“…that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116:9, NIV)
Psalm 116 is a beautiful Psalm. Take a minute or two today and read it. It begins with the psalmist in trouble: “The cords of death entangle me… (v. 3).” It ends with him toasting God (v. 13) and offering thanks to God in the Temple (v. 17). Read a commentary about this psalm and scholars will tell you that it takes the poetic shape of an hourglass: what starts with trouble ends with God’s blessing. The narrow neck – the part that leads from trouble to blessing is verse 9: walking with the Lord.
The Hebrew word for “walk” is halak. It is a common metaphor in the Bible which describes a mode of life and action – the path of one’s life. But the psalmist uses a special form of the verb in verse 9 (called Hitpael) in which the middle consonant is doubled. The word is, in a sense, dragged out and expanded. In other words, “walk” becomes something like walk about, wander, rove, stroll. It is the same verb and form used in Genesis 3:8 when God was “walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”
Walking with God isn’t the kind of walk where you’re hurrying from one place to another, where you’re late for an appointment, where you arrive sweaty, huffing and puffing. Walking with God is a stroll in the cool of the day. It is a ramble in the land of the living. Birds sing, children play, conversations are held.
My wife and I enjoy taking walks in the evening. We hold hands. We talk about the day. We talk about the future, the kids, the church. We’re in no hurry…in fact, we’re not really “going” anywhere. We’re together and that’s enough for the moment.
Something like that is the picture the psalmist wants us to see. If you’re harried and hurried in life, slow down. Invite the Holy Spirit for a stroll. Enjoy his presence and get back to the land of the living.