A friend invites you to join him on his walk. He knows the path—he’s been down it several times, whereas you are just visiting. So it is natural that you would let him set the distance, path and pace. He sets the distance and path because it is, after all, “his” walk, not yours. He sets the pace because he knows what is best to complete the walk given the needed energy and stamina. In that he is taking the lead and making the decisions, you “walk with him,” not the other way around. Granted, if this had been your “stomping grounds” and you were the authority, the tables would be turned and he would be walking “with” you.
Let’s say your friend is a forest ranger and encourages you to make a career of giving guided tours through the woods in his area. He tells you of all the studies needed to truly become an authority. You study forestry, botany, soil conservation and preservation and much more. Now you have made this “walk” of his into your own “walk of life,” a professional occupation; giving it the commitment of a lifetime “calling.”
With the illustration above as our backdrop, notice how the term “walk with” is used in the next two scriptures.
“And Enoch lived on for sixty-five years. Then he became father to Methuselah. And after his fathering Methuselah Enoch went on walking with the [true] God three hundred years. Meanwhile he became father to sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch amounted to three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch kept walking with the [true] God.” –Genesis 5:21-24
“Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the [true] God.” –Genesis 6:9
Both Enoch and Noah had the right and humble attitude. They didn’t force God to accept their own standards, making God fit into their lives. No, rather they knew that as Creator, God knew what was best. Both Enoch and Noah “walked with” God, allowing God to set the distance, path and pace.
Now it is true that as you walk, you might suggest to your friend, "Hey, let's check out this side-path." But when we consider that walking with God means that we obey him (Psalms 25:5,9), none of us would ever suggest to our God that he change the direction he has in mind. Any such deviation would not be his course, but one we choose that is not in line with his guidance. (Quoting Deuteronomy 28:14, “And you must not turn aside from all the words that I am commanding YOU today, to the right or to the left, to walk after other gods to serve them.” See also 2 Kings 21:22, Psalms 81:12. In the NWT, “YOU” is plural, referring to more than one person.)
On a day to day basis, how do we "walk with" God? Exodus 16:4 gives us some insight. It reads: “Then Jehovah said to Moses: “Here I am raining down bread for YOU from the heavens; and the people must go out and pick up each his amount day for day, in order that I may put them to the test as to whether they will walk in my law or not."
Leviticus 18:1-5 has similar language, cautioning the people against imitating the immoral ways of the nations around them (“in their statutes YOU must not walk.”) and admonishing them to obey the counsel of Jehovah (“my statutes YOU should keep so as to walk in them.”) See also 1 Kings 3:14; 1 Kings 6:11,12)
Summing it up at Deuteronomy 10:12, we read: “And now, O Israel, what is Jehovah your God asking of you but to fear Jehovah your God, so as to walk in all his ways and to love him and to serve Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul." Perhaps it is this scripture that Jesus himself quoted from when providing the first of the two greatest commandments. Yes, one key element of loving God (walking with Him) is obedience as a constant feature of our life, not some sporadic or hit-and-miss lifestyle.
True Christians are likewise admonished to minimize our involvement with the “the system of things of this world” because it is ruled by Satan. Although we may, before becoming believers, have become deeply entrenched with “sons of disobedience,” we have abandoned that association in order to walk with the true God. (“Furthermore, [it is] YOU [God made alive] though YOU were dead in YOUR trespasses and sins, in which YOU at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience. Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest.”) –Ephesians 2:1-3
Yes, like our illustrative friend at the outset, God knows the path we need to take. Whereas we are all individually relative newcomers (and short-lived at that), God is eternal. He knows exactly what we need to do. He sets the “distance,” that is, we keep walking with him for the duration of our lives. He sets the “path,” that is, he defines how to direct our lives. Finally, he sets the pace by teaching us patience and endurance.
Like the ranger that invited his friend to make a career out of forestry, Jehovah also invites us to make a real lifetime commitment not only to ourselves but to helping others see the benefits of following him and his son, Jesus Christ.
Although far from perfect, it is my determination to always “walk with God.”