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!