elizabeth walked the same path! How is it with us? We must always remember that it is God who engineers our circumstances. We may not want to be in the situation we find ourselves; we may wish to be in greener fields, we may be in prosperous times, or in a wilderness of some description or other. It doesn't matter what it is, for we are in them by God's design and purpose, all He requires is for us to walk by faith and and be faithful as Zacharias and Elizabeth were. Being under the New Covenant leaves us with little, if any, excuse.
One final comment about Zacharias: later on in the narrative he is struck dumb because he didn't believe the angel's words about the coming conception of John ( Lk.1:20) The question is why was Zacharias struck dumb and not, say Abraham when the Lord spoke a similar promise? The answer has to lie in the fact that with Abraham there was no previous precedent, whereas Zacharias had examples that he would have known of. In other words he had no excuse for not believing . He was faithful but there was unbelief when God did move. Let us beware. We have a whole Bible of examples as to how God works, we can be faithful as any but that doesn't guarantee that when God moves we will respond correctly. Praise God that the Lord restored Zacharias, but it would be better for it not to have happened in the first place.
All these men lived before the outpouring of the Spirit, if they could walk with God as they did how much more should we in the New Covenant?