Enoch Walked with God Back to all sermons
Date: April 1, 2011
Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen
Series: In the Beginning
Scripture: Genesis 5:1–6:8
I have several commentaries on the Book of Genesis. In one of them at the end of each chapter, the author gives suggestions on how to use the passage in a sermon. Here is what he says on Genesis 5: “Not everyone would venture to use this chapter as a text.”
So, shall we move on? It’s tempting. But since Micah bravely forged through the reading with all those difficult names, I believe we need to take the time to examine it and see what spiritual food we can take from it.
First of all, let’s deal with the broad interpretive issues. Why is this text here? What light does it shed on the unfolding of the human story? We are painting in very broad strokes. The story of the descendants of Adam has very quickly divided into two streams or strains, symbolized by the first two sons of Adam and Eve: Cain and Abel. We looked at their story last week. Cain was the unrighteous son. He offered an unacceptable sacrifice to God. From there his story descended quickly downhill into jealousy, anger and murder. And the story of his descendants in the rest of chapter 4 is a story of increasing godlessness and disobedience to God.
Abel, on the other hand, offered a better sacrifice which God accepted. Abel, however, was murdered. He had no offspring. But at the end of chapter 4, we are told that God gave Adam and Eve a son to take Abel’s place. His name was Seth. We are also told that it was at that time, and among that particular branch of Adam and Eve’s family tree that “men began to call on the name of the Lord.”
Just as chapter 4 gave the line of Cain’s descendants, chapter 5 now goes on to list the line of descent from Seth; the godly line. We are not going to go through it verse by verse. I will only make a few comments. First of all, how do we treat the long life span attributed to these early descendants of Adam? Personally, I think we do well to simply take them at face value. God created man. He is our designer as well as our maker. He is able to set our “body clocks” as it suits his purpose. Even today, scientists have been unable to identify the precise mechanisms of aging in human cells. I have no difficulty believing that God simply set the physical bodies of these early generations to run longer. Adam himself has one of the longest life spans at 930 years. A man by the name of Methuselah is listed as being the oldest at 969 years.
Second it is important to note that this is a selective genealogy. Only one individual is listed in each generation. In every case, we are told that the man had other sons and daughters. We are not even told for sure that the individual listed is necessarily the firstborn or eldest. So there was lots of marrying and birthing going on and the human race was multiplying rapidly.
The third significant feature in this chapter is the repeated tolling of funeral bells. Each entry in the genealogy ends with the same words: “and he died.” We are reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 5:12:Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. Death has indeed come to all men as Genesis 5 makes clear. Romans 6:23 is true: The wages of sin is death.
In the first verses of Genesis 6, our interpretive difficulties multiply. What is going on here? Who are the sons of God and who are the daughters of men, and who on earth are the Nephilim? Rather than inject some kind of mythological element into the text by interpreting the sons of God as angels who cohabit with women and produce giants, I believe the answer is much simpler and comes from simply following the larger story line from chapter 4 and chapter 5. I believe the first verses of Genesis 6 are simply describing a merging of the two strains of Adam’s descendants. The sons of God refer to the descendants of Seth, and the daughters of men to the descendants of Cain. What is described is indiscriminate intermarrying between Seth’s descendants and Cain’s. The sons of Seth abandoned any effort to remain holy and separate. They married anyone they chose, based on physical beauty and attraction alone.
It is one of the sad realities of human history that the corruption of evil always spreads faster than the leaven of righteousness; especially when the safeguards God sets around marriage and godly families are ignored. What was the result of such intermarrying? Very quickly the distinction between the line of Seth and the line of Cain was lost in an avalanche of sin and evil. The word “Nephilim” can be interpreted and translated in several ways. Two possibilities that would fit this context are: “tyrants” or “bandits”. In either case the result is a break down in godly values and the elevation of human power and/or human violence. These men were elevated to hero status, not because of their godliness or moral character, but simply because of their human strength and physical prowess.
The conclusion to the matter is given in verse 5-7:
5The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”
This sets the stage for where we will begin in our next message from the Book of Genesis. We are going to take a one month break from our series. I will be away at a conference in Dubai next Friday, and then we will be moving into the Easter season in the weeks after. So it will be the end of April or early May before we come back to Genesis and pick up with the story of Noah and the flood.
Before we leave this text, however, I want to take the time to extract some spiritual marrow from these interpretive bones. By way of introduction, let me ask you a question. It may sound a bit morbid, but I guess that comes from all the emphasis on death in chapter 5. Anyway, here is the question: what would you like to have written on your tombstone? What would you want for an epitaph, a summary of your life?
I grew up on a mission station in Kenya. Near our house, there was a cemetery. It wasn’t a large one, but it contained the graves of some of the early missionaries. I sometimes walked through that cemetery, looking at the headstones, reading the inscriptions, trying to picture the people who had lived and died there. Many of the gravestones contained verses of Scripture. Walking through that cemetery always made me wonder. When my life is over, what words will people use to describe me?
Now, of course, it is always possible to write polite and pious phrases that bear little resemblance to the life actually lived. But if people were to write an honest and accurate description, what would they say? What would I want them to say?
Buried in the middle of Genesis 5, God wrote an epitaph. Only it was not really an epitaph. It was never written on a tombstone, because the individual described never actually died. But it is a summary of a life. The man’s name was Enoch. And as God summarized his life, he did it in 4 short words: He walked with God. As I read that, my heart says, “That’s it! That’s the ultimate epitaph, the ultimate description of a life well lived; a life worth living.” He walked with God. Other accomplishments are good, even important. But many of them are incidental, dependent on gifts, abilities, and opportunities. But this one is the ultimate accolade and it is within the reach of every true child of God. He walked with God. She walked with God.
It is truly an intriguing phrase. Of course it is a metaphor. Walking is used throughout the Old and New Testament as a word picture of one’s entire life pattern. It describes the slow, the steady, the everyday, step by step nature of a life lived in fellowship with God. It does not describe perfection. Even Enoch did not attain perfection. But it describes a heart that is in tune with God’s heart. It is re-establishing that fellowship that God had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Only now it is a spiritual walk of the heart, rather than a physical walk in a physical Garden.
The story of Enoch illustrates how precious this kind of life of fellowship is to God himself. The text says, rather cryptically: Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. One day, apparently, Enoch just disappeared! What happened? “God took him.” Took him where? To answer that question, we need to go over to the New Testament. Once again, we are going to Hebrews 11; the great faith chapter. Last week we found that Abel was the first one mentioned in the Hall of Faith. Guess who the second one is? That’s right. It’s Enoch. Let’s see what it says in Hebrews 11:5:
5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
This commentary from the New Testament tells us that Enoch was taken directly into heaven and into the presence of God without dying. The same Greek word is used three times in this one verse. The NIV translates it “taken” to match the reference in Genesis 5:24. The word has the sense of being “transferred from one place or realm to another.” Enoch was transferred from earth to heaven. God transferred him. Why? Because he pleased God.
That takes us to the next important piece of this puzzle. What is the key ingredient in order to walk with God? What does it take to please God the way Enoch did? It is clearly spelled out in Hebrews 11:5, isn’t it? By faith Enoch was transferred. But just in case we missed the fact, the writer of Hebrews goes on to spell it out in greater detail in verse 6:
6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
God transferred Enoch because he was pleased with him. And “without faith it is impossible to please God.” The key ingredient in Enoch’s walk with God was faith. He came to God. He believed that God existed. And he earnestly sought after God because he believed that there was no greater reward in heaven or earth than to know God and to walk in fellowship with him.
Now, here are some things that challenge me in the story of Enoch. He walked with God for 300 years! That’s a long time. And he did it during a time when the majority of the world’s citizens were rapidly running away from God. He wasn’t just walking with the crowd. He was dramatically different from most of his contemporaries. Another thing: we might be tempted to think of Enoch as a kind of hermit or monk, strolling in solitude along a river. Well, he may have taken such strolls. But he was no monk. We are told that he had a son named Methuselah and he also had other sons and daughters. He did not retreat from life and family and responsibility. He lived a full life, but as he did, he walked with God in close and continual fellowship. He walked by faith. And his walk of faith and fellowship so pleased God that he simply transferred him directly to heaven.
I don’t know about you, but my life gets very busy and hectic sometimes. I find myself rushing from one thing to another, just trying to keep up. And all the things I do seem so terribly important at the time. But now and then a passage like this makes me stop and think. How much of what I do is that important? How much of what I do will be remembered? And if it is remembered, is it truly what I want to be remembered for? Because the more I think about it, the more I realize: This is what I want to be remembered for. This is what I want written as my epitaph; He walked with God.
What do you want your epitaph to say?
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
- Why do you think Genesis 5 is included in the Bible? What would be missing from the Biblical record if it were not included?
- Pastor Cam presented one interpretation for Genesis 6:1-8. What different interpretations have you read/heard for the passage? What are the pros and cons for the different interpretations? (Note: Bible students have been discussing and disagreeing over this passage for centuries. It may be necessary to simply agree to disagree.)
- What is the most memorable epitaph you have ever heard/read?
- Discuss the phrase “he walked with God”. What do you think that looks like in the 21st century? How is faith manifested in the description you have just given?
- What would you like your epitaph to say? Do your life and priorities match up to your ideals?