Again I said, “The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?” Nehemiah 5:9
Walk – Nehemiah’s question is a good one. It gives us the right perspective about walking in the ways of YHWH. But it’s not the reason we expect. Nehemiah tells the people that the reason they should walk according to the fear of God is because if they do not, they will silently endorse the criticism of their enemies. In other words, when the people of God do not live according to the ways of God they give encouragement to the critics of God. They become traitors to God’s cause.
Nehemiah is not our contemporary. If he were, we would never expect such a declaration. We would expect him to say that the reason we need to keep God’s ways is for our benefit. We follow Torah because it will keep us holy. We follow Torah because it will make us prosperous. We follow Torah because it expresses our love for God. Of course, all these reasons are good ones, but they are not Nehemiah’s reason. Nehemiah sees that God’s reputation is on the line here. God stakes His name on the loyalty and fidelity of His people. Walking in His ways is about signaling to the world that He is sovereign. Walking in His ways is a form of spiritual warfare. We walk – He fights. The nations must see that there is a significant difference between God’s ways and the ways of the world. Where there is no difference, His name is not glorified. We walk because His plan of redemption for the nations depends on this difference – and we are the only ones who can bring it about.
Walk – telechoo – is from the verb yalak. It is used metaphorically for following the pathway of the Lord. What is that pathway? It is the pathway demarcated by God’s instructions about living. In other words, Nehemiah is calling the people to live by the Torah. If they don’t adopt their lives to Torah principles, they contribute to their enemies’ taunts about God. Just think about that for a moment. Yeshua and Sha’ul say the same things. “By this all men will know that you love me.” How? “By keeping the commandments I give you.” Sha’ul instructs those who commitment themselves to the Way to be imitators of him as he imitates Yeshua. How does he imitate Yeshua? He keeps the principles of Torah. Any way you look at it, you just can’t get around it. Unless you are willing to rewrite Scripture, you will have to admit that every man and woman who served God lived according to God’s instructions. What else would you expect? How can I be a priest for God if I don’t follow His instructions for being a priest?
Finally, the verb yalak paints a picture – the work of controlling the open hand. Walking in God’s way is the work of a lifetime, learning to have His compassion, mercy and grace in the land of the living so that we might become His priests to the nations. It’s a difference that makes all the difference.
Topical Index: walk, yalak, Nehemiah 5:9