6. Walking with God

Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 6.  Walking with God

Heb 11:5  By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

Each one of these examples of Old Testament saints who exercised faith teaches us something different about faith. Abel, we read yesterday, was commended as a righteous man.” (v.4)  Clearly he pleased God and similarly above we see that Enoch “pleased God”.  I like the Message version of this verse: By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” He skipped death. That’s a fun way of putting it, isn’t it.

Let’s read the original account of what happened, it’s remarkably short:Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Gen 5:24)  It’s one of the most intriguing verses of the Old Testament. Apart from a few genealogy verses that’s all we read of him there, but what a lovely little picture. It’s probably been imagined hundreds of times – every day Enoch went out walking with God and one day God said, ‘we’re closer to my home now than yours, you might as well come home with me’. We don’t know if that’s how it happened because we aren’t told; there is just this simple little statement that he walked with God and then God took him to heaven.

But the interesting bit is that, from the Genesis account, he “walked with God”. When you walk with someone there is a sense of intimacy, of being alongside them, going where they go and no doubt sharing with one another. One of my fondest memories of traveling abroad on ministry trips is not so much the meetings but a number of times just going out for walks with local pastors. It’s on such walks as those, just ambling where the mood takes us, that barriers come down, fears are shared, doubts are aired, hurts are revealed, and hearts are opened, and real ministry takes place.

But walking with God is a faith activity because we cannot see God. Many years ago I wrote a series about ‘Walking with God’. So many things can happen when we just amble through life with God. For the disciples with Jesus it seemed a never ending adventure, never quite sure where going with the Master would lead to next.

I am always intrigued by the time when Jesus was teaching down by the Sea of Galilee and then we simply read, “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.” (Mk 7:24) Hold on, at best that was about a forty mile walk, probably somewhere between a two or three day journey, maybe four days even. And Jesus seems to give no indication why they are going there. John tells us in his Gospel that “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Jn 5:19) i.e. Jesus went where His Father in heaven indicated. On that occasion the only ministry he appeared to do was in respect of one women with a demon possessed daughter. Immediately after that encounter we read, “Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.” (Mk 7:31) Presumably he did ‘stuff’ in each place but we aren’t told; mystery ministry.

So Enoch, we presume, walked with a sense of God with him, with his heart turned towards God and communed with God and talked with God. Now of course it may not have been literal ‘walking’ because when we say someone walked with God it can just mean that throughout their life they just had that God sense, that God awareness, and their heart was turned towards God.

The apostle Paul spoke about Abraham, “he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” (Rom 4:12) We’ll come to Abraham later. In another place he wrote, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” (Col 3:7) meaning that was our way of life before we came to Christ. The apostle John used similar language: “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” (1 Jn 1:6) and then “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6) This idea was clearly familiar to him: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” (2 Jn 1:6) and “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.” (3 Jn 1:3) (A good little sermon there of three ways we are to walk!)

The key summary point is that walking is the same as living with, going along with, being one with, so going back to Enoch when it says By faith Enoch was taken from this life, it means that because he walked a life of faith, he was simply taken home by God. He clearly stood out in his generation as a man on the same path as God who obviously pleased God because of that and appeared never to die (like Elijah) and was taken straight to heaven. His expression of faith, we will say again, was walking or living with a sense of God with him, with his heart turned towards God and communing with God and talking with God. That’s what faith is all about, not just doing the occasional thing energised by faith but living in the constant awareness of God with us. That awareness, I suggest, will be life changing. If we are constantly aware that He is with us, it will curtail our ‘old life’ attitudes and activities, and it will open up whole realms of opportunities to be led by Him. May it be so!

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8. On a Journey

Meditations in the life of Abraham : 8. On a Journey

Gen 12:4,5  So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

The thing about meditating on Scripture is that it allows you to think beyond the surface of what is there.  So we have this aged man and his wife and nephew (who tags along!) setting out from Haran, leaving his father and his entourage to go to a place that has not yet been made clear. Somehow, we assume, he has been told back in Ur that Canaan was their destination (11:31) and so now they arrive there. It has been a long journey and an interrupted journey, having stopped off at Haran. Now that stop at Haran must have been frustrating for Abram because the indication is that God had spoken to him, he must have shared it with his father, and then his father had taken the family on the journey to Canaan but then got distracted along the way.

The main thing about a journey is that it involves time and effort. For Abram to get to Canaan meant travelling for some considerable period of time, presumably by camel. (they are a well-off family 12:5). The future blessing was clearly linked to Canaan and therefore the sooner they got there the better. What would happen once they got there, only the Lord knew. A journey is a means to an end. There is a sense whereby we are on a journey and the end is heaven. While we are here on this earth, we are not at our final destination, therefore we are journeying towards our final destination.

Another thing about a journey is that things happen along the way. As we’ve noted already, for this family, along the way, they stopped off and a significant part of the family separated off.  Now Abram had been told to leave his father’s household behind and that might have concerned him when the whole family (except Nahor) had come with him. Leaving his father behind now might, therefore, have been a relief. He was now being obedient to the original call – except Lot insisted on coming along and Abram was not sufficiently strong in his understanding to insist he went alone. Yes, along the journey things change, slowly but slowly it seems sometimes, our lives come into line with the will of God. It is only after it has happened sometimes that we realize we had not been in line before.

But actually this is what working out this new relationship with the Lord is all about. We don’t realize it when we first become a Christian; we think we have arrived, but actually it is just the start of a journey of change. We didn’t realize it back then but even though we had been born again there were still some pretty big changes to be brought about in us, the biggest being learning to trust the Lord in the walk ahead. That’s it, isn’t it – we have a way ahead of us and because we’ve never walked that path before, it is unknown. Furthermore, because it is unknown things will happen that we can’t foresee and it is quite likely there will be things we cannot handle on our own and thus we will deepen our knowledge of the Lord and learn to rely upon Him more. Is a mark of growing or developing maturity, how long it takes us to call on the Lord when we face difficulties – the more we mature the shorter the time!

But the story of Abram thus far, reminds us or nudges us to think that this journey can get interrupted and we can get distracted and yet I am sure that no experience is a wasted experience. We can learn from everything that happens, even when we get it wrong. The apostle Paul spoke of it more as a race and the Galatians obviously were getting sidetracked over the subject of circumcision so he eventually says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” (Gal 5:6,7). Yes, perhaps if we are being real, we might acknowledge that life is made up of a number of distractions along the way, distractions that seek to lead us from the truth, and distractions that seek to keep us from being obedient.

Eventually Paul was able to say, “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). Yes, he was putting all aside as he remembered what his calling was – heaven!  He was going to get there and he wasn’t going to let anything distract him or turn him away. We, likewise, have the same calling. It is to walk the walk with Christ while we are on this earth, and remain faithful at all times. It is a journey and we may get distracted, but once we realize that, let’s get back on the faith track, working out our relationship with the Lord. Let’s press on in faithfulness and godliness. Amen? 

28. Walk in His Ways

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 28 :  Walk in His Ways

(Focus: Deut 10:1-29)

Deut 10:12,13 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Yet again Moses reminds Israel of their history with the Lord. He reminds them that after the first two stone tablets had been smashed, he had had to make two new ones and an ark or wooden chest in which to keep them (10:1-3) and the Lord wrote on them as before (10:4). Then they had travelled on and Aaron had died (10:6), then further on when the Lord set apart the Levites to carry the ark (10:7-9). On the mountain he had pleaded with the Lord not to destroy them and the Lord allowed them to go to enter the land. (10:10,11) After reminding them yet again of that, Moses calls them again to comprehensively follow the Lord (v.12,13 above). Observe the language.

Attitude fear your God, have a right respect for His awesomeness. Actionwalk in all His ways. Let your daily lifestyle conform to His will for you. Heart commitmentlove him. Heart expression serve Him. Assessment of both – wholeheartedly and being obedient. Note that the complementary attitudes of fear and love and seen to be there by the willingness to serve and obey the Lord.   Service and obedience are the measure of the heart. Yet, one must add, that a cold obedience and service is NOT what is being asked of Israel; it is to be a relationship of love.

The apostle John had this in mind when he wrote, We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:3-6) i.e. a genuine relationship of love with the Lord is expressed by obedience to all the New Testament says, and to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Failure in these areas raises questions as to the reality of the relationship.

So, Moses has appealed to the memory of the recent past to encourage Israel to be obedient to their calling by the Lord. But he wants to yet enlarge their understanding of the Lord: “To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” (v.15). The Lord who delivered them out of Egypt and drew near to them at Sinai and who provided for them and disciplined them, is the Creator of the World. Everything in all of Creation belongs to Him. That is His greatness which makes all the more marvellous what has happened to them: “Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today.” (v.15) He isn’t a distant God somewhere ‘out there’ but He has drawn near to them to enter into relationship with them.

But Israel have a problem that has been revealed by their past behaviour that Moses spoke about in Chapter 9 (which reaches its conclusion here): “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” (v.16) A little bit of mixed metaphors here! Cut out from your hearts the hardness that is there so that you will no longer be arrogant and rebellions (stiff-necked).

But there is another aspect to this particular problem: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.” (v.17)  God is both holy (utterly different) and righteous (always behaving absolutely rightly).  The implication is that He will not tolerate their rebellious attitudes any longer. He is a good God and He looks for goodness in them: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” (v.18,19)

So, he concludes, “Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” (v.20,21). Stick close to God, He is the cause of all praise for He is God who has done great things for you, summed up as, “Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.” (v.22) God has done what He said to Abraham. He is faithful to His word and Israel are the proof of it. Now live it out!