One of the metaphors used throughout the Bible, and one perhaps not fully appreciated by our modern sensibilities is that of “walking.”
Consider the following verses.
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” (Psalm 119:1; ESV)
“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5; ESV)
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4; ESV)
The word, “walk,” is used multiple times in this way, and we could give many more examples from the scriptures. It should be fairly obvious that, as a metaphor, the word is being used to indicate a manner of life and behavior. A person who “walks” in the law of the Lord is a person who is obeying that word, and living a life according to its precepts.
In fact, some modern translations don’t even bother with the metaphor, and go straight to the application, choosing to translate the word as “live.” But this removes some of the richness of the language from the Scriptures.
Though we somewhat understand the metaphor, it is likely that, due to the vagaries of our modern culture, we might be missing some of the nuances of the imagery.
In our day and age, for most of us, walking is something we do around the house or for exercise. We walk on treadmills, or we walk circuits around a given track, or perhaps we walk to the fridge to get something to drink. For longer excursions, most of us drive.
But, in the days in which the Bible was written, walking was not done for the exercise, walking was done as the primary means of traveling. Think about it. If a man wanted to go to the market, he had to walk. If he wanted to go visit his parents, he was going to walk. If he wanted to make a journey from one town to another, chances were good that he was going to walk there. Sometimes, if one was wealthy, one might ride some animal or other, but even then, the animal was going to be walking.
The term walk then, used in the Bible, is speaking, not just of “living” but of “traveling” also. When a man “walked” in the law of the Lord, the term was denoting that he was following a path, but also that he had a destination in mind.
And this idea of “destination,” is a point about the figure that we do well to keep in mind. Frequently, today, when we are done walking, we are right back where we started. After we walk a mile, we get off the treadmill and have gone no further than when we started; but in days of yore, after a man had walked a mile, he had very likely reached a point a mile from where he actually started.
When we “walk” according to the Word of God, we are following a particular path. Thus, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:3; ESV) This idea of a path to be followed, is further elaborated on by such statements as that made by God to Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7; ESV) A road or path is only good so long as you stay on it.
Because, again, the point of walking is, in the end, to actually reach a destination. God has a destination in mind for us. It is a glorious destination, and the further we go along the path, the better it gets. “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18; ESV)
Life is a journey, and at the end of the journey we will have reached one of two ends. It is important, if you want to reach the right destination, to walk on the right path. Consider then finally, the words of Jesus: ““Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14; ESV)
The church of Christ invites you to study God’s word with us, and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions, including subjects you might like to see addressed, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.