Genesis 5:24 “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
In the fifth chapter of Genesis death begins to bite into mankind. So far the only death has been that of murdered Abel, but now his dust was joined with many more. The little cemetery east of Eden began to spread filled with the resting places of the lines of Cain and Seth. Adam himself was buried there. After 930 years of avoiding death the unavoidable met with him, and soon he was joined by his son Seth, aged 912. What of Enosh, Seth’s son? He died too. And Kenana? He died, and Mahalel died also, and his son Jared died, and Methuselah, by the mercy of God, avoided death for 969 years but then he died too, and Lamech died. The refrain is doleful and constant like the tolling of the death knell.
These ages are enormous aren’t they? We have to say a word about this: the effects of physical death took more time then than they take today to impact men and women – especially during the thousand years that followed the fall of Adam. One of the reasons for this can be gleaned from the earlier narrative of creation. We are told that the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth but streams or ‘mist’ as the footnote suggests, came up from the earth, and watered the whole surface of the ground (Gen. 2:5&6). I found these observations from Graham Harrison on Genesis 1 and verses six to ten helpful. “There is the division of the water so that there is water both above and below; and then the water below is gathered together to form the seas and the dry land appears. But still there is a canopy of water over the earth’s face. As yet there is no rain. This canopy with mist and water vapour is evidently what was designed to be there. Until the Flood there was no such thing as rain as we know it. Then in Genesis 6 and 7 we are given the account of the Flood. God says: ‘For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth’ (Genesis 7:4). And a little later in the chapter: ‘In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights’ (Genesis 7:11-12).
“These verses are telling us that there was a cataclysmic disturbance in the earth beneath, and water comes up from below. And not only that, but also the canopy of water that was over the earth seems to have been removed. The windows of heaven were opened and the rain deluged down for forty days and forty nights. After the Flood the canopy is not there, but you have the climate as we know it, with the seasons, the rainfall and the sunshine. God pledges himself to them and gives Noah the assurance that these things will continue on through the running centuries (Genesis 8:22).
“But there is a difference this side of the Flood from the other side of the Flood. Have you ever listened to any of these people protesting about nuclear power? They are always talking about radiation. They say that in the event of an accident the resulting radiation will adversely affect human beings. The lives of those who are immediately affected will be shortened, but succeeding generations will also be affected so that we cannot tell what will become of them. Physical mutations, so they argue, will occur for the worse. What do you think happened when that vast canopy of water vapour was removed from over the face of the earth—the canopy that shielded cosmic rays that otherwise would have come through the atmosphere and affected humanity? Remember, the removal of the canopy was part of the judgment of God that expressed itself in terms of the Flood. Is it not natural to suppose that it caused physical consequences in men’s lives? Come to this side of the Flood, and when you begin to read of the length of men’s lives you notice that they are much shorter. So we read in the Psalms: ‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away’ (Psalm 90:10). Only in recent years, through the advances of medical science and environmental health, has the decline been arrested and reversed—although not returning to what it was in the early chapters of Scripture! Is not this a perfectly reasonable and rational explanation as to why it is possible to believe that in these early years men were living for this great period of time? But when the Flood came, everything was changed, relentlessly and with increasing rapidity. I am not suggesting that this is the only possible explanation, but to me it is a perfectly rational one. People inclined to dismiss these parts of Scripture as so much mythology and make-believe would do well to consider before they go on to mock them.” (Graham Harrison, Beginning at the Beginning, Bryntirion Press, 1999, pp. 58-60).
That is interesting, and it is modestly stated. Incidentally I was reading in the Times earlier this month a report of a recent expedition to the Arctic. The Times had received its information from the prestigious scientific magazine Nature which magazine has recently reported the results of the 2004 Arctic Coring Expedition aboard the Swedish drilling vessel, Vidar Viking, which took place in August and September 2004. The project was part of an international research effort, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme. These scientists set out to retrieve subseafloor sediment, and one of the things they have discovered is evidence of a subtropical climate that once was at the North Pole.
So Genesis five is announcing to us the fulfilment of the word of warning which our first parents received, that in the day Adam ate the forbidden fruit sin and death would surely enter the world. In Genesis five we see that all the world has become a fallen race, and all sinners will die because the wages of sin is death. No community in the best governed place with the most favoured climate and the highest standard of living in the whole world escapes. Man initially lives for centuries, but he dies, and then there is a momentum of a shrinking mortality underway. The longevity of man drops by 50% after the flood, and another 50% in the days of Peleg when the tower of Babel was built, and soon one meets that statement of Moses saying that 70 or 80 years are the average for a human life (Psa. 90:10).
One day someone will be talking with a friend and will ask him, “How is Geoff Thomas these days? He must be getting on . . .” “Haven’t you heard?” his companion will reply, “Geoff Thomas is dead. He died so many months ago.” I am a sinner and death passes upon all men for all have sinned. The line of Cain was one in which sin was spectacular headline grabbing stuff, Lamech taking another wife, and murdering a young man who had bruised him, and then singing in triumph at his killing the teenager. Those sorts of sins were plastered over our newspapers yesterday, and we can understand Lamech and the whole godless line of Cain dying, but what we find in this fifth chapter is that the less splashy sinning of the line of Seth is also a line of death. Their lives are heading for the grave, for all mankind has sinned and come short of the glory of God.
That is why our text highlighting the life of Enoch makes such a startling statement. He walked with God and then he was no more, because God took him. Who was this man? Enoch was the seventh man from Adam through Seth, and so he stands in the deepest contrast possible with the man who is the seventh from Adam through Cain, and that was Lamech. He seems to be nothing less than a type of the Antichrist. But over-against him Enoch, the seventh from Adam through Seth, seems nothing less than a type of Christ himself. Here we met prefigurements of the Christ and the Antichrist in this history of Genesis 4 and 5. Everyone else in his generation ended their days being buried in the east of Eden graveyard, but not Enoch. Death did not take him; God took Enoch before physical death; he did not see death. God stood over the lines of Cain and Seth and told them something of enormous importance, probably the most important truth they could possibly learn, that the Lord is more powerful than death itself, that even the grave is under the authority of the Lord.
Today we are going to examine the life of Enoch, the son of Jared. It was Jude in the New Testament who calls Enoch (v.14) ‘the seventh from Adam.’ We don’t want to glorify any man, even though he be someone of the calibre of Enoch, because he too was a sinner who needed forgiveness and redemption. No, we are looking at Enoch in order to glorify the grace of the God who is mightier than death. [I once heard an Afrikaans’ minister Dr. Jannie Du Preez speaking in 1970 at the Leicester Banner of Truth Conference on ‘The Place of Enoch in the Divine Economy’ and that address was later printed in the Banner of Truth magazine Issue Number 82-83, and I have been able to take advantage of his insights in this sermon.]
In the book of Genesis ‘Enoch’ is a name given to four different people (Gen 4.17, 5.18, 25.1-4, 46.9) and even the city of Cain is given the name ‘Enoch’ (Genesis 4.17). Some think the name means something like a ‘follower’ or a ‘successor’, while others say it may mean an ‘insider’ or an ‘initiate’. One thing we know for sure: that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, was an ‘insider’, with respect to the circle of God’s love. Enoch was to become a very popular figure in Jewish literature. Round his person all kinds of legends were woven, but our desire is to know what the Bible tells us about him, and it sums up his life like this, “Enoch walked with God” and, to stress the importance of that Moses mentions it twice (vv. 22 and 24). Enoch’s life was a wonderful God-centered life; he didn’t exist to be laid out in his coffin; he lived each day to walk with God.
Death marches through chapter five of Genesis, and this very chapter lies between the darkness of chapters three and four on the one hand and chapters six, seven and eight on the other, but this chapter has been inserted by divine providence to show us how God will keep alive the seed of the woman, the golden chain of salvation stretching from Adam to Noah. It started historically in Paradise, with the wonderful mother promise of Genesis 3.15 of one coming who will bruise the serpent’s head. “The Christ is coming in the flesh,” it says, and here in Genesis 5 this prophecy begins to be fulfilled, slowly but surely, from Adam to Noah. In other words, it is a chapter which is pointing right through this world of darkness and death directly to the one who came said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
Here we suddenly meet Enoch, the seventh from Adam, and his life shines like some brilliant star of God set against the dark firmament of our dying world. The achievements of some men have to do only with poetry, musical instruments, agriculture, and work in brass and iron and their work dies with them, but this man Enoch towers in significance above all the others. “I shall walk with God,” he determines. What greater ambition can there be to a lifetime spent walking with God? I want to make this one point today and that is that Enoch walked with God as a priest.
In the Old Testament we find two related expressions: ‘to walk before God’ and ‘to walk after God.’ A soldier walks before the eyes of the sergeant-major on the parade ground. He walks just as he’s been instructed, and so to walk before God suggests an upright life, and a sincere and God-pleasing life. The psalmist says this, “For thou hast delivered my soul from death, yea, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psa. 56:13). You have saved me that I may spend my life walking before you.
Then there is this other phrase, to walk after God, and it suggests submission. The sheep follow after the shepherd. In Deuteronomy 13.4 we read, “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice.” That is the essence of the Christian life. You cannot have Jesus Christ as your Lord and walk like the media stars walk, or walk as the in-crowd in school walk. You follow the Lord in all sincerity and holiness. Why did God choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world? That we should be holy and blameless before him; that we should walk with him. What kind of Christian is a Christian without these?
And yet, the walk with God is surely more than being aware that God’s eye is on us and we’re following the Lord day by day. There is a life of communion with God, of lifting up our hearts to God often and instinctively, as someone we rely on moment by moment. You start a journey and you pray a silent prayer; you go to a concert and you pray that God will make it an honourable occasion; you ring a number and as you hear the ‘Buzz, Buzz’ of the tone you’re asking for God’s help. There are two persons meeting, a Father and his child, and that fellowship makes our sincerity truly sincere, our holiness beautiful, our obedience an inner urge. There was intimacy between Enoch and God, a movement back and fore, a living relationship between them day after day. It wasn’t that Enoch spent five minutes in the morning considering the Word of God with a comment on it and then a little prayer and then he could dismiss God from his life. There are men like that who say, “I’ve done my daily portion. I’m right with God,” and then they go on with their lives without another thought of God. No, to walk with God is to realise his presence and appropriate him as your Lord and Saviour again and again, everywhere and at all times. In the Hebrew Bible the word used for God is the ordinary word Elohim. In our text the Hebrew Bible has the direct article, ha Elohim [literally ‘the God’]. It’s been suggested that the article is giving a prominence to the personality of God. Enoch didn’t walk with the ‘ground of being’ like the definition of God of the late bishop who wrote Honest to God. God is a personal God; God is vital, not static. He lives and moves and speaks; he creates in the lives of every one of his children a longing to walk with him.
The Hebrew word used for the ‘walk with God’ in our text is used in the same connection in just one other place in the Bible, in Malachi 2.6. The prophet is speaking of the priestly tribe of Levi, and as a tribe of priests they stood in a special relation to God. Malachi says “He walked with me in peace and uprightness.” Levi stood for all the priests, and he was permitted to enter the Holy Place, to talk with Jehovah there at the mercy seat on behalf of all the rest of the people. The ordinary people couldn’t, however powerful and rich they were, even if they ruled Israel the kings were forbidden to do so. But Levi took the blood of the sacrifice before the Lord, and he walked with God in peace and uprightness in the Holy Place. The bells tinkled on the fringes of his robes. God was walking with him. This was pointing to the time when this little Christian boy or girl would have permanent access to God. In school they could say in their hearts, “Be with me and help me and protect me. Lead me not into temptation.” That is the Christian life: hear these great words in the very heart of the Old Testament “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). Here are the three pillars of Christianity; be straight in all your dealings “do justly;” then love mercy – where is there any justification for a judgmental harsh spirit towards others? – and then thirdly, our theme today, walking humbly with God. Blessed are the poor in spirit. It is the meek and gentle walk of these men that is the mark of the kingdom of heaven.
So Enoch walked with God and he walked with him all the times and everywhere, not only in the Holy Place like Levi, Enoch’s walk is prophetical of Jesus Christ who went about Galilee doing good. There is a sweet children’s hymn which says,
“I love to think, though I am young,
My Saviour was a child;
That Jesus walked this earth along,
With feet all undefiled.
He kept His Father’s word of truth,
As I am taught to do;
And while He walked the path of youth,
He walked in wisdom too.
I love to think that He who spake
And made the blind to see,
And called the sleeping dead to wake,
Was once a child like me.
That He who wore the thorny crown,
And tasted death’s despair,
Had a kind mother like my own,
And knew her love and care.
I know ‘twas all for love of me
That He became a child,
And left the heavens so fair to see,
And walked earth’s pathway wild.
Then, Saviour, who wast once a child,
A child may come to Thee;
And O, in all Thy mercy mild,
Dear Saviour, come to me.” (E. Paxton Hood. 1820-85)
Jesus was born of the posterity of Enoch. This man’s blood flowed in his veins, and when Christ comes we look at his life and say, “ More than Enoch is here, because through Jesus’ walk with God we and Enoch, yes, and all the Lord’s elect out of all nations in all ages are enabled to find God and walk with him.”.
Enoch walked with God outside of Paradise. Adam and Eve had walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the day. That is what made Paradise really Paradise, uninterrupted loving communion with their Maker? This is what they lost when they defied this loving Father. They had had every encouragement to show their affection for God and yet they spit in his face. The walk with God came to an end and out of Paradise they were sent so quickly, after first being made, but Enoch went on walking with God outside Paradise. God dealt familiarly with him. In a world where sin reigned and death prevailed Enoch walked with God. Here is the prophet Enoch showing to us the true destiny of man, blessed fellowship with God renewed. Here is the Lord at work in our groaning world, and he is bringing back to man Paradise, the place of blessed fellowship with God. With eternal Paradise already in Enoch’s heart, we see him on his way to Paradise eternal.
Enoch is showing that what God promises in the Old Testament will most certainly be fulfilled. The life of Enoch is the deposit and the guarantee of out eternal walk with God in the new heavens and the new earth. God says in Leviticus 26.11&12: “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” You see this in final chapters of the last book of the Bible, we realize that the climax of God’s covenant communion with his people has arrived, for we read, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.” (Rev. 21:2&3).
When Enoch, the seventh from Adam, walked with God, he walked with him in covenant communion. His walk became a prophecy of the climactic covenant communion between God and his people. When Enoch walked with God, he walked with him in faith. It’s striking that when the letter to the Hebrews speaks of Enoch in its long eleventh chapter – the list of the heroes of faith – it is of his faith the writer waxes eloquent, not his walk with God (Hebs. 11.5-6). There’s no contradiction in the matter, of course. Enoch’s walk with God was in daily trust, and his trusting relationship manifested itself in walking with God. That is how Enoch was pleasing to God. Without trust it is impossible to please God.
Enoch walked with God as a priest and so he spoke to God for himself and also for the people. George Whitefield preached a powerful sermon on this text all over England Wales and America. He was the means God used of restoring New Testament Christianity, godliness and prayerfulness, in our nation. In this sermons he is exhorting the crowds who gathered to hear him to be men and women of prayer. If there is going to be any future for Christianity and it having any influence in our land then it is going to be through our being praying people. Jesus has said that he wants us always to pray and not to faint, and so it is impossible to over- emphasize prayer in the life of the people of God. If we are not actually engaged in praying, we are walking with God and that means we are maintaining a spirit of prayer. In fact, prayer rises in the heart of God; its wellsprings are in the very being of God; there is in Father, Son and Holy Spirit unceasing communion.
Is any congregation greater than the sum of the prayer life of its individual members? The pastor who is not praying is playing. The elders and deacons are organisation men not men of God. Sunday services will become a shop window to display a congregation’s skills and talents. You know Leonard Ravenhill’s well-known play on words when he says, “The church has many organizers but few agonizers . . . . many singers, few clingers . . . . many fears, few tears . . . . Can any deny that in the modern church setup, the main cause of anxiety is money? Yet that which tries modern churches, troubled the New Testament church the least. Our emphasis is on paying; theirs was on praying. When we have paid, the place is taken; when they have prayed the place was shaken.” Certainly we all need to be stirred about praying and if those exhortations help you then that is all to the good.
Enoch walked with God in prayer. He was in the habit of prayer, and lived in the spirit of prayer. Is this perhaps one of the reasons why the description of this great man’s life is so brief? As someone has said, ‘A totally true biography has never been nor can be written. How hard to put fragrance into words, and sentences and paragraphs. The very best things about a character and career are unknown, except to God, and they can’t be revealed because they are among his secret things. The best men hide themselves with God before they show themselves to men. What men have shown to others we read about in their biographies, but their walk with God is deeper, and unwritten. Only eternity can unveil that.
What is extraordinary about Enoch is how many years he walked with God. We walk with God for hours and towards the end perhaps for days, but Enoch for decades. In Genesis 5.22 we read: ‘After he became the father of Methuselah Enoch walked with God 300 years . . . .’ I think that the actual wording of the text leaves it a little more open whether Enoch started to walk with God before or after the birth of Methuselah. It’s very probable that Enoch started to walk with God before the birth of Methuselah. However, the amazing fact clear from our text is that once Enoch started to walk with God, he did so on and one for 300 years, until the end of his earthly life. The Inverness minister Tom Swanston once said these words:
We are living in an age of instant custard, instant puddings, instant soups, instant cake mixes, etc., and this kind of thing has infected and poisoned the Christian church; and Christians now have come to expect the quick sale, the sudden gimmick, the short-cut road to sanctification. But there are no such things. Sanctification is a process; holiness is a way of life, and it is a long, hard slog, believe me. It is an uphill journey with devils in every bush and evil eyes peering at you through the darkness, and in your face, a cold, frosty wind with hail and snow. On the road there are few houses, and it is a long, long road. This is the meaning of sanctification and holiness, and so I think that really, in order to benefit from the Word, one needs to sit under it Sunday by Sunday, year by year, for a long, long time until our personalities and characters and psychologies have been changed by its gracious influence under the power of the Holy Spirit.
Enoch walked with God faithfully, and he did so with all his heart. The Hebrew verb for ‘walk’ is a kind of intensive form with the additional idea of enjoying what you are doing. By the way, don’t we after all really enjoy only that which we do with all our heart. As Matthew Henry said on his deathbed, ‘A life spent in communion with God, is the pleasantest life in the world.’ That is the most difficult thing for me to persuade sinners to believe. They think that walking with God means deprivation and restraints and moralism. But Enoch was the happiest man in the world for 300 years. The Lord was to him the God of his exceeding joy [Ps 43.4]. We are reminded of the first answer of the Larger Catechism: ‘Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him for ever.’
Think of our Saviour’s walk, how he set his face steadfastly towards Jerusalem. He kept walking with God to Golgotha even though at one time it meant knowing the abandonment of God, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ He has left us an example that we should walk in his steps. He has become the perfect Saviour. He is the perfecter of our walk with God; he is our exceeding joy. In his sermon on the life of Enoch George Whitefield exhorted the people, ‘Walking with God implies making progress in the divine life. They go on, as the Psalmist says, from strength to strength . . . ’
20th August 2006 GEOFF THOMAS