The language of the Bible is rich with metaphors and symbolism. The biblical authors told stories of historical fact, but they also used symbolism to teach spiritual truth. Symbols are quite common in the poetic and prophetic passages of Scripture.
Symbolism, language that is portrayed in figures, does not lessen the reality of the situation. In fact it can enhance its power and truth. If I go home and tell my wife that I am so hungry “I could eat a horse,” I do not expect her to answer back, “That’s great because we are having fried Trigger for supper.” However, I do expect our meal to have more than a bowl of soup.
Jesus used teaching that was full of symbolism. He described Himself as Light (John 8:12), a Shepherd (John 10:11), and a Sower (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15) among others. He taught us that the kingdom of heaven was like a wedding feast (Matthew 22:2), a seed (Matthew 13:31), and a pearl (Matthew 13:45). There are dozens more symbols like these in the Bible.
Jesus enjoyed using figurative language through the use of parables. The literal meaning of parable is “to throw alongside.” A biblical parable is a short story, generally thought to be fictitious, that illustrates a moral truth or religious principle through the story.
Several weeks ago, articles here discussed the need for integrity and consistency demonstrated in the way faith is lived. There are three critical areas that develop faith’s foundation: a commitment to prayer, to reading of Scripture and moving in a spiritual direction. This final article in the series needs to address direction.
The Bible compares our life with God to a journey or a walk. To walk with someone is to live in fellowship and harmony with him. God can only live in a way that reflects His character. Walking with God, then, is to live according to the path that God has lined out for life, to live a life that is in obedience to Him.
The book of Genesis records that “after the birth of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years” (Genesis 5:22). Deuteronomy 10:12 reads, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul?”
There are faster ways to travel than to walk. Even in biblical times, walking wasn’t the only way to get somewhere. The godly life could have been compared to sailing on a boat. The journey might have been compared to a chariot ride driven by animals. Today a biblical writer would choose an airplane trip, a train ride or even a drive in a car to describe the method for the journey.
If the destination is the most important thing, then it is vital to choose the fastest method to get there. But if the travel is just as important as the arrival, a different word should be used. The word the Bible chose was walk.
Most of the time, I don’t like to walk. If I walked more – on a regular schedule, taking a certain amount of steps – I would be healthier. Walking like that would be good for me. My heart would be stronger. I would probably lose some weight. I have even tried to walk like that before. It lasted a couple of days.
Walking is better when it isn’t forced or enforced. On a Gulf Coast vacation, the favorite walk wanders about a mile along the shoreline. The coast is too far north to look for shells, though an occasional piece finds its way from the waters. There is no restaurant to stop at along the way, no gift store to stroll through. The journey is the rolling sound of the waves, the tingling cool feeling as it meanders through the toes. The journey is being away from stress, embracing the ones you love. Life walks best on the beach.
But life isn’t a walk on the beach, is it? I was reminded of that last night as I watched protesters walking up and down the streets of Louisville. There was pain on their faces. There were tears in their eyes. Words of anger were creasing their lips.
Life isn’t a walk on the beach. The year 2020 reminds everyone of that as each page is torn off the desktop calendar. Fires burn out of control on the west coast. Hurricane forces pelt the Gulf coast. Businesses shrivel and die. Jobs are lost. Plywood covers the broken panes of windows; hardness covers the broken panes of the heart.
Psalm 122 is the third in the sequence of psalms called the Songs of Ascents. The psalms were recited, read and even sung as the people made their way up the hill to the city of Jerusalem. Three times a year, the faithful Jewish believer was called to make a trip to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were to worship and present offerings and sacrifices to their God.
The first line catches attention. “When they said, ‘Let’s go to the house of God,’ my heart leaped for joy!” It is easy to have your focus drawn to the words “the house of God.” The psalmist was excited about worship and the Temple.
But I wonder if he was really excited about the word “go.” Joy in the journey? The journey was probably on foot. It probably traversed areas a little bigger than the state of Indiana. The terrain would be rugged, sometimes danger lurked around every bend in the path. The journey ended with a trip straight up a jagged mountain.
The psalm ends praying for peace within the city walls. It prays for peace and safety for my brothers and companions on the journey. It ends with an admonition we all need to embrace during these difficult times. “For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.”
May your steps be blessed.