He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 ESV
Micah said that one of God’s greatest desires is for us to walk with him, but what does it mean to walk with God?
The Bible talks about three kinds of “walking” in relationship to God.
- Walking in God’s ways or Torah
- Walking before God
- Walking with God
Walk in God’s Ways
If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them…
Leviticus 26:3 ESV
And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”
1 Kings 3:14 ESV
The idea of walking in God’s ways, commandments, or instructions, is a common theme in the Scriptures, and the meaning isn’t difficult to discern from context: Keep the commandments. Follow God’s instructions.
Walk Before God
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”
Genesis 17:1-2 ESV
That the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
1 Kings 2:4 ESV
Abraham and David both “walked before God”, but the meaning of this phrase is somewhat less obvious. From it’s use in other passages (e.g. 1 Kings 9:4, 2 Chronicles 6:16 and 7:17) it is strongly associated with obedience to God, but what really distinguishes Abraham and David from many others is their extraordinary faith in God. They obeyed, but they obeyed because they trusted.
To walk before God is to believe in him above all things, and to believe in him is to obey him.
Walk With God
There are only two men in Scripture described as having walked with God: Enoch and Noah.
Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
Genesis 5:24 ESV
These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
Genesis 6:9 ESV
Other than a general sense of righteousness, there is very little in the context of these statements to tell us what it means to walk with God. Fortunately, there are some other passages that mention this concept.
The first half of Leviticus 26 describes the many blessings that God promises Israel if they keep his Torah. Those promises end with this statement:
And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.
Leviticus 26:12-13 ESV
If the people keep the commandments and love God with all of their existence, he will walk with them, whether among the tents in the Wilderness or among the fields and hills of the Promised Land. It’s the same idea expressed by descriptions of God tabernacling (camping/dwelling) among his people.
Because of this they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. And He sitting on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.
Revelation 7:15 LITV
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4 ESV
The great hope of the Gospel and the New Jerusalem of John’s Revelation is the restoration of our relationship with God, that we will once again be able to walk in the Garden with God as Adam did before he disobeyed. That is what is being described in these two verses from Revelation: God coming to live with mankind just as he did at the beginning.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8 ESV
Walking in Obedience
I began this article with Micah’s statement that God wants us to walk with him. We can see from the preceding verses, Micah 6:6-7, that walking with God is not the same as obedience–keeping the letter of the Law–but it goes hand in hand with justice and mercy, qualities that God loves in his people and that are integral to obedience. You can’t truly obey God without emphasizing justice and mercy.
I can’t help but think of Yeshua’s words to the Pharisees:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Matthew 23:23 ESV
The distinct impression I get from reading these passages is that walking with God isn’t about obedience or belief or even about faith. It’s about relationship. More than anything, God desires an intimate, personal relationship with his people. He wants to live and walk among us. He wants to spend time with us.
Faith and obedience, however, are prerequisite to that kind of relationship. They are the feet that carry us along in God’s presence, and, without them, God cannot take pleasure in our company. We can’t earn a place in the New Jerusalem through obedience, but there will be obedience and only obedience there. God does not live with rebels, but with his faithful children.
In order to walk with God we must walk before him and walk in his instructions.