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Perambulation

by Tim O'Hearn

It seems that more people are out walking than in recent memory. Running and bicycling are good pastimes, but walking has had a resurgence in popularity recently. Sometimes it may be for health; other times it may just be to get out of the house. One doctor went so far as to say that he could solve the epidemic of childhood obesity through the simple expedient of requiring all children to walk to school, no matter how far they lived from that school. Many cities have installed biking/walking paths

Besides the obvious advantage of potential weight loss, walking has many other advantages. It is low-impact, and therefore good exercise for those with some knee or ankle problems. It allows a person to connect with their surroundings, seeing a variety of flowers, or lizards and roadrunners, or maybe even a deer or coyote in some areas. The health benefits are far greater than mere weight loss. It also allows a person to travel from one place to another without the potential pollution of using an automobile, albeit much slower. And unlike traveling inGod provided that they could go through on foot, and without even getting their feet wet. an automobile, two or more people can actually converse with each other safely on a walk.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about walking. Some of it is actual and some metaphorical.

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Let’s face it; the Bible was written before the advent of cars or bicycles. If a person wanted to get from one place to another the choices were limited: on foot, on a beast, or (if you were rich enough) by wagon or chariot. It would be understandable, then, that the Bible would not often specify walking as the means of locomotion. It was just assumed that everyone walked unless another method was mentioned. You are more likely to read about someone riding a camel or a wagon, usually over long distances, because that went against the norm. One could almost assume that if another means of transport was not mentioned, then walking was the default. That would seem to indicate, for instance, that Jesus and his many followers walked from Capernaum to Jerusalem and back, a one-way distance of almost eighty miles. So when the Bible specifically says someone went on foot, it may be considered to be significant.

One of the greatest migrations in history was done on foot. At the beginning of the exodus from Egypt, Moses gives a count of “about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.” (Ex 12:37) Years later one of the psalmists makes a point of saying that they went through the Red Sea on foot. “He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.” (Ps 66:6) Perhaps his point was that they were able to go through the sea on dry land, but imagine what would have happened if they had to go through in boats. It would have been a predecessor of Dunkirk, except that even fishing boats were not available. Therefore, God provided that they could go through on foot, and without even getting their feet wet. God moves in mysterious ways, even if we have to go afoot.

Jabin the king of the Canaanites oppressed Israel for twenty years. His army included nine hundred chariots of iron. Against this army, God called Barak to fight. (Judg 4) Barak was uncertain about facing such a formidable foe, and demanded that Deborah the prophet go with him. God gave the Israelites a resounding victory. Deborah composed a song to memorialize the battle. In that song she says,

And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart. (Judg 5:15)

Ten thousand inexperienced men on foot battled nine hundred iron chariots and a multitude of soldiers, and won. The Israelite soldiers must have felt like that lone man in Tiananmen Square facing down the tanks. But they won. If God can do that, what can’t he do for us? We may feel like we are on foot against a massed armor battalion of sin, but God says that one man on foot can do anything.

Jesus wanted to mourn the death of John Baptist. To do so, he went by boat to a deserted place. He thought that by doing so he might get time away from the crowds so he could grieve. He was wrong. Even though he had taken a boat, people “followed him on foot out of the cities.” (Matt 14:13) Some of them were sick or lame, which would make a foot journey even harder. They were determined to follow him. In a later incident, they came for the food, but this time they had no expectation except to be healed and to be taught. Jesus did feed the five thousand plus, miraculously. But that was not why they came. How many people today would walk five to ten miles (much less five to ten blocks) to hear the words of Jesus? If your car breaks down, is that an excuse to miss the assembly of the church? Would we even walk that far for healing or a free meal? More than once, people walked a distance while Jesus took a boat. May our faith be great enough to take such a walk, if need be.

Abraham was a rich man, with many camels. He could travel just about anywhere he wanted by riding. When God told him about the land he was to possess, however, God said, “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.” (Gen 13:17) The measure of his inheritance was determined by where his feet actually touched the ground. Maybe we have lost a sense of possession and familiarity with our surroundings because we do not walk. Some people only know their neighborhood through the window of a car, and only the street to get in and out. Those of us who walk not only know our neighborhoods, but sometimes even our neighbors. Walking gives us opportunities for evangelism that don’t happen in a car.

Peter walked on water, but Jesus did it first. (Matt 14:29) Several people who were healed of lameness got up and walked. There is even one record of a dead girl walking. Well, at least she had been dead, but after Jesus revived her she walked. (Mk 5:42)

After Adam sinned, there is an interesting walk. “They heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” (Gen 3:8) Neither the English nor the Hebrew makes it clear whether God was walking, or (to be grammatically correct) it was the voice walking. This ambiguity leads to the other type of walk.

Figurative walking

Walking can be literal or figurative. Did God, or His voice, actually walk in Eden? When “Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years,” (Gen 5:22) was he actually accompanied by God in a physical form? A large number of references to walking in the scripture are clearly or most likely figurative. For instance, in the books of the Kings, various rulers were said to have “walked in the way of” Jeroboam, sin, their fathers, or David. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) Figuratively walking with someone is a very strong way of indicating where they stand.

And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? (Deut 10:12-13)

Did Israel walk in God’s ways? Not always. God knew that they would “walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them.” (Deut 8:19) Sometimes they did more than walk; they ran. “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood.” (Isa 59:7)

There was a time that we walked, but not with God. Some people are still in that state.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. (Eph 2:1-2)

Peter expressed a similar thought. He even specified ways that people walked that were sin.

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you. (1 Pet 4:3-4)

Paul was an advocate of exercise. While this was true in the physical sense, it was even more true in the spiritual realm. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day.” (Rom 13:13) “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) “Walk worthy of God.” (1 Thes 2:12)Figuratively walking with someone is a very strong way of indicating where they stand. Just as the young girl was raised from the dead by Jesus, Paul says we can die and walk a new walk.

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:3-4)

Sometimes it is nice to take a walk by yourself. You are able to relax, to clear your mind of negative thoughts, and to prepare yourself to get back into a world of people. It is also nice, though, to be able to walk with a companion. Sometimes you talk about things. Sometimes one person calls some interesting or beautiful thing to the other’s attention. Or sometimes you just keep each other’s company in silence. The apostle John apparently liked to walk with company.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:6-7)

How can two walk together if they are not wanting to go in the same direction? “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 Jn 2:6)

Those who walk tend to encourage others to walk. They know the benefits of walking, and think others should enjoy those benefits. John felt the same way. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 Jn 4)