THE MAN WHO WAS TAKEN AWAY
Hebrews 11:5-6 (Disciple’s Literal New Testament)
“By faith Enoch was removed, so as not to see death: “And he was not found because God removed him”. For before the removal, he has been attested to have pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For the one coming-to God must believe that He is, and He becomes the rewarder to the ones seeking Him out.”
I am returning to the series on the heroes of faith that I started on November 15th of last year. In that sermon, I looked at Abel, whose story is told in Hebrews 11:1-4. He was a man who had a very short life, but he did not throw away his one shot. When he had the opportunity to demonstrate faith, he did it.
Today I am going to talk about Enoch. Now, there are three myths about Enoch, and the first time I wrote this sermon, I spent the whole time dispelling them. I dumped that sermon, and rewrote it yesterday. Every thing I said in it was true, but it is just not what I need to say about living a life of faith. Here is a summary of that message:
• Enoch did not go to heaven. The Bible says that no one has gone to heaven except Jesus. Neither Genesis nor Hebrews claims that Enoch was an exception.
• Enoch did not become immortal. The Bible says “in Adam all die” and that includes Enoch, who was the seventh generation from Adam. In fact, not one of these heroes of faith mentioned in this chapter became immortal. Hebrews 11:13 said “All these died in faith” – including Enoch. Enoch was removed so as not to see death – not his own death, but the death of his descendants in the flood.
• Enoch was not sinless. His personal righteousness was not what made him different from everybody else in his day. Genesis 5:24. says he “walked with God.” To walk with God is to have a relationship with him. How did Enoch get that relationship? Genesis does not say.
But Hebrews does. Hebrews 11 says that Enoch pleased God because of his faith. The gospel tells us that we too can please God by putting our faith in him. All you have to do is believe that God exists, and believe that he rewards the ones who seek him out.
The question I want to address in today’s sermon is this: What choices did Enoch make that set him apart from his generation as a person of faith?
Enoch chose to believe in God.
Our text says that “the one coming-to God must believe that He is” and Enoch did that. He lived in a generation that was turning its back on its creator, and he chose to acknowledge God instead.
All of these Heroes of faith that the author of Hebrews lists are remembered for different reasons. But one thing that is true of each one of them is that he or she chose to believe in God when others chose to ignore or reject him.
The disciples saw Jesus curse a fig tree. They saw the tree wither and die before their eyes. Peter thought “wow, look at that.” Jesus said “Have faith in God.” It’s not about a dead tree. It’s about a living God. That’s why Jesus used that opportunity to teach them about praying to God and expecting forgiveness from God. The same power that can destroy a tree and remove a mountain can also forgive sins. He is God, and our first choice must be to believe in him.
Enoch chose to seek God.
Our text refers to “the one coming-to God” and “the ones seeking Him out.” When his generation was seeking everything but God, Enoch was seeking the God who created everything. Ours is a generation very much like that in which Enoch lived. We have scientists who dedicate their lives to knowledge so that they can solve the world’s problems. But these very same people have often turned their back on the one who holds everything together by his wisdom and power.
The Wise Men came to Herod seeking Jesus, but soon discovered that he was not there, so they set out for Bethlehem. If they had turned back and returned home after Jerusalem, we would not know about them. They were truly wise men because they kept seeking for Jesus until they found him.
Enoch was like that. He heard about God from his parents. He heard stories about God passed on by oral tradition. But he was not satisfied with that. He wanted to have a personal experience with God.
Brothers and sisters, please don’t let family or tradition be your only reason for identifying as Christians. Seek a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ!
Enoch chose to please God.
Our text says that “he has been attested to have pleased God.” When the generation all around him were choosing to disappoint God, he was choosing to please God.
The apostle Paul told the Roman Christians that those who are in the flesh cannot please God because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7-8). He commended the Thessalonians because they were living by the instructions that he gave them, and that obedience was pleasing God (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
So, we learn from both testaments that pleasing God is possible. But in Paul’s generation and in Enoch’s generation, the natural inclination of people’s hearts was against it. Pleasing God will not come naturally. It has to be a conscious choice to go against the grain.
Enoch chose to be faithful to God.
Genesis tells us that Enoch “walked with God.” His generation had chosen to walk away from God. They had the opportunity to have a relationship with their creator and to leave a legacy of blessing and hope. But it was not to be. Their refusal to walk with God would bring death and destruction.
But Enoch’s choice to walk with God meant that he would be removed. By God’s grace, he would not live to see the devastation and destruction cause by his generation’s rebellion.
But what did it mean for Enoch to walk with God. He did not have the Bible. He did not have a church or temple. He did not have the Law or the gospel.
What did he know about walking with God? He only knew that his ancestors had heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they had hidden themselves from his presence among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). Sin had kept Adam and Even from seeking God and from walking with him.
Enoch chose to come out of hiding and walk with his God. He faced his own fears and guilt and decided that his own imperfections were not going to keep him from fellowship with the Perfect One.
That is walking by faith. It is being faithful to the God who wants us to walk with him. God’s presence in the garden was an invitation. Sin kept Adam and Eve from answering the invitation. Faith enabled Enoch to answer God’s invitation for a walk.
Enoch chose to trust God for his eternal destiny.
Enoch believed that God “becomes the rewarder to the ones seeking Him out.”
Besides Genesis 5, the genealogies, and Hebrews 11, the only other biblical reference to Enoch is a prophesy he gave about the Lord coming in judgment. That prophecy is recorded in the book of Jude. So, Enoch had the spiritual insight to understand that some day God was going to judge the world.
We don’t know what Enoch believed about his personal destiny. But if he believed that the ungodly were going to be judged, he must have also believed that the faithful would be rewarded. In today’s text, the author of Hebrews gives Enoch as a witness to God as a rewarder.
One day, Enoch is going to walk with God again – and forever. God offers you and me the same invitation. He knows we have sinned and fall short of his glory. We don’t deserve to have fellowship with him. But he has sent his Son as a sacrifice to atone for our sin, so that we can once again not only enter his presence, but walk with him.
Jesus instructed John to write a letter to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6. He said that the city had a few people who had not stained their clothing by hypocrisy. He promised them that he would not erase their names from the book of life, but confess their names before his Father. He also promised them that they would some day walk with him in white clothing.
We were created to go for a walk, and for that walk to never end. Have you started your walk with God yet?