Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 017. Walking with God

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Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 017. Walking with God

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Walking with God

“Enoch walked with God.”

1. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible renders this expression “Enoch pleased God,” and this rendering is adopted by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the fifth verse of the eleventh chapter, in which the following account is given of this saintly man: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God”-that he walked with God. Similar language is used to describe the life of Enoch's illustrious descendant Noah (Gen_14:9), “Noah was a just man and perfect (upright) in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” The language seems to express the character and the conduct of one eminent for his love and devotedness to the service of God.

Let one's conception of the history of this narrative from a literary point of view be what it may, this must have been a man of astonishing life, of marvellous character, that he should have been singled out in this way for such a biography. There is no question that Enoch must have entered into a profounder realization of the Divine, must have lived more in the society of the Eternal, than did his contemporaries. He seems to have been a seer, a man who went out under the midnight sky, and felt the infinite, touched the eternal, was bathed in the presence of God. Men looked at him, felt that there was a glory in him, a soul in him, a consciousness of the Divine in him that they did not possess, and he stood out a giant among his contemporaries.

Of Charles Marriott's many conspicuous graces I am really at a loss which to single out for the foremost place. Sometimes, his profound humility of spirit first presents itself to my memory: at other times, his singleness of purpose: at others, his purity of heart: at others, his utter unselfishness: at others, his candour and forbearance. He was so indulgent in his estimate of other men's words and actions: severe only towards himself. Occasionally, it is the habitual consideration and kindness of his disposition which forces itself on my recollection as his pre-eminent grace. But straightway there spring up, side by side with these, instances of his rigid conscientiousness; or again, tokens of his boundless charity. He was about the fairest man I ever knew. Perhaps his consistent holiness-the habitually devout and reverent tone of his mind-was his prevailing characteristic. There was something unspeakably sweet, and pure, and simple in the outcome of his habitual inner life. His was indeed a heavenly character. To me he seemed habitually to “walk with God.” I first understood the meaning of that Scripture phrase by closely observing him. A brother-fellow expresses my meaning exactly when he remarks that “he seemed to move in a spiritual region out of the reach of us ordinary mortals.”1 [Note: J. W. Burgon, Lives of Twelve Good Men, i. 337.]

2. Fellowship with God was the secret source of all that was good and great and splendid in the life of Enoch. He lived in a wicked time, in an age that was peculiarly corrupt and evil, and yet in the midst of the wicked men and women who surrounded him his life shone like a star in the night, spotless and clean. There is no doubt that Enoch was a man of like passions with ourselves. He did not go into a wilderness to live a monastic life. He had all the distractions, all the duties, all the complications of family life around him. There is no doubt that Enoch committed sins, and that there were many failures and infirmities in his life; but the whole tenor of his life is summed up in these words, “He walked with God.”

The idea suggested by the words is companionship. Two walk together because they are agreed. To produce fellowship of this kind, there must be a unity of purpose and of taste, a correspondence of circumstances, and a harmony of will. The words imply regular, unbroken, well-sustained communion with God. With a sublime and lofty aspiration Enoch had risen above shadows, idols, and pretences, and with simple, manly faith had grasped the unseen substance and reality, the personal God, the Father of us all.

“I had a great desire,” she says, “for the most intimate communion with God. For this object, my heart went forth in continual prayer. He answered my supplication richly and deeply. The sensible emotion and joy which I experienced were sometimes overwhelming. My heart was filled with love as well as with joy; with that love which seeks another's will and which is ready to relinquish and sacrifice its own.”2 [Note: T. C. Upham, Life of Madame Guyon, 83.]

The only way by which we can grow nearer and nearer to our Lord is by steadfastly keeping beside Him. You cannot get the spirit of a landscape unless you sit down and gaze, and let it soak into you. The cheap tripper never sees the lake. You cannot get to know a man until you summer and winter with him. No subject worth studying opens itself out to the hasty glance. Was it not Sir Isaac Newton who used to say, “I have no genius, but I keep a subject before me”?1 [Note: A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ.]

Thou art the Way.

Hadst Thou been nothing but the goal,

I cannot say

If Thou hadst ever met my soul.

I cannot see-

I, child of process-if there lies

An end for me,

Full of repose, full of replies.

I'll not reproach

The road that winds, my feet that err.

Access, approach

Art Thou, Time, Way, and Wayfarer.2 [Note: Alice Meynell, Poems (1913), 84.]

3. Now it was “by faith,” whatever that faith involved, that Enoch “walked with God.” This is made quite plain in the verse which follows the eulogy of Enoch in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. “But without faith it is impossible to please God.”

We are not to suppose that Enoch possessed all that fulness of faith which is the portion of those who now walk in the light and brightness of the gospel day. But Enoch must have been a thinker, a man of affairs, and a great tribal chieftain. His life, judged by his day, was a strong, active, strenuous, and thoughtful one. Yet such qualities as these were the common possession of all who refused to sink to the lower levels of existence. And there was something which enabled Enoch to rise even above the nobler of his contemporaries, and which singled him out from the crowd. And this something was-just faith. Faith is the one principle which explains all Enoch's eminence, all his nobility of character, all his victories. Enoch was always pleasing to God, but it was because he always believed, and lived in the power of his faith.

It would be well for us if we could learn to trust God as we trust those of our fellow-creatures whom we really believe to be good and loving. We could all name individuals alive or dead, in whose love for us we had such confidence that we should feel satisfied that our eternal interests would be quite safe in their hands, if they had only wisdom and power enough. If we believed that they had the requisite wisdom and power, we should receive every appointment, painful or otherwise, with perfect acquiescence, knowing that it must be for our true good.1 [Note: Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, ii. 121.]