Read Genesis 5: 18-24 & Hebrews 11: 1-7 and then pray; O Lord my God, help me to understand your holy Word so that I may walk more closely with you, pleasing you, and glorifying your name. Amen!

Have you noticed how Old Testament names have come back into fashion? Perhaps some of your children or grand-children have been given a name of an Old Testament character? Noah is back in vogue. So are the names Joshua, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, and Elijah. I have not come across a Methuselah yet, nor I have I heard of a baby Enoch, but maybe I will. I am perhaps more likely to meet an Enoch in the USA than in the UK because Americans love their biblical names.

Do you realise that biblical names can produce an opportunity for witness? When talking with someone about their child’s name, you could discuss with them the meaning of the name of their child, and it may be possible to begin a fruitful conversation about the bible and Christian faith. Joshua for example means “God is deliverance” and this is where the name Jesus stems from. Elijah, who I will briefly mention later means “Jehovah is my God.” I am sure you could have a spiritual conversation about the meaning of that name – one of the greatest OT prophets, the prophet who stood alongside Jesus and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration. It is amazing how a spiritual conversation can spark into life, and what it can lead to. It could lead to someone embracing faith in God, could it not?

Today, we will focus on Enoch and his great faith. After Abel, he appears next on the list of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Enoch’s name means “dedicated, trained, skilled.” That is not a bad choice of name for one who was to become such a hero of faith and such a “legend” in Jewish apocalyptic literature. Jews seem to appreciate and know a lot more about Enoch than Christians do, but I hope to change that today. Has anyone ever heard a sermon on Enoch? Today you will!

There is not a lot of information in the bible about Enoch but what there is fascinating and inspiring. His story is found in Genesis 5: 18-24, and we also have the verse in Hebrews 11:5 based on the Genesis 5 passage. Enoch is also mentioned in the small NT book of Jude – Jude v 14 f. Jude points out that Enoch was 7th generation from Adam. Enoch was also the great grandfather of the outstanding Noah.

Why does Enoch himself stand out in biblical history, and why is he one of the great heroes of faith? Enoch is famous for his sudden translation or transferral from earth to heaven. To use the colloquial language of the Street Bible, Enoch “side-stepped death” to enter straight into heaven. Enoch did not die physically but was simply taken by God. (Genesis 5:25, Hebrews 5:5). Only one other person in the whole of biblical history was removed by God before their death and that was the stand-out maverick prophet – Elijah, the prophet whose name means “Jehovah is my God.” His departure from earth is dramatically described in 2 Kings:2: 11-12. Elijah was “taken” away from his servant Elisha by a whirlwind in a chariot of fire. Elisha mourned his Master’s departure, but took up his cloak, received  Elijah’s spirit and then walked in the way of his great mentor. For two OT heroes to be “taken” in such a way must mean that there was something special about them because this was exceptional.

Why was Enoch “taken” by Almighty God? When we hear of Enoch being “taken” in this great chapter on faith in Hebrews 11, he was not “taken” because of his faith. Rather, he was taken because of what his faith led to. What we are taught here is that Enoch was “taken” because he pleased God. In Genesis, the emphasis is placed on the fact that Enoch walked with God. Putting the two points together is helpful. Enoch’s close walk with God, pleased God so much, that God decided to remove him from the earth before he died – long before he would have naturally died. He was taken when he was 365 years old. (Genesis 5:23) Enoch demonstrated his faith by the way he walked with God and pleased God! Faith leads to a God-pleasing life. This is the key point being made in Hebrews 11: 5-6. Read it again.

There was something very special about this man Enoch. In a world where evil and wickedness was on the rise and beginning to rage out of control (Genesis 6:5), Enoch managed to walk in very close communion with a holy God for 300 years. He enjoyed such a close relationship with God from the point when his son was born. The birth of his son had a sobering and powerful effect upon his life and marked a very significant turning point for Enoch. He started to walk with God as never before! The sight of his baby boy made him think about his responsibilities before God. The creation and birth of a child can and often does speak to a mother and father about God’s existence and creative power, and can therefore stir up faith within the heart.

This idea of “walking” together speaks of close extremely friendship, communion, and a profound love which produces spiritual life and energy. Enoch cherished the idea of walking closely with God throughout his life. Adam and Eve had of course walked in close unspoilt fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden before they sinned. But this is now after the fall of Adam and Eve, and the challenge to walk closely with God was much greater. Enoch though, stood out, as one who walked closely with the God who is complete Light. Enoch walked in “the light” of God’s presence and will. He walked so closely with God after the birth of his first son Methuselah, that he rarely, if ever, moved away from God’s will for his life. He therefore delighted God. He pleased God immensely. God took real pleasure in Enoch’s walk and the fellowship He was able to enjoy with this devoted man of faith.

The most important thing in Enoch’s life was pleasing God – doing God’s will and walking in God’s way – the way of His Word. Enoch loved God’s company – and would not allow any personal sin or distraction to threaten his precious and loving walk with God. We know that nothing came between Jesus and His Father in heaven – except the sin of the world that came upon Jesus on the cross. It seems that nothing came between Enoch and God. Some words from the Psalms may help us to understand what Enoch felt about the profound joy of knowing and walking with God’s presence, God’s friendship, and God’s light.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Who have I in heaven but you, and earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”  (Psalm 73: 23-28)

That could only be written by someone who walked very closely with God like the Psalmist, and Enoch would have been able to exclaim “Amen” to those prayerful words.

Psalm 63 v 1-8 and Psalm 84 v 1-2, 10-12 are passages that may help you to understand the heart-cry and heart-focus of this man Enoch. Study them.

In order to sum up Enoch, we have to say – that he was a man who loved the company of God and the will of God more than everything else in this world. Whose company do you enjoy and savour the most in terms of human friendships? And how much do you love and cherish the friendship of God and the company of God? Can you say, from your heart, the famous prayer of St. Richard of Chichester;

Thanks be to Thee, My Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast won for me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

The main point of today’s sermon in the context of Hebrews 11:5 is this; true faith ALWAYS leads a person into being passionate about pleasing God, uncompromising in performong the will of God, and dedicated to enjoying and cherishing the company of God. How does this thought about true faith challenge your faith and your position before God today?

I mentioned last week about the great benefits that can be gained by reading Christian biographies. All the most outstanding Christians have prioritised pleasing God, walking with God, knowing, and enjoying the presence and friendship of God. We should be inspired to follow their example and imitate their faith. They were attempting to walk in the footsteps of Enoch and many others.

Paul exhorts the Ephesian saints to “find out what pleases God.” (Ephesians 5:10) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5: 8-12 & Jude v14f)

We have considered how much Enoch loved God’s company. He desired nothing “on earth” more than the pleasure of God’s company and friendship. But the truly the staggering thing which should take our breath away is this; God enjoyed Enoch’s company just as much as Enoch enjoyed God’s. The feeling was mutual. God enjoyed walking with Enoch who pleased him so much. God loved Enoch’s life, friendship, and loyalty. God was “well pleased” with this man, and loved his company….

so much so ……

that God decided to take him before he died and transfer him to heaven. For Enoch this would only mean a change of home not a change in company. The Puritan John Trapp puts this beautifully when he writes;

He changed his place but not his company, for he still walked with God, as in earth, so in heaven.

The fellowship, close friendship, love, and joy continued – just in a different place – a place of perfect bliss, light, glory, peace, and joy. Enoch gained entrance into the nearer presence of God – although he had enjoyed nearness to God on earth. Now fellowship would be completely untarnished. I repeat – God loved Enoch’s company so much that he “took him.” Does not that fill you with wonder and amazement? The fact that Enoch could form such a loving and intimate friendship with Almighty God.

That this awesome God, invisible, almighty, glorious, and splendid in holiness, could cherish the company of such a small human life! Wow! But that is the potential that lies within all humanity – for all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God – (Genesis 5:1-2), and each of us can walk closely with God and enjoy the company of God, and God can enjoy our company. Yes – your company! This is what Jesus came to re-establish and make possible through his death for our sin. We are the crown of His creation (Psalm 8:3-9), yet because of sin and selfishness, we have fallen so far away from the God who made us and loves us. Enoch chose to say no to sin and selfishness. He rose, and with dedication, training, and focus, for that is what his name means, he walked with Almighty God on this earth. He pleased God. He kept company with God – and God loved his company. Do we love and deeply value God’s company? Do we cherish God for who He is rather than for what He gives?

Sometimes people are eager point out things that they find worrying about the bible text? Here is one of them? Wasn’t it unfair of God to take Enoch away from his family? The answer is no. He had already lived for 365 years (Genesis 5:23) and that is long enough for any wife to have to put with a husband, and long enough for any child or grandchild or great grandchild to enjoy the presence and wisdom of an older relative. God decided to take him, and that was God’s prerogative. Others might ask – how could people like Enoch and all these others mentioned in Genesis 5 who link Adam to Noah, live so long anyway? Remember – Enoch was only the 7th generation from Adam himself. When Adam sinned – death came upon him and the world and all who would follow. But even though spiritual death and separation from God’s presence came immediately (Genesis 3:24), physical death was something, that at least for the historical period between the fall and the great flood, did not begin quite so quickly. This is mysterious but we need not be overly perturbed by it. The number of years assigned for human life fell gradually, and then at the time of Noah and the flood – they fell rapidly due to God’s edict and judgement on corrupt humankind. (Genesis 6: 1-3). Now, in our day and age – and to the end of this age, we are down to three score and ten years, or eighty or so if we still have the strength. (Psalm 90: 10-12). We should aim to use these years wisely and prepare to for what lies beyond death.

God took Enoch because God was pleased with his life and faith, and God so enjoyed Enoch’s company. That is how I see this amazing text in Hebrews 11:5 and Genesis 5:24.

I am also helped to see it this way because of Jesus and his glorious ascension and the wonderfully close relationship Jesus shared with His Father. Do you ever think about our Lord’s ascension? You should do? After his death and resurrection, and after a further 40 days with his chosen disciples, Christ ascended into heaven. The details are in Acts 1. God took him! The Father took His Son home. The Son returned to where he had come from. As the Father raised his Son from death – so the Father “took” the Son back to heaven. God took his Son with whom he was well pleased. You do not need to know “how God did it” – (again there is some mystery) you just need to know that God did it!

And what we also need to be aware of, is that there is a day coming when Jesus will return. He is coming back. He is coming to judge the world in righteousness and in truth. Jesus is also coming for his own people. It is possible that we too could be “taken” like Enoch was, should we be alive when our Saviour returns. He is coming back for his own and his own will be taken – hence Paul’s teaching in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18. Please read!

As a Christian, you either die “in Christ” and go to be with him after death, or if alive when He returns – you will be “caught up” and “taken” into glory at that moment. If alive when He returns, you will avoid physical death and be instantly glorified with all the saints. (1 Corinthians 15: 50-57) This will happen in the twinkling of an eye. Again, we accept this by faith – despite any mysterious element.

It seems to me therefore, that the best thing any sensible human being can do is to be ready for the return of Christ, and to be ready for death here on earth. The bible urges us to be “ready” for both death and the second coming of His Son – whichever occurs first. Prepare for both through exercising faith and by pleasing and honouring God now!

This is a good point to end the sermon, because I can close by sharing some of the most piercing words that ever came from the lips of Jesus – words in which Jesus himself refers to people being “taken”, and words that reference Noah – who is the next man of faith listed in Hebrews 11, and who was the great grandfather of Enoch. It seems that Noah took after his great grandfather in terms of his faith and he too walked closely with God. (Genesis 6: 8-10). Here is what Christ said about his own personal return to earth. These words come from Matthew 24: 36-42.

And to our God, whose company Enoch and Noah prized above all else, be all the glory, honour, and praise.

(Revd Peter J Clarkson – 21.8.22)