Genesis 5:24 “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
We need to look again at these simple and yet crucial words. This phrase is so familiar to us. It has become part of our hymnody; “O for a closer walk with God,” wrote William Cowper and that is a longing every Christian knows. We have examined walking with God as a priest. Now we must think how Enoch walked before God as a prophet.
1. ENOCH WALKED WITH GOD AS A PROPHET
God expresses his love for Abraham because he had been particularly faithful in his calling to be a prophet from God. I am thinking of the words of God to him in Genesis 18:19, “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Enoch also directed his children and his household as part of his walk with God. His prophetic power was first of all shown in the domestic circle of his own home, for what are we told? He walked with God while he had sons and daughters [v 22]. In other words, he walked with God in the presence of a wife and children.
What a test to pass! His wife saw him when the crops failed, when the heavens withdrew their rain, when the children were sick, when he himself had a fever, when he hit his thumb with a hammer, when he cut himself with a scythe, when thieves robbed him of his most precious possession. Then he walked with God through such providences, in the worst of all times with a family of spectators, he didn’t stop. He closed the door so that his neighbours didn’t see him but his wife and children observed his walk with God. They weren’t put off religion by his life, in fact they were encouraged to follow his example, because we know that his great-grandson, Noah followed the example of his great-grandfather, though he was born sixty years after Enoch had died. Enoch’s influence was living on decades after he left this earth. We read in Genesis 6.9, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.”
Enoch instructed his family about the daily walk with God. Maybe you have no idea what personal and family worship involves. It’s never been part of your life, and nobody has ever explained it to you or modeled it for you. Perhaps it will help if I describe the involvement of a pastor called David Feddes in daily worship. This is what he says:
When I was growing up, my parents led us in daily family worship. Before breakfast my father or mother would say a prayer of thanks. After breakfast they would read from the Bible, read a brief meditation on the Bible passage, and close with prayer. This time of family Bible reading and prayer was a top priority in our family. Sometimes we were running a bit late in the morning and thought the school bus might come before we finished breakfast. So did we skip Bible reading and prayer? No, if we were running late, my parents would read the Bible before breakfast instead of after. Then, if we saw the bus coming while we were in the middle of eating our breakfast, we could grab something from the table and eat it on the way to school, or simply skip part of our breakfast. My parents would rather have us miss breakfast than miss family worship.
At the evening meal, we would again bow together in prayer before eating. After the meal, we would read from the Bible, perhaps read an explanation of the Bible passage from a devotional book, and close with prayer. This morning-and-evening pattern of family worship didn’t really add up to all that much time: about five minutes in the morning, and another five minutes or so at night. It didn’t usually produce a stunning emotional experience. It was just a simple, quiet time to hear God speak in Scripture and to speak to him in prayer. But starting and ending the day that way set a spiritual tone for everything else. Also, over the years, it helped us gain a wealth of Bible knowledge that no school or seminary could teach as effectively.
As a boy growing up with parents who worshiped God in spirit and in truth, I learned daily family worship, and I also learned daily personal worship. One thing that taught me personal worship was my parents’ example. They never made a show of their own personal time with God, but sometimes when I got up early, I would see my dad kneeling by himself in prayer before he wakened the rest of the household. My mom, too, was a person of prayer and Scripture. Following their lead, I began to pray personally myself as a young boy, usually at bedtime. When I was old enough to read fairly well, my parents gave me a Bible of my own, and I would spend a few minutes each night reading the Bible by myself.
I don’t come from a family of preachers or Bible scholars. I come from a farming and ranching family—ordinary folks with work to do and challenges to face. My parents and our family were not perfect by any means. We sometimes argued, got on each other’s nerves, and made wrong choices. Still, we loved each other and knew that God was at the centre of our home. Even now, when we visit my parents or my wife’s parents, we know we’ll have daily worship with them.
Where did my parents get their pattern of family worship and personal worship? They didn’t dream it up on their own. They got the pattern from their parents—my grandparents. Both of my parents grew up with daily family worship and with parents who not only led their children in worship but also spent time alone in personal, private worship.
Now that I have a family of my own, my wife and children and I have breakfast together followed by Bible reading and prayer. We also we have our evening meal together, followed by Bible reading, discussion, and prayer. The pattern we follow is similar to what I grew up with, with some small variations. In my home, we often have a prayer time together when every member of the family—not just a dad or mom, but each of the children as well—says a prayer. We usually sing a song of praise together as well. But the essential pattern is the same as I learned as a boy: we take time each day to listen to God and talk to him as a family, and we also have our own personal worship time.
By offering my own personal and family pattern, I want to give you a glimpse of daily worship and to help you to build such a pattern into your own life. I have a long way to go in getting to know God better and worshiping him as he deserves. But I can honestly say that daily worship, as a family and as an individual, is vital to honouring God and growing in faith. If you want to walk with God, love him more deeply, and honour him more fully throughout this year and always, make a commitment to talk and listen to him repeatedly through daily worship. Every healthy relationship involves talking and listening repeatedly, and your relationship with God is no exception. If you don’t talk to God and listen to him every day, your walk with God is not going to develop. But if you make time every day to listen to what God tells you in the Bible and to tell him what’s on your heart through prayer and worship, you have good reason to expect that your relationship with God will advance well beyond what it is now. Don’t settle for anything less than worshiping God daily in your own home, in spirit and in truth. (“Back to God Hour,” August 20, 2006)
So walking with God shows itself in our families, and let’s not forget what an example Enoch must have been to Adam, the first man. By adding the numbers of the years after which a father begat a son from Adam to Jared, one makes the interesting discovery that Enoch was born when Adam was 622 years of age. Because Adam lived 930 years, this means that Adam and Enoch were contemporaries for 308 years. And because Enoch started to walk with God not later than in his 65th year, this means that Adam saw Enoch walking with God for at least 243 years. That which Adam himself did not do in Paradise, he saw Enoch faithfully doing outside Paradise. What a testimony to his own family was Enoch.
But Enoch was also a prophet of God’s before a very hostile world. His witness had a still wider scope as we can clearly see in Jude 14-15, where Jude denounces the false prophets of his own time (and thus of all times), by saying: “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” The greatness of Enoch’s prophecy related in Jude stands out all the brighter against the background of the dark times in which it was spoken. Think of the keyword ‘ungodly’ in his prophecy, used four times by Jude in a single verse (v.15). This is the world just before the Flood. They were dissolute iniquitous days with the world giving itself to vices of every description, a cruel dark age.
So you see the picture we are given of Enoch’s age? There was constant tension between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. There were prophets of the seed of the serpent active, and they were preaching falsehood, perhaps saying that there was not going to be a coming of the seed of the woman, that there had been general confusion concerning God’s words to the serpent, that it did not at all mean that God’s Servant would one day come and crush the serpent’s head. False prophets were evangelizing, swaying the masses at the time Enoch walked with God and he didn’t treat them with courtly disdain. He would not be silent about them. He didn’t think that everyone had a right to their own opinion. He didn’t think that the best way to work for God was by your life, and never criticize other people’s beliefs. He didn’t think that if he prophesied against ungodliness he would quench the Spirit because it would be pride and an ego-trip to speak like that. No, he didn’t think like that. He convicted all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they had done in the ungodly way and all the harsh words ungodly sinners had spoken against him. He spoke up like that; that was an indispensable part of walking with God. If he has been silent he would have been walking alone.
Consider great Enoch’s greater son Jesus of Nazareth. I suppose we all agree that no one had a closer walk with God than Christ. While Jesus walked through Galilee he met religious people called Pharisees. The origin of the Pharisees is uncertain, but their movement is believed to have grown from the Assideans (i.e. the “pious”), who began in the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greek/Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, around 165 B.C. It was during that longer period, roughly 4 centuries between the end of the Old Testament record and the birth of our Saviour, prior to the rise of the Roman empire, that the idolatrous Greek influence was at its peak in Jerusalem. The first direct mention of the Pharisees was by the Jewish/Roman historian Josephus in describing the three sects, or schools, into which the Jews were divided in 145 B.C.
The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones. They were also known as chasidim, which means loyal to God, or loved of God – extremely ironic in view of the fact that by the time of Christ, they made themselves the most bitter, and deadly, opponents of Jesus Christ and his message. The Pharisees were deeply religious men who considered that they were the only people who walked with God. They became so extremist in very limited parts of the Law (plus all that they themselves added to it) that they became blind to the Messiah when Jesus was in their very midst. They saw his miracles, they heard his words, but instead of receiving it with joy, they did all that they could to oppose and silence him – eventually to the point of getting him killed because he claimed to be the Son of God. They believed that walking with God consisted of keeping hundreds of religious regulations. “You have to act like this,” they said to young couples and little old ladies. “This is walking with God,” they said. They were incensed with the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah because he didn’t ceremonially wash his hands before eating. He wasn’t one of them.
Jesus Christ didn’t ignore them because their influence was pernicious in the land. They had hijacked the Scriptures and they were claiming that they were the custodians of truth. He had the strongest words to say about the Pharisees, and what awaits some of them: “He answered them, ‘And why do you transgress the Commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, “Honour your father and your mother,” and, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.” But you say, “If any one tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honour his father.” So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the Word of God.'” (Matthew 15:3-6 RSV). Again, “‘How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'” (Matthew 16:11-12)
Again Jesus Christ, as he walked with God, instructed his own disiples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:2-9 RSV) So Jesus denounced them. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13 RSV). “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24). The spirit of Enoch who denounced the ungodliness of the false prophets who lived before the Flood was upon our Saviour. He walked with God and did not fail to deliver people from the error of false religion.
Let me give you one more example of the greatest Christian in the New Testament period who walked with God superbly, who has left us an example how we should walk with him, the apostle Paul. What devotion! What praying! What courage in suffering! What evangelistic zeal! What knowledge, and yet what does he say about false teaching entering the church in Galatia? “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gals. 1:6-9). Why was Paul so outspoken? Let’s get some help from the perceptive words of the great spokesman for Christianity 80 years ago, J. Gresham Machen Professor of New Testament at Princeton and later Westminster Seminaries who certainly walked with God. He wrote,
What was the difference between the teaching of Paul and the teaching of the Judaizers? What was it that gave rise to the stupendous polemic of the Epistle to the Galatians? To the modern Church the difference would have seemed to be a mere theological subtlety. About many things the Judaizers were in perfect agreement with Paul. The Judaizers believed that Jesus was the Messiah; there is not a shadow of evidence that they objected to Paul’s lofty view of the person of Christ. Without the slightest doubt, they believed that Jesus had really risen from the dead. They believed, moreover, that faith in Christ was necessary to salvation. But the trouble was, they believed that something else was also necessary; they believed that what Christ had done needed to be pieced out by the believer’s own effort to keep the Law. From the modern point of view the difference would have seemed to be very slight. Paul as well as the Judaizers believed that the keeping of the law of God, in its deepest import, is inseparably connected with faith. The difference concerned only the logical – not even, perhaps, the temporal – order of three steps.
Paul said that a man (1) first believes on Christ, (2) then is justified before God, (3) then immediately proceeds to keep God’s law. The Judaizers said that a man (1) believes on Christ and (2) keeps the law of God the best he can, and then (3) is justified. The difference would seem to modern “practical” Christians to be a highly subtle and intangible matter, hardly worthy of consideration at all in view of the large measure of agreement in the practical realm. What a splendid cleaning up of the Gentile cities it would have been if the Judaizers had succeeded in extending to those cities the observance of the Mosaic law, even including the unfortunate ceremonial observances! Surely Paul ought to have made common cause with teachers who were so nearly in agreement with him; surely he ought to have applied to them the great principle of Christian unity.
As a matter of fact, however, Paul did nothing of the kind; and only because he (and others) did nothing of the kind does the Christian Church exist to-day. Paul saw very clearly that the difference between the Judaizers and himself was the difference between two entirely distinct types of religion; it was the difference between a religion of merit and a religion of grace. If Christ pro vides only a part of our salvation, leaving us to provide the rest, then we are still hopeless under the load of sin. For no matter how small the gap which must be bridged before salvation can be attained, the awakened conscience sees clearly that our wretched attempt at goodness is insufficient even to bridge that gap. The guilty soul enters again into the hopeless reckoning with God, to determine whether we have really done our part. And thus we groan again under the old bondage of the law. Such an attempt to piece out the work of Christ by our own merit, Paul saw clearly, is the very essence of unbelief; Christ will do everything or nothing, and the only hope is to throw ourselves unreservedly on His mercy and trust Him for all.
Paul certainly was right. The difference which divided him from the Judaizers was no mere theological subtlety, but concerned the very heart and core of the religion of Christ. “Just as I am without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me”—that was what Paul was contending for in Galatia; that hymn would never have been written if the Judaizers had won. And without the thing which that hymn expresses there is no Christianity at all. (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans, 1923, pp.24&25)
Do you not see that walking with God requires us all to be true prophets unto God speaking, as Enoch, denouncing ungodly teaching that cannot save one soul. The Lord is coming with all his saints to judge such men, Enoch said. Everything we see about Enoch shows that his life was a victorious life by the grace of God, in his words and deeds.
Finally in the other instance we shall speak of
2. ENOCH WALKED WITH GOD AS A KING
Enoch made sure that he ruled over remaining sin in his life. He would not allow sin to have dominion over him. The Lord was his King. Hear these great words of the apostle showing he ruled his own body to the Lord: “I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Cor. 9:27). Paul knew what longings and powerful urges could well up within him crying, “Give me! Give me! Give me!” Who was in charge of his life? Who was king? Did his passion rule or did the Lord? He walked with the Lord who was his King and so Paul kept his passions in reign.
So it was with Enoch. He walked with God. In comparison with the other men in Genesis 5, Enoch’s earthly life was brief. His father Jared lived 962 years, his son Methuselah 969, but he himself lived only 365 years, i.e. a little more than a third of the others’ span of life. In terms of today we may say that roughly speaking Enoch lived about 35 years in comparison with the 80 or 90 of the others. But that was no judgment on Enoch from God’s side. On the contrary, God himself gave testimony of him that “Enoch pleased God.” Those are the words we read in Hebrews 11.5. They may mean that God gave this testimony to Enoch personally before his translation, or that he gave this testimony about Enoch after he took him to heaven. He did it through inspiring the biblical writers in what they recorded of Enoch in Scriptures. Probably both are true.
At any rate, Enoch’s victory over sin and his walk with God in faith for three centuries was unique. In all the history of men there is no one else who did this, and so God himself decided that the end of Enoch should be unique. We are told this, that ‘Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him’ [Gen 5.24]. The writer to the Hebrews explicitly says that “he did not see death” (11.5). In Genesis 5 we hear the ringing of the funeral bell eight times, for Adam and his descendants who born and lived long, but they all died. But of Enoch we hear that God took him. He is one of two men who did not die in the usual manner, the other being the prophet Elijah. The bodies of these men were translated in some way not made known to us and they were taken just as they were immediately into heaven and the presence of God.
As in many other places in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for ‘take’ has the power of taking that for which you have a lawful claim. So God took him at his own appointed time, (Ps 73.24, where ‘receive’ is from the same verb as ‘take’ in Genesis 5: ‘Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory’). Enoch’s end came by way of a sudden removal to heaven. Think of our Saviour on the Mount of Ascension, how he was speaking to them, held up his hands in blessing upon them, and then was taken up to heaven, and a cloud hid him out of their sight. I consider Enoch being taken away by God to have been something very similar to that. Calvin says ‘the event was remarkable, and hence all may know how dear he was to God.’ This is how an old Welsh preacher described the event:
“Here was this man, Enoch, walking with God. Every day he would go and look for God, and they would have a walk together. And then God would say, ‘Well, I must leave you now; you go home and sleep. Get up in the morning and do your work and I will look out for you again tomorrow.’ This was the life that Enoch lived [said the preacher]. This was his greatest delight. Enoch had his work to do, of course, but he always looked for the times when he could give himself utterly and absolutely to taking a walk with God and enjoying his companionship.
“He had been enjoying this every day, as we are told in the record, for several hundred years. Then one day he finished his work and went as usual to the meeting-place where God was waiting for him, and they walked together, and it was wonderful. God had never been so loving, life had never been so kind, and Enoch had never been so happy. The time came, the usual time, for God to say, ‘Very well, I must leave it at that for today, and we will meet again tomorrow.’ But on this occasion God did not say that. He said, ‘Enoch, we have been doing this together now for so long. You enjoy it; I enjoy it. Tonight, I am not going to say to you, “Go home and rest and sleep and get up and do your work and look for me tomorrow.” Enoch,’ he said, ‘do not go home. Come with me!’ So God took him and he was not. God took him to his everlasting habitation. The perpetual fellowship was to be absolute. There was never to be another break or another intermission” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Heirs of Salvation,” Bryntrion Press, 2000, pp. 44&45).
It is a wise old preacher’s imagination, of course, but it is bringing a great reality to our affections, and the fact is this, that Enoch did not die, and that is nothing less than an Old Testament prophecy of the new heaven and a new earth, where death shall reign no more, and where every tear will be wiped away. However, this prophecy was to be fulfilled only by the coming of One greater than Enoch, who, unlike Enoch of old, would simply go home to his Father when his work was over. His work was to live and to die, and to taste the cursed death of the cross, because if he did not die that death then God would not have been able to take Enoch home or bring many sons to glory. Here are all the sons mentioned in Genesis 5 and each son died. For them to live a greater than Enoch must come, and he is here with us today, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
What does he say to us, this greater Enoch? I hear him say: ‘Men and women, behold Enoch of old. It is not the length of your life that is the greatest thing, but how you live. The quantity of years will not count with me so much as how you came off the broad road that leads to destruction and that you walked with me on the narrow path. The quantity of your years is among my secret things; their quality is among my revealed things, as you can see for yourself in my Word.’
The history of the Church is full of examples of men of God who had a long life; it is equally full of men who had but a short time to fulfil their task, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, David Brainerd, Henry Martyn, Jim Eliott, Nate Saint, John Thomas of Sandfields. Just a brief life God gave each one of them but how they redeemed those lives by walking with God. How much they did for their Lord in a short time. They are burning as well as shining lights, they were consumed while giving light to others. Oh that we saw a race of ministers, like-minded, burning with a consuming zeal, raised up among us! We need such men to whom God comes and he makes heaven so real and delightful to them and to ourselves so that we think of heaven as our everlasting home, the place being prepared for us now by our Saviour, and there we are going, to be with him for the rest of eternity, for everlasting life, for endless living in his presence. We are going home!
Today we have looked at Enoch’s wonderful life and his place in the divine economy. We have considered his priestly walk with God, its prophetic power, and its royal triumph. Now we pray that through the Spirit of our real heavenly Enoch, to whom the first Enoch pointed, we all like him, may walk with God to the great day.
20th August 2006 GEOFF THOMAS