Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Walking Before God

When Abraham, who was still called Abram at the time, was in his hundredth year on this planet, God appeared to him. He gave him a rather daunting challenge: “Walk before me,” God said, “and be blameless.”

Many good things would come of this. Years later, when Abraham was “well advanced in years” and the fulfillment of God’s promises to him was apparent, the patriarch would speak to his servant of “the Lord, before whom I have walked”.

Abraham had taken up God’s challenge, imperfectly but in good faith and with good will, and his confidence in his God in his old age was such that he could send his servant on a mission and tell him, “God will send his angel before you.”

Walking before God is not getting out in front of him and doing your own thing. It is living in the awareness of God at every moment. It is allowing Heaven to bring its will to bear on your every act, and letting the Divine Purpose weigh in on every decision, especially the ones nearest and dearest to your heart.

Walking before God sets a man apart.

Taking Up the Challenge

Abraham was not the only man to take up the challenge of walking before the Lord. David purposed, “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” God took him up on that, and said, “You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.”

Despite the challenge to “be blameless”, walking before God does not mean attaining perfection. Both David and Abraham made significant mistakes. But they did not long deviate from the course. When they fell, they got up again and pursued the will of God, and scripture refers to both men as characteristically walking before God, their occasional sins notwithstanding. By way of contrast, faced with the same challenge, Solomon turned aside. His heart was “not wholly true to the Lord”, and the course of his life consequently became derailed.

No Easy Task

Walking before God is no easy task. When men who have taken up God’s challenge to walk before him fail, there is a common thread: they walked before someone else they loved instead.

Solomon failed to walk blamelessly because of his numerous foreign wives. Scripture says he “clung to these in love”. Faced with a choice, he walked before his wives rather than his God.

God had promised that the house of Eli would walk before him forever, but Eli forfeited the priesthood. Faced with a choice, he walked before his sons rather than his God.

Even Abram failed the test of family loyalty. Notice the incident that in scripture comes directly prior to God’s command to him to “walk before me, and be blameless.” Fourteen years earlier, Sarai, a characteristically godly woman, had come to her husband with the suggestion that he father a child with her Egyptian servant, and Abram had chosen to walk before his wife rather than before God. He prioritized her felt needs over the life of faith.

When Being ‘Loving’ is Not So Loving After All

So then, walking before God sets a man apart. Sometimes it even sets him apart from his own family. All these “loving” choices resulted in varying degrees of disaster. This is because any decision that doesn’t put obedience to God front and center, no matter how sincerely felt and emotionally fraught it may be, turns out to be an unloving thing to do in the long run. So Solomon’s sons and their heirs lost the united kingdom. Eli’s sons lost their lives and his family lost the priesthood. Abraham lost control of his household and had to send away both Hagar and the son she bore him. Not much “loving” in that.

In the New Testament, love of God is repeatedly identified with keeping his commandments. As it turns out, love of our own families is also predicated on walking before God, seeking his pleasure, and not turning aside from his commands. Giving in to an ungodly request from a much loved family member can never be a loving act, because it requires that we stop walking with God first.

That’s never going to work out well.

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