The author looks at Genesis 5:24 and what it means to walk with God

Source: Una Sancta, 1998. 4 pages.

Walking With God

Enoch walked with God

Genesis 5:24

We have done Scriptures a great disservice. Why? Because we have drawn a circle of soft colour around the words of the Bible which speak about Enoch and his walk with God. We think that we can only present these words in a soft voice, in subdued tones, and with restrained gestures.

We reminded each other that there were all giants on the earth in those days, and that everything was therefore gigantic in that iron-age of the "seventh from Adam," i.e. in the days of Enoch; but among all that was gigantic we would then find this tender-loving, this soft word about Enoch, who walked with God. We saw him in our imagination: behind an iron curtain, the wicked generation of Cain, but behind a black-velvet curtain, in a prayer-seat, this Enoch. That "walking" we did not take too seriously. We would spiritualize it, so that it became something like sitting, lying, or, at the most, reciting from a book of prayers. A hermit, absorbed in prayer, who does not open the door to the titanic struggle outside? And those fighting giants, do they consider his abode too humble to force their entrance?

Oh, so we thought, that is an expression suitable for a velvet wall-text, but not something to be embroidered on our flying banners and to be carried along in the tumult of battle. Enoch walking with God – we did think we were able to picture him in and to follow him into the inner chamber, into the prayer-room, but not into harsh everyday life, or into public witnessing, not into the storm and the thunder.

Enoch walked with God.

Yes, we associated these words with mystical ecstasy; with a saint's life, withdrawn, far from the wicked and bustling world; with silence and contemplation. We thought of him as a man attired like an ascetic, shuffling through life in strict abstinence, his gaze directed inward; as a man who, on the few occasions that he was seen at all, would move through the multitude as a silent figure: Enoch dreaming of God.

And so we believe that in his days the storms could indeed roar and the wind blow, but that Enoch could somehow find the gentle, hushed paradise atmosphere, in which God lets himself be found in the cool of the day and in the tranquil evening breeze – as in the old paradise, to which no city was yet connected (as in Revelation 22)...

Is this not how we have pictured Enoch? Hermit, yes – crusader, never?

But – Walking with God – surely that is something entirely different. To start with that paradisal calm – of course, that simply will not do. Insofar as the word "waking" implies movement, and the expression "walking with God" points to a human being going along with Him who set the world clock in motion and regulates it, it cannot mean: ignoring the world clock and refusing to know what time it is.

Well then, the old paradise was a garden, but it was not connected with a city: there were as yet only two people.

But the new, the future, the promised paradise, toward which He with whom Enoch walked, always directs everything, will be a garden with a city annexed to it (Revelation 22).

Between the old and the new paradise stands Enoch. He would be turning his back on God and letting the world "Bell-ringer"1

walk alone if he did not concern himself with the "city", the city of God, the city which had to come. One who says "city", also says "people". One who says "city of God" while facing a city of rebellious and drifting people, also says "struggle" – struggle of people against people. Enoch's devout "walk" is in contrast with that of his contemporaries. His "struggle" is church struggle.

And further, is the "Bell-Ringer" then so quiet perhaps? Is "walking" with Him the same as being locked up with Him in his little room high up in the bell-tower, close to the belfry? Is it then a looking down once in a while, but mostly a gazing up?

Certainly not. The "Bell-ringer" is also the Warrior, the Commander, the King.

Walking with God – that is at the very least: walking with the consuming fire; walking with the "jealous" zeal; walking amidst the gigantic powers that are round about and that do not allow themselves to be captured.

Walking with God – that is: walking with the All-sided One, who demands our full attention for every aspect of the manifestations in which He appears to us with revelational intent.

Walking with God is: seeing a thousand roads which all have to be walked to the end.

It means: seeing virtues in God that everlastingly support each other while you are unable to distinguish them by name or to take history, without considering faith, as proof for your contemplations of these virtues.

It is: saying again and again: I am divided, He is "simple", undivided.

It is: viewing God's works, which seemingly consume each other in their contradictions and which yet, for everyone who believes, in each other and all together fill history with his praise.

It is: paying full attention to contrasts, and even at times being consumed by fire because of contradictions of thought. It is having eyes before and behind (Revelation 4:6) and knowing that none of them may ever be closed.

It is: having wings to cover the eyes which yet must exercise vision; wings to cover the feet that must nevertheless be ready for service; wings to fly and yet being able to say in the intent of the attentive life: "I will hear what God the Lord will speak" (Isaiah 6).

To walk with God – that is: to pay as much attention to his judgment as to his love; not to separate promise from demand, nor lure from threat; to see heaven just as clearly as hell; to draw as well as to repel; to be as patient in mercy as quick with a word of denunciation in accordance with the law; to be as dependent as free; to be as desirous to receive with the weak as to give with the strong; to call upon the name of the Lord in quiet hours no less than to proclaim his name amidst the noisy tumult of the people; to search not only the depth, but also the breadth and all height; not to forget for a moment the spherical shape of the earth, nor its flight through space and time.

To walk with God is: to search for grace within nature, and nature through grace; it is silence and tumult; it is talent and character; it is contemplating and practice; it is dogma and confession; it is to listen to both storm and rustling wind; it is to find God in the roaring deep no less than in the still small voice.

It is, to put it briefly, an impossibility as long as what is meant by it is the fulness of intensity and the perfect equilibrium of all that was just mentioned. Except by One, it can be done only in weakness, in sin, and with many shortcomings. If Scripture had told us that Enoch walked with God perfectly in the strict, dogmatic 2sense of the word, we would have to revise the conclusions of the councils of Nicea and Chalcedon. We would then have received at least one additional messiah. And, consequently, we would have lost both.

But the above-mentioned "equilibrium" still remains of first and utmost importance.

When Elijah, as far as he himself is concerned, can recognize his walking-with-God as real only there where God allows him to use the beating of drums and the flying of banners, then God meets him, not in storm, thunder, and earthquake, but in the still small voice, as if to say: that is also part of it, Elijah (1 Kings 19). For Elijah it was necessary that this "other", which also belongs to it, was pointed out to him, for he had overlooked something. He failed to realize that God comes not only in the roaring battle with the gods and in the strong language used by Elijah on such an occasion, but also in the quiet and continuous working of the gospel. He did not realize that to walk with God also includes: to expect along with His expecting. Just look at Enoch. When he walks with God, then God goes with him and he with God, in the storm and in the fire, and in the earthquake, and in the still small voice. Then there is the above-mentioned equilibrium: an ever-returning light of wisdom which makes him rejoice with trembling.

Therefore Enoch does not allow himself to be brought on stage by the man of contemplation, nor by the advocate of "organization", nor by the prince of intellect as the "special feature" used by each of them to promote his own cause. He is for them all and, in that respect, ahead of them all. For not only the tender piety of the line of Seth flourished in Enoch; he has also inherited from the generation of Seth such a thing as a will to form and strengthen a counter-congregation, i.e., overagainst that of Cain. He, too, comes to his world and stands prophesying on its squares (Jude 14); and he, too, sees things develop towards the all consummating judgment.

That is why Enoch is not the man who would "sacrifice grace to nature", as if such a thing were possible; for Enoch as "the seventh from Adam" in the holy line takes a stand overagainst the other seventh from Adam, in the line of sin: Lamech, who desires to be either culture-prophet or culture-hero, but in unrighteousness. But neither does Enoch "sacrifice nature to grace", as if that possibility existed – did he not have his son, and was it not precisely because of this son and with this son that he so much the better found his God? (Genesis 5:24).

Therefore Enoch is not the man who in his own mind would give second place to the energetic propagation-in-deed of his God's covenant of grace – second, that is, to the joy of his individual friendship with God as covenant gift. For when around him the sons of the pious fall into apostasy, then the birth of his child, his firstborn son, becomes for him, in a special sense, all the more a reason for the public accentuation of that mighty postulate: to walk in newness of life. For "renewal" is more than an occurrence in the "initima cordia" (inmost heart, Ed.); it is at the same time world renewal; and this is the Messianic act; the reality of every symbol, the root of all fruit. It is precisely after the birth of his son that he "walks with God."

But neither is the covenant as it propagates itself through the generations a reason for Enoch to deny personal, individual responsibility. Does he not prophesy to those who are in, but not of, the congregation that judgment is coming? (Jude 12, 24; Genesis 6).

And so Enoch becomes the man of the preached Word, who prophesies universally; but at the same time the man whose thankful "testimony" (Hebrews 11:5) speaks of the truth of that Word from his own experience of it. He becomes the man who speaks but also listens; the man who sees the future in the present when he declares with respect to the future appearance of God: God has come (Jude 14), but also the man who carries the present towards God's future and thus calls all men to repentance.

Therefore he is always of current significance ("actusel") and will never be antiquated. In his being so, there is every time again a fresh claim-for-the day on account of God's eternal Word.

God did not plant a little paradise for Enoch in the midst of a storm-troubled world, so that he, with special, divine permission, could live there in solitude as "father Enoch", communing only with God and forgetting the time and place to which he belonged. Only hasty Peter's and tearful Mary's will sometimes say: Rabbi, Rabboni, let us make tabernacles and forget about the others, for it seems so good to us (Luke 9:33; John 20:16-17). But Enoch stands in the midst of his time; he preaches the antithesis in the two-fold community – the "seed of the serpent" and the "seed of the woman" – which since the apostasy of Cain in the world strives for the same name. He is filled with it at the birth of his son, and the tension of this antithesis is present within him. Indeed, in him it concentrates, overagainst the other seventh from Adam. Enoch did not walk with God just to be able to hear Him in the cool of the day, as if in a little proleptic or imitation paradise, but also when, in the very real wilderness of a world that has degenerated into a battlefield, the storm roared, judgment threatened, and heaven already called for vengeance. Then this man walked with God. For walking with God is walking with One who never stands still or retraces his steps, and who nevertheless is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever – Father of both time and clocks.

Thus Enoch is for us the man who before the Flood Preached to us that our urge to abstract things (which first in the formation of our ideas and, as a result, in our entire behaviour, causes us to divide what God has joined together) is proof that we are diseased in the very root. That is why even the most "decent" man, even one who is believed to be some kind of Enoch, "eats and drinks damnation to himself." That never begins at the communion table.

Furthermore, Enoch teaches us that the "Simple One", the God who addresses us in this life, claims us as his witnesses. He tells us that "walking-with-God" is not a sublimely delicate experience during moments devoted to the singing of our favourite song (in which we so often deny a place to other songs), but, rather, that it takes hours of shock-producing discovery, of penetrating deeper, of lifting higher, of disseminating further.

To walk with God is: the joyful pain of a burning heart that ignites other hearts. When today a son of Enoch comes to a standstill, his eyes fixed on the "Bell-ringer", on his time schedule, and on the clock, then he shall say: he who has seen Christ, has seen the Father; he who walks with Christ, walks with God. He shall say to father Enoch, not as a result of studying comparative psychology but as word of wisdom received from Christ's lips: the least in the kingdom of heaven – in the New Testament – is greater than you. This is not due to the human party in this walk of God-with-man but in the Divine party, who came, since the days of Enoch, to walk-with-us in the flesh. God's walk in Christ did not establish a school of peripatetics (walkers, Ed.) but a struggling and, hence, already triumphing church.

And it gave us the new, i.e. dearer, but unrevised interpretation of Enoch's walk in the walk of the believers who, for instance, read the epistles of Paul (Colossians 1:10; John 12:35).

To walk-with-God therefore means also to walk-with-man. Only, it does not mean "to walk according to man" (1 Corinthians 3:8), but: to walk-with-men-together-subordinate-to-and-along-with-Immanuel. Now we have arrived where we should be.

It is: to be a living member of the church. For, to be a church member means: to gather the church.

Endnotes🔗

  1. ^ Literally "Carillon-Player". The image is from medieval Europe and calls to mind the man who rung the great cathedral bells to warn the citizens of danger or prepare them for battle, etc. – Ed. 
  2. ^ In biblical (non-scientific) language such a thing can be said of an ordinary man and, indeed, it is said. – KS. 

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