What does walking in the ways of God really look like? And what is the result of choosing such a lifestyle?
Of course, Psalm 15 is not an exhaustive summary of this, but a good place to start.
When we read this psalm a key word that comes to mind is “integrity”.
The dictionary definition is: “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” Basically it is about being what you say you are and acting accordingly.
And the psalmist suggests that when one is walking in the ways of God then it is about integrity in all our relationships and particularly in the use of our words. He says:
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbour,
and casts no slur on others;
Not always easy! In fact, the opposite is much easier and we need to be careful and disciplined in the way we talk to and about others constantly.
In the book “Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking when Stakes are High” the authors suggest that “when conversations matter the most – that is, when conversations move from casual to crucial – we’re generally on our worst behaviour.” They continue, that these interactions with another human being have the following complex characteristics: “opinions vary…the stakes are high…and emotions run strong.” We’ve all experienced them, and often felt sorry afterwards about how we handled them. (Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler, published by McGraw-Hill 2012).
Kidner comments on the above Psalm 15:2-3 and suggests:
The word blameless “implies what is whole, or whole-hearted, and sound.” The word righteous “is fundamental to Old Testament morality”, i.e. doing what is right because it is the right thing to do! Then truth “means what is sure and trustworthy, not merely correct. What this man says is one with what he is.” (see references # 29)
And all these positive traits manifest themselves in the opposite of the words slander (or even speaking words of scandal), doing (and saying) no wrong about another person and finally casts no slur (picking or raking up something discreditable and making it public). Sadly, all the things that the media and a lot of other human beings delight to do daily! But to do these things is to not be walking in the ways of God. In fact the opposite to all this is described in Proverbs 10:12 when it says:
“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”
The psalmist continues that the one who walks in God’s ways:
4 despises a vile person
but honours those who fear the Lord;
Kidner suggests that his/her “allegiance is clear-cut…What looks at first sight as pharisaical…is in fact no more than loyalty. This man is not comparing himself with others , but giving his vote: declaring what he admires and where he stands.”
Then this person is also one who:
keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
It seems that such a person as described by the psalmist above is honourable in all his dealings with others. Not rash in making promises, but reliable when he has made a promise to fulfil it, or, as so often happens in life, willing to admit his inability to fulfil his promise and seeks forgiveness.
Such a person is one:
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
In other words, he/she who helps the unfortunate but does not trade on their misfortunes. These words forbid extortion and encourage generosity to everyone.
And so the psalmist concludes:
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
“His place is assured. The thought penetrates beyond the threshold and the welcome [into God’s presence]; indeed the question of verse 1 spoke of dwelling rather than gaining admission, for the qualities the psalm described are those that God creates in a man, not those he finds in him.” (Kidner)
In a similar way Psalm 24 concludes:
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Saviour.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.
And Isaiah 33
16 they are the ones who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
Their bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail them.
Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
and view a land that stretches afar.
And Jesus said:
17 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
To conclude, (and to change the metaphor from walking to running) I read these words recently:
“There are two metaphors in the book of Hebrews which are especially relevant… These metaphors are the intertwining, balancing concepts of running with endurance the race set before us (Heb. 12:1-2) and being diligent to enter into God’s rest (Heb. 4:9-11). Simply put, we need to ‘run well’ and ‘rest well’.
Running well involves staying focused on Jesus, so that we are not distracted by anything which hinders our live with and work for him. Resting well means embracing the atoning work of Christ, so that in knowing his deep love for us, we can be at peace with and renewed in Him. Both of these concepts are foundational for our health throughout…” our lives desiring to walk in the ways of God.
(Quoted from chapter 30 ‘Running well and Resting well: 12 tools for Missionary Life’ in ‘Doing Member Care Well’ edited by Kelly O’Donnell published by William Carey Library 2002)
Father, we desire to walk in your ways in all our relationships. Help us to walk well, run well, rest well. Then we know, because of who you are, we will “never be shaken.” Never be moved, ever! Amen.