You shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and you shall serve him…
(with Genesis 5:22, and Genesis 17:1): — You see that these three fragments, in their resemblances and in their differences, are equally significant. They concur in regarding life as a walk — a metaphor which expresses continuity, so that every man's life is a whole, which expresses progress, and which implies a goal. They agree in saying that God must be brought into a life somehow, and in some aspect, if that life is to be anything else but an aimless wandering, if it is to tend to the point to which every human life should attain. But then they diverge, and, if we put them together, they say to us that there are three different ways in which we ought to bring God into our life. We should "walk with" Him, like Enoch; we should "walk before" Him, as Abraham was bade to do; and we should "walk after" Him, as the command to do was given to all Israel.
I. "Enoch walked WITH God." Two men travelling along a road keep each other company. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" The Companion is at our side all the same, though the mists may have come down and we cannot see Him. Enoch and God walked together, by the simple exercise of the faith that fills the Invisible with one great, loving face. The one thing that parts a man from God, and makes it impossible for a heart to expatiate in the thought of His presence, is the contrariety to His will in our conduct.
II. And now take the other aspect suggested by the other little word God spoke to Abraham: "I am the Almighty God, walk BEFORE Me and be thou perfect." That suggests, as I suppose I do not need to point out, the idea not only of communion, which the former phrase brought to our minds, but that of the inspection of our conduct. As ever in the great Taskmaster's eye, says the stern Puritan poet, and although one may object to that word "Taskmaster," yet the idea conveyed is the correct expansion of the commandment given to Abraham. Observe how "walk with me" is dovetailed, as it were, between the revelation "I am the Almighty God" and the injunction "be thou perfect." This thought that we are in that Divine Presence, and that there is silently, but most really, a Divine opinion being formed of us, consolidated, as it were, moment by moment through our lives, is only tolerable if we have been walking with God. We must first walk "with God" before the consciousness that we are walking "before" Him becomes one that we can entertain and not go mad. When we are sure of the "with" we can bear the "before." A master's eye maketh diligent servants. "Walk before Me" and you will be perfect. "If you will walk before Me you will be perfect."
III. Lastly, take the other relation, which is suggested by the third of my texts, where Israel as a whole is commanded to "walk AFTER the Lord" their God. In harmony with the very frequent expression of the Old Testament about "going after idols," so Israel here is to "go after God." What does that mean? Communion, the consciousness of being judged by God will lead on to aspiration and loving, longing effort to get nearer and nearer to Him. "My soul followeth hard after Thee," said the Psalmist, "Thy right hand upholdeth me." That element of yearning aspiration, of eager desire to be closer and closer, and liker and liker, to God must be in all true religion. And I need not do more than remind you of another meaning involved in this same expression. If I walk after God, then I let Him go before me and show me my road. Do you remember how, when the ark was to cross Jordan, the commandment was given to the Israelites to let it go well on in front, so that there could be no mistake about the course, "for ye have not passed this way heretofore." Do not be in too great a hurry to press upon the heels of God, if I may so say. Do not let your decisions outrun His providence. Keep back the impatience that would hurry on, and wait for His ripening purposes to ripen and His counsels to develop themselves. Walk after God, and be sure you do not go in front of your Guide, or you will lose both your way and your Guide. I need not say more than a word about the highest aspect which this third of our commandments takes: "His sheep follow Him, "leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.