Bible Laying Open on a Table


Author: Ray C. Stedman

This is the next to the last of the series scheduled for this summer on the great characters of the bible; some rather obscure men, others more well known. Today we want to look at one of the most mysterious and unusual men in scripture, the man who is listed in the genealogy in Genesis 5 as the seventh from Adam. His name is Enoch, and his name occurs for us first in Genesis, the fifth chapter, in the midst of a survey some 1500 years of human history which is given very rapidly and focuses around nine men.

Someone has called this God's obituary column because over and over again it's recorded of these men that they lived so many years, begat so and so, and then lived so many years after that, and then he died. And he died... and he died... and he died... is the refrain that rings like the tolling of a bell all the way through this account, and he died..., contradicting, as you'll recognize, the lie of Satan in the garden of Eden. Remember the Lord God had said to Adam and Eve concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, On the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt surely die (Gen. 2:17). When the serpent came tempting Eve, he said to her a flat and blatant lie. He said, You will not die, but over and over through the process of history, God has recorded how this has been shown to be what it is: a lie. And men have died ever since.

Here's a record of 1500 years of human history in which it's recorded eight times, ...and he died... and he died. But there's one exception to this list. About one man out of the nine, the divinely inspired penman is not able to write, ...and he died, for when it comes to the name Enoch, he must say, He was not, for God took him, and this marks Enoch as a most unusual man. As far as the bible record goes there were only two human beings in all of human history who were translated and did not die. One was Elijah, we looked at his life briefly a few Sundays ago, and the other one is Enoch - Elijah and Enoch. Furthermore there are only two men in the record of the bible of whom it is ever said that they walked with God. Now obviously many others did walk with God, as many as walk with God today, but it's only recorded of two men that they walked with God - Abraham and Enoch. And there are only two recorded instances in the scriptures where it is said that man pleased God. Only two men have it recorded of them that their lives pleased God. Now of course many others' lives have pleased God, but it's only written of two - Jesus and Enoch. And so this man takes his place in the highest rank of God's people, and for 300 years it's recorded of him that he walked with God.

There are three references in scripture to Enoch, and we want to look briefly at them - one in Genesis, one in Hebrews, and one in the little book of Jude, tucked in just before the book of Revelation. Each of these references adds a very distinctive note concerning this man. The first one here in Genesis 5 is a description which marks a change in this man's life. Let's read it:

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Gen 5:21-24 RSV)

Twice in that verse it is recorded of Enoch the supremely important thing about this man: he walked with God. But it's also recorded that he didn't always walk with God. For the first 65 years of his life, his life was no different than those around him. If you read the accounts of Genesis that center around this reference, you'll discover that the life which Enoch lived and the world in which he lived, though we regard it as back in the dawn of history, was in many ways not much different than the life that we live in the world in which we live today. It was perhaps not nearly as primitive as we imagine it to be, this world before the flood, for there are some very strong suggestions in the accounts in Genesis that this was a highly developed civilization before the flood. Certain of the marks that archaeologists have dug up from the ancient past would indicate that this is true, far more so than we generally suppose.

For instance, in the fourth chapter of Genesis we're told in verse 20 concerning those who lived in that day that there was a man named Jabal who was the father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle. And telescoped into that little reference is all that is involved in a highly domesticated life involving many of the physical and material comforts of life. There were tents; this suggests all that gathers around the thought of dwelling places, permanent places to live, homes and houses, and others. And cattle, which includes the ministering of physical needs and the highly developed material comforts that come from an agricultural economy such as we have just recently passed out from in our own nation here. Then it mentions Jubal, his brother, who was the father of all those who play on the lyre and the pipe. This strongly suggests a world which was given over to the development of music and the arts and culture, as we generally think of it. With them also was Tubal-Cain, who was the father of all those who deal in forged instruments of bronze and of iron, and that is suggestive of the mechanical age in which Enoch lived.

In all of this we see a civilization therefore that has the basic marks of our own day: culture and arts and music, with mechanical contrivances and conveniences, and all that goes with a domesticated culture and the comforts of living. And in the midst of this world this man Enoch lived for 65 years. The verse in scripture is very clear here, that for the first 65 years of his life he went right along with the thought of the men of his day who were, as we see from the other accounts of this era, trying to be happy without God.

Isn't that exactly what the world is trying to do today? All of our vaunted culture, all of our comforts, all of our civilization, all of our discoveries in the world of sciences and mechanics and conveniences is all centered largely on this idea of finding all that life holds without finding any necessary reference to God - an attempt to be happy without God. This is the direction, and this is the philosophy of the world of our day, as it was the world of Enoch's day.

For 65 years he went along with that, and then suddenly a change occurred. Perhaps you're thinking it was that he began to draw his social security payments at the age of 65. But I doubt very seriously if that's what's involved here, for the scriptures suggest a far more radical and revolutionary change that took place. After the first 65 years of this man's life there came a circumstance which caused him to turn right around. It was a right about-face, a dramatic change. In the midst of the same world given over to culture and art and mechanics, and so on, this man began to no longer walk with the world, but to walk with God. And for the next 300 years it's recorded of him, as the supreme value of his life that he walked with God.

I want to look at that a bit, and suggest certain things about what is meant by that turn. First of all I'd like to suggest that this was not literal, but figurative walking. I think some of us view the early patriarchs and some of these early fathers of scripture as supernatural men, legendary beings who lived in a totally different kind of world than we live in, and who had different experiences than we. But the whole tenor of the scripture is contrary to that, and to the effect that these men were of like passions with ourselves, and lived in the midst of the same kinds of problems and difficulties and circumstances. So that when it is said of Enoch that he walked with God, it does not mean that God appeared to him in any form at all, or that he saw him in any visible way, or that he took walks with such an incarnated personality. It simply means exactly what it means when we say of someone today, What a godly person, he walks with God.

It meant that Enoch, first of all, was going in the same direction that God is going. When you walk with somebody this is invariably involved; you must go in the same direction that they're going. And this certainly means this with regard to Enoch. He walked in the direction God is going.

Let me ask you: What direction is God going in? What is the direction in which God moves in human history? It's obvious to us as we read our daily newspapers and our news magazine and see the changing scene in which we live, that the one supreme characteristic of all human history has been that everything is in a constant state of change, a transition. Nothing is permanent. Even nature is continually changing. Mountains heave up and blow their tops, and earthquakes shake the ground and rearrange the landscape. And in history, movements are always sweeping through the masses of men and of nations, changing and shifting and sifting, radically altering the look of things so that we can hardly keep up with the constant change of life. This has always been true.

In the midst of that uncertainty and of that changeability and transitory character of time and history, God is nevertheless moving unreservedly, unswervingly, unhesitatingly in one single direction. What direction is it? Because that's the direction in which Enoch walked with God. We only need to turn to the scriptures or to life itself to see.

God is unhesitatingly moving always in the direction against sin, contrary to the principle of evil in human life. This is because the deepest fact about God is that he's a God of love. His love, like a burning fire, is continually blazing out against anything that destroys, brutalizes, harms and blasts the humanity that He loves. And because God loves us He is forever unhesitatingly against everything that destroys within it.

If we walk with God, we will walk always against these things, against this principle of independence, this destroying principle of rebelliousness, against a sense of dependence continually upon God. That's the direction God moves in human history. We read in Ephesians that the end will be when He gathers all things together in Him in Christ, brought back into unity, into subjection under the only One who has the right that all things should be in subjection to him.

When it's said of Enoch that he walked with God it means he went in the same direction, and it also meant that he kept step with God. For after all that's what a walk is, a series of steps. And these steps must be concurrently. You can't walk by taking a step today, and another one six months from today, and then another one six months later. That's not a walk. I don't know what that's called, almost paralysis, isn't it?

A walk is a series of steps taken one succeeding another. That's all. And everyone of us in this congregation knows what it means to take a step toward God. We've done it at times. But that's not a walk. A walk is a series of steps taken day after day, after day, after day with God. Progression, and therefore activity, for the one thing that's obvious about human history is that God is at work, and when I say work I mean He's at work. He's working, He's active, He's changing, He's affecting, He's moving. He's not stagnant. He's not simply sitting still.

One of the distressing things to me about Christian understanding of the truth is that, oftentimes, when we begin to move out of the initial areas of Christian life, those initial stages of understanding what it means to have our sins forgiven, to have peace with God, a hope of the future and access to Him by grace, and so on, and we move into that glorious area of truth, which gathers around the indwelling life of Jesus Christ, and the fact that our activity is no longer to be our activity, but His activity in us. One of the distressing things is that so many Christians stop short of the complete teaching of that if God is going to be at work in us then there's nothing for us to do. That all we do is sit and wait for Him to act. And I know Christians, unfortunately, who have been sitting waiting now for months, waiting for God to move them in some way.

It always reminds me of that story, that an old southern evangelist used to tell, about a man who went out in the woods to chop down a tree. After an hour or so a friend came by and found him leaning against the tree without a stroke having been taken yet. The man said to him, What are you waiting for He said, I'm waiting 'til I start to sweat. You see, God's activity, the full orbit of that truth is that God is working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and that the willing of our hearts is His willing. That's what we need to know.

Therefore, start doing something, meeting some needs around you. Move out. God is in you to work, both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Therefore any moving with God is a continual life of activity for God. It's taking on every responsibility that seems to show up before us, or as much as we can, at least. It's moving out to meet needs that are immediately before us.

I think of the story of D.L. Moody, who had a man in his church in Chicago. He was always asking him to take on some new opportunity, some new activity, or some new responsibility. The man would say, Well, I don't know - I'm aiming to do that. Finally D.L. Moody said, Sir, you've been aiming long enough. It's about time you fired. This is exactly what it means to walk with God. It means to move, to begin to get involved, to move out and take on responsibility, for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Furthermore for Enoch it meant that there was agreement with God. It's one thing to be in agreement with the divine direction of God through history – we can all nod our heads at this and say, Yes, we're against sin, but to walk means to walk in step with another in which there's full agreement as to the particular step. It meant that there was no controversy between Enoch and God, that he wasn't agreeing to the general provision of God's moving, but actually resisting him in the immediate step. It meant the total collapse of all revolt against his will, and the cessation of any resistance to what he felt immediately this very day God was wanting him to do. He kept in step.

Walking is exactly, of course, the activity to which we are called in the New Testament, isn't it? Walk as children of light, Paul said. Walk worthy of God; Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. This is the very thing we're called to do.

For 300 years Enoch walked with God, and the end was he was not, for God took him. What does that mean? There are many who have puzzled over that expression, wondered if he just simply disappeared and nobody could find him, perished out in the wilderness. But let the New Testament flash its light upon this. If you turn to Hebrews, the eleventh chapter, that great listing of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, you'll find another reference to Enoch that illuminates this for us.

Chapter 11, verse 5 we read:

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him. (Heb. 11:5-6 RSV)

In the old version it says he was translated, by faith he was translated that he should not see death (Heb 11:5 KJV). In my days as a student in seminary we used to say that Enoch was translated by faith, but it takes work to translate Hebrew and Greek, and so it does.

I love the story of the little Sunday school girl who after Sunday school said to her mother one day, Mother, we heard about the most wonderful man in Sunday school today. His name was Enoch, and he used to go on long walks with God. One day they walked so far that God said to him, It's too far for you to go back, you better come home with Me now. And he just walked on home with God.

That's exactly what this implies. Now why was this man taken without seeing death? Of all the long line of humanity, which has followed Him, why is he the great exception? Well, it's told to us very clearly. It is given to us, said very plainly that he should not see death, that's why he was taken. In order that he should not see death. But what does this mean to us? Is this a promise that if we walk with God we shall never die? Yes, in a sense it is. You remember those words of Jesus: I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

There's a sense in which this is clearly true, that when we walk with God we never really see physical death. But let me suggest something else. Is this not a lesson on the physical level intended to illustrate for us something on the spiritual level, such as we find so frequently in scripture? We are told very plainly that Enoch was lifted up, translated, taken in order that he would not see death, and death, as you know, in scripture has a double meaning. There's that word death which means, of course, as in the case of most of the bible characters, the end of life, the cessation of the body's existence. But it also has the meaning of the end of life, such as abundant life, such as we describe really living. Therefore it means futility, and barrenness, dullness, drabness, meaninglessness and emptiness. That's death. That's what it means in Romans 7 and Romans 8, The mind of the flesh is death, drabness, barrenness, emptiness. The question that this brings before us is this: Am I, are you living in death even as a Christian, because we do not walk with God?

Enoch's life is a testimony to us that if we walk with God we shall not see death. That the answer to barrenness, drabness and dullness is this daily stepping out by faith on the promises of God, this daily testing of his promises of his presence, and reckoning upon them. Unless, you see, we make demands upon His glory and His greatness, how else can we learn that we can never touch bottom with Him? And it was by faith that Enoch walked with God, by testing what God said, by reckoning Him true, and discovering it was true as he stepped out upon it.

Now let me come to the third thing about this man: Faith always requires a previous revelation. Do we have a hint of any revelation given to Enoch? Well, turn to the book of Jude. In Jude, the fourteenth verse, we have the third reference in scripture to this man Enoch, and here we see a prediction which supplies a motive. Verse 14, Jude is speaking of the apostates, those who have left their faith, wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness is reserved forever. He says in verse 14,

It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 14-15 RSV)

That's what Enoch saw. Looking forward, he saw a time of judgment and a coming of the Lord to judge the earth. I'm convinced that this is not the second coming of Christ. What he saw was the flood coming upon the world of his own day, and as he looked he saw the direction of the divine movement through history. He looked on to the end of the world of culture and comforts, and of the mechanical marvels of his day, to the day when God would judge among men the principle of evil that was at work through all these things.

When he saw this, he saw the certainty of the destruction of a world aiming to please itself. When he saw what God was doing, and how resistless are the movements of God, how irresistible is his march through history to bring things to judgment that are opposed to him, Enoch began to walk with God.

When was this revelation given? Well, we can answer that. Remember back in Genesis 5 it told us specifically. It was at the birth of his first child, when Methuselah was born. How do I know that? Because of what he named that boy, for the name Methuselah is a most interesting name. It means, literally, from the Hebrew when he dies, it will come. When he dies, it will come.

If you take your pencil and figure out from the listing of the ages given of the patriarchs there, you will see that the year Methuselah died, 969 years later, the oldest man in history, that very same year, the flood came. The earth broke open. The fountains of the deep were open, the whole surface of the earth changed. The windows of Heaven were opened and the rain was poured out, when the waters welled from the deep, and the earth was destroyed by water. When he dies, it will come. So that God gave, in the birth of that baby, a revelation to Enoch, and he reflected it in the name of the child.

He didn't know how long that child was going to live. It's a token of the mighty grace of God that that boy, who was a sign to Enoch, was the oldest man that ever lived. God preserved judgment that long. But Enoch didn't know how long he was going to live; he only knew that as long as that child lived, God was restraining judgment. God's grace was moving among men. And that was the thing that kept him always remembering, always walking with God day after day, after day.

Do you know that each of us stands this morning right where Enoch stood? God has given you a life to watch as Enoch watched the life of that boy. Can you imagine how every day when that boy would go out Enoch would wonder if he'd come back alive? How every day as he watched him grow up he wondered how much longer he would live? When he dies, it will come...

And God has given you a life to watch, and me a life to watch; it's my own life, your own life. We don't know how long it's going to last. How far is it to the world's end for you, do you know? 50 years? 30, 10? 2? Perhaps tomorrow; perhaps this afternoon. But when that dies, it will come - the end of all things, the end of all man, the end of all that man has made and all that man has done - and only what God has done will survive.

Do you feel this in Enoch, here? Does this move you to begin to reckon upon the supervening grace of God, and to walk with Him? To see life as He sees it, to look at it through His perspective, to begin day after day walking; walking endless steps with God in the direction against sin, against rebelling, against independence, into a dependence with Him that pleases God.


What a surprising thing this is, Father, to see in this man of old and ancient past such a vivid picture of Thy workings with us in our own lives today. Lord, as we see something of the brevity of life, the uncertainty of it, how this should call again our attention to this day walking with Thee. And as we come now to close this service, gathering about the table of the Lord, may we remember that here, in this meaningful ceremony which we enter into this morning, is inculcated all the marvelous principles of a life of dependence, which is so contrary to that independent spirit that flourishes in the world. As we eat the bread and drink the cup may we thus recognize that our very life is dependent on Thee. Our activity on all that we do must come from Thee, Lord, eating Thy bread, eating Thy flesh, drinking Thy life, we ask in Jesus' name, Amen.