Enoch: Believing God’s Goodness

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Hebrews 11:5-6

INTRODUCTION: We are continuing in our message series on “Growing in Faith.” Here’s what we have learned so far. In week one we learned that faith is being certain of what you do not see. In week two we looked at creation and understanding the power of God’s word. Last week we looked at Abel and giving God the first portion.

Today we look at Enoch and believing God’s goodness. So, let’s look at verses 5-6 together now. (Read Hebrews 11:5-6 and pray) “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:5-6)

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Do you believe God’s goodness? Do you believe that God is good, that he loves you, that he is for you, that he is on your side? I mean, do you really believe that? Even when life seems against you, do you believe that God is for you?

The reason I ask is that not everyone believes in God’s goodness.

1) Some people doubt God’s goodness because they don’t believe in God at all. They say, “I don’t see God; therefore, I don’t believe in him.” Well, remember, faith is being certain of realities that you do not see. And even though you cannot see God with your physical eyes, God is real, and he is there. We talked about the evidence for a creator a couple weeks ago when we looked at Hebrews 11:3. And although we said that we understand the act of creation by faith because none of us was there to see it, the creation itself provides clear and concrete evidence for the existence of God the Creator.

2) And then, some people doubt God’s goodness because they do not think that God is actively involved in the world he created. They believe God created the world but then left it on its own, sort of like winding up a giant watch, and then leaving it to wind down by itself. They say, “Well, of course there must be a God who created this all, but I don’t believe that God has any interest in or concern for us as people.” They figure God is so big and beyond that he wouldn’t care for us any more than we do for tiny little ants scurrying across the ground. They believe in God’s existence, but they do not believe in God’s active goodness to man.

3) And then, other people doubt God’s goodness because of evil and suffering in the world. They look at evil and suffering and say, “If God was truly good, then he would not allow all this evil and suffering to take place. He would do something about it.” For some of these people it is the big picture of evil and suffering that bothers them: wars, famines, earthquakes and diseases. For many others the problem of evil and suffering is intensely personal. They have experienced evil firsthand or they have personally suffered in some deep way, and as a result they have come to doubt the goodness of God.

Believing God’s goodness is basic to what faith is all about. Many people say they believe that God is good, but they do not live as if it were true. Remember one of our principles of faith is that true faith always expresses itself in action. So, unless we live as though God were really good, then we do not truly believe it.

This is where Enoch comes in. Enoch serves as an example of someone who truly believed God’s goodness, and therefore, he lived it out in his life. So, let’s take a closer look at Enoch and at what the Bible tells us about his faith and then how that applies to us today.

I. By faith Enoch went straight to heaven without dying (5a)

First of all, the Bible tells us that by faith Enoch went straight to heaven without dying. We read in Hebrews 11:5: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.” (Hebrews 11:5a) This tells us two things that Enoch accomplished by his faith. Enoch did not experience death, and God took Enoch directly from this life into heaven.

   A. Enoch did not experience death
      – Genesis 5:21-24; Romans 3:23, 5:12, 6:23

First of all, Enoch did not experience death. We first read about Enoch in Genesis 5, so let’s turn back there now. Genesis 5 gives us the genealogical line stretching from Adam to Noah. Enoch is listed as the seventh generation from Adam, so that would make him Adam’s great, great, great, great grandson – that’s four greats!

Verses 21-24 record Enoch’s place in the genealogy, so let’s look at those verses together. Genesis 5:21-24: “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:21-24)

As you read through the whole genealogy in Genesis 5, you will find that Enoch’s account is unique for a number of reasons. If you look at all the other persons named in the genealogy, you will notice that the genealogy follows a set pattern for each person. First, we read the person’s name and how many years they lived before they had the child who is named next in the genealogy. Then we read how many years the person lived after they had the child who is named next in the genealogy. We read that they had other sons and daughters. And then, finally, we come to this phrase: “Altogether, so-and-so lived so many years, and then he died.” It is the exact same pattern for every single person in the genealogy – except for Enoch.

When you come to Enoch, you find two important differences from all the other persons listed in the genealogy. One of them is this mysterious phrase at the end of verse 24: “Then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24) And then, the second difference is the phrase: “Enoch walked with God.” We will look at that one a little bit later, but for right now I want us to concentrate on this phrase at the end of verse 24: “Then he was no more, because God took him away.”

According to the pattern in the rest of the genealogy we would expect this final phrase to read, “Altogether, Enoch lived so many years, and then he died.” Instead we get: “Enoch was no more, because God took him away.” The implication here is that Enoch never suffered physical death, and Hebrews 11:5 confirms this for us: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death.” (Hebrews 11:5)

Now that is an amazing accomplishment that warrants a closer look, because we know death as the common lot for all of us. We even have a saying that two things are inevitable – death and taxes. (Makes you wonder if Enoch paid taxes, right?) Everyone dies, some sooner than others, but everyone dies.

We know from the Bible that the reason everyone dies is because everyone sins. The book of Romans in the New Testament is clear about this. Romans 3:23 says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Romans 5:12 says: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

Well if everyone sins, and if everyone who sins dies, then why didn’t Enoch die? Was it because Enoch never sinned? No, because everyone sins. The only person who walked this earth who never sinned was Jesus Christ, and even Jesus experienced death!

Now think about it, why would Jesus, who never sinned, experience death, while Enoch, who did sin, did not experience death? What’s up with that? The answer, or couse, is this. Jesus did not have to die. Jesus was sinless, and therefore Jesus was not under the curse of death. But Jesus willingly took our sins upon himself and chose to die in order to save us.

Enoch was a sinner like all other men, and therefore Enoch was under the curse of death. If God had not taken him, Enoch would most assuredly have died for his sin. But by his extraordinary faith, Enoch did not experience physical death. That’s the first thing he accomplished by faith. Enoch did not experience death. That’s amazing!

   B. God took Enoch directly from this life into heaven
      – 2 Kings 2:1-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:17

The second thing Enoch accomplished by his faith was this: God took Enoch directly from this life into heaven. Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life …; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.” It is one thing to be spared the experience of death. It is another to go directly from this life into heaven. The word “taken” in verse 5 is a word that means “to transfer or to change.” It refers to Enoch being transferred directly from earth to heaven without ever dying.

There is only one other person in the Bible who never died, and that was the prophet Elijah. Elijah, like Enoch, was also taken directly from this life into heaven. The book of 2 Kings describes how God “took” Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2:3,5) 2 Kings uses the exact same word for “took” as we find here in Genesis 5: “God took Enoch away.” (Genesis 5:24) It is a word which means “to seize or to snatch away.”

Interestingly, we find a similar word in the New Testament which describes the coming rapture of the church. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:17: “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) That word “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians also means “to seize or to snatch away.” The Latin Vulgate translated this phrase “caught up or snatched away” with the word “rapio.” The Latin word “rapio” is the word from which we get our English word “rapture.”

So, were Enoch and Elijah both “raptured” then? In a sense, yes. They were both “caught up” directly to heaven without ever experiencing death. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 teaches that those of us who are still alive when Christ returns will also be raptured. We too will be taken directly from earth without ever experiencing death. And so, the taking of Enoch and Elijah into heaven foreshadows this great event that will take place at the second coming of Christ.

Hebrews 11:5 tells us that Enoch “could not be found, because God had taken him away.” The tense of that verb “could not be found” in the original language indicates that people looked for him over a period of time, but they could not find him. Apparently, one day Enoch was there, and then suddenly he was gone. They kept looking for him everywhere, but they couldn’t find him.

The same thing happened with Elijah after he was taken up to heaven. The Bible tells us that fifty men searched for Elijah for three days, but they could not find him either, because the Lord had taken him away. (2 Kings 2:17)

And so, by faith Enoch accomplished two amazing things: He did not experience death, and God took him directly from this life into heaven. By faith Enoch went straight to heaven without dying!

II. We know that Enoch had faith because he was commended as one who pleased God (5b-6a)

So, how do we know that these things happened to Enoch because of his faith? How do we know that God didn’t do this for some other reason? We know that Enoch had faith because he was commended as one who pleased God. Look at Hebrews 11:5b-6a: “For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:5b-6a)

This is the third time in Hebrews chapter eleven that we have come across this word “commended.” We saw it in verse two where the Old Testament believers were commended for their faith. We saw it in verse four where Abel was commended as a righteous man for his faith. And now here in verse five Enoch is commended as one who pleased God. We will find it again in verse 39 at the end of the chapter as a summary statement of all the people listed in the chapter where we read: “these were all commended for their faith.” (Hebrews 11:39)

   A. Enoch “walked with God”
      – Amos 3:3

We know that Enoch had faith because he was commended as one who pleased God. The word “pleased” here means “to be well pleasing or acceptable.” So, where in the Bible are we told that Enoch pleased God?

Remember back in Genesis 5 we said that there were two important differences between Enoch’s genealogy and all the other persons’ genealogies? We already looked at the first difference: all the other persons died, but God took Enoch away.

We said that the second difference has to do with the phrase “Enoch walked with God.” All the other genealogies say, “So-and-so lived so many years and had other sons and daughters,” but Genesis 5:22 says this: “Enoch walked with God [so many] years and had other sons and daughters.” And then verse 24 repeats the phrase for emphasis: “Enoch walked with God.”

The book of Genesis makes it clear that this is the reason why God took Enoch directly from this life into heaven. If Enoch had not walked with God, he would certainly not have been spared death.

Genesis 5 says that Enoch “walked with God.” Hebrews 11 says that Enoch “pleased God.” Different words, but in context they both mean the same thing. Back in the time of Christ there was a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. The Septuagint actually translates this Hebrew phrase in Genesis, “Enoch walked with God,” with the words “Enoch pleased God.” And so, Hebrews 11 is simply picking up on the Septuagint’s translation here.

You might wonder, how is walking with God the same thing as pleasing God? Think about it. Walking with someone implies agreement, relationship and a common direction. Amos 3:3 asks the question: “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3) You don’t walk with someone unless you are in agreement with them. If you are not in agreement, you don’t walk with them. You walk away!

And so, to walk with God means to agree with God, to be in relationship with God, to walk in God’s ways, to follow alongside him. Think of the disciples who walked with Jesus. They went wherever Jesus went. They followed his direction, not theirs. To walk with God is to go with God, to seek God’s direction rather than yours, to trust that his way is best. And that is pleasing to God.

Christianity is not a set of rules or regulations. It is a living relationship with a loving God, and you walk with him day by day. Enoch walked faithfully with God for 300 years! Only two men have ever entered heaven without dying, Enoch and Elijah. Just think how pleased God must have been with Enoch’s life! Enoch walked with God. Therefore, Enoch was commended as one who pleased God.

   B. Without faith it is impossible to please God
      – Isaiah 64:6

Hebrews 11:6 goes on to say, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” In other words, the fact that Enoch was commended as one who pleased God is the proof or the demonstration of his faith. Why? Because without faith it is impossible to please God. This is another vitally important principle concerning faith, that without faith you cannot please God. It is “impossible.”

The word “impossible” here carries the idea of powerlessness. When it comes to pleasing God, you and I are powerless apart from faith. We cannot approach God on the basis of our works, because our works are always tainted by sin. Our sinful nature affects everything we do. Even when we are at our best, our motives are mixed. Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) So, even our most righteous acts, when we do them on our own apart from faith, are stained by sin.

You and I have no capacity or ability to please God apart from faith. Remember back in verse two we learned that the Old Testament believers were commended not for their works, but for their faith. We are saved by faith, and we can only please God when we live by faith. And so, we know that Enoch had faith, because he was commended as one who pleased God.

III. Faith means believing God’s goodness (6b)

And now we come to really one of the most important lessons about faith you will ever learn. So much of your Christian life and growth depends on this one lesson. Faith means believing God’s goodness. You can’t always see it. You don’t always understand it. But remember, faith is being certain of realities you do not see. Faith is based on the word of God. And God’s word tells us that God is good. God is good, and he is only good. Faith means believing God’s goodness.

We just learned that it is impossible to please God without faith. You might wonder, why is it impossible? Why is faith necessary to please God? We find the answer in the second half of verse 6: “… because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6b) You cannot please God without faith, because, in order to please him, you must believe that he is good. And, in order to believe that he is good, you must first believe that he is there.

Faith means believing God’s goodness. You must believe that God is there, and you must believe that God is good. You cannot please God if you doubt either his existence or his goodness.

   A. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists
      – Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 46:9

Let’s take these one at a time. First, anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists. Now that is real basic faith – Faith 101 – believing in God’s existence. That’s where it all begins. It makes sense. How can you come to God if you do not believe in him? You must believe that he exists in order to come to him. The word “must” in this verse means that it is logically necessary. You cannot come to something that is not there. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and if you doubt his very existence, then you are lacking the most basic faith of all.

In the original language this verse literally reads: “Anyone who comes to God must believe that He Is.” This is a rephrasing of God’s words to Moses from the burning bush when Moses asked God to reveal his name. God said to Moses, “‘I AM WHO I AM.’ This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

God is the great “I Am.” He alone is self-existent. We depend on God for our existence. We are because God is. God alone has life in himself. God simply is. And anyone who comes to God must believe that “He Is.”

God says in Isaiah 46:9: “I am God and there is no other.” (Isaiah 46:9) To put it as simply as possible, in order to come to God, you must believe that God is indeed God. That he is who he says he is. He alone is God. There is no other God. It is important to note here that God himself is the object of our faith. True biblical faith is not faith in yourself, or in anyone else, or in some kind of impersonal fate, but faith in the one true God of Scripture and the universe.

So that’s the first truth in this part of verse 6. Anyone who come to God must believe that he exists.

   B. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
      – Philippians 1:21

And then Hebrews 11:6 continues: “Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” It is not enough just to believe that God exists. Most people do. But you must also believe God’s goodness, that he is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him.

This is also real basic faith. If believing that God exists is Faith 101, then believing that God is good is Faith 102. You must think worthy thoughts of God. You will never be disappointed when you seek God, because God actively rewards those who earnestly seek him.

What does it mean to seek God earnestly? We’ve already seen that to seek God means to follow after him, to walk with God, even as Enoch walked with God. To seek earnestly means to do so carefully and diligently.

We all seek after whatever we want the most in life. We all seek after whatever we believe to be the best. True biblical faith believes that God is best. True biblical faith believes in the ultimate goodness of God. Faith that is pleasing to God believes that nothing else compares with God and his goodness. God is the ultimate good in the universe, the supreme object of desire, and so faith means you earnestly seek him first. And, as the Scriptures promise: when you seek God, you will find him.

Once again, Enoch is our example here. Enoch walked with God. To walk with God means to follow God, to live every step of your life in conscious dependence and trust in God, learning to walk in his ways, seeking to live in obedience to his commands. When you walk with God, you demonstrate your faith. You show that you believe God’s goodness. You believe God’s way is good and right.

Those who ignore God, those who disobey God or rebel against God show that they do not really believe God’s goodness. They either do not believe that God exists, or they do not believe that he rewards those who seek him. They choose their way over God’s way, because they believe that their way is best. They view God, in the words of J. B. Phillips, as some “cosmic killjoy in the sky” who is just out to ruin all their fun. They do not believe God’s goodness.

Every time you choose sin instead of obedience, you show a lack of faith in God’s goodness. You lack faith that God’s way is good and right, and that God has his best in store for you. You lack faith that choosing God’s way will be better for you in the long run, because God rewards those who earnestly seek him.

You see, living by faith means believing God’s goodness. We believe that God is good and loving toward us, that God is on our side. We believe that God’s commands are meant for our good. We believe that we will be better off going God’s way than our own way. And we put our faith into action when we walk with God even as Enoch walked with God.

CONCLUSION: Faith means believing God’s goodness. Without faith it is impossible to please God. God has many wonderful rewards in store for you when you truly believe his goodness and seek him first in your life. Nothing is better in this life than walking with God day by day.

Of course, the ultimate reward for those who live by faith is eternal life with God. You may not bypass death as Enoch and Elijah did. Unless you are still alive when Christ returns, then you will experience death. But if your faith is in Christ, then you need not have any fear of death. Christ has conquered death, and if you are in Christ, then death will simply usher you into God’s presence.

As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) To live is Christ! That’s another excellent way to describe what it means to walk with God. When you can sum up all of your life with the one word, “Christ,” then that shows that you truly do believe God’s goodness and that you are truly walking with him.

And then, just like Enoch, God will also bring you to heaven, whether through death and resurrection or through the rapture at Christ’s return. And once you see God in heaven, you will never doubt God’s goodness again.

© Ray Fowler

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