June 3, 2018
How much do you know about Enoch?
When I was younger, there was a youth song that went:
“Enoch walked, walked with the Lord, then one day we couldn’t find him anymore. God called him home, opened heaven’s door, because Enoch walked, walked with the Lord.”
That sum it up?
Did you know, though, that Enoch is mentioned 10 times in the Bible? (3 times in the New Testament and 7 times in the Old Testament).
We are introduced to him in Genesis 5; he was the son of Jared and the father of Methuselah and lived to 365 years of age. He was also the great-grandfather of Noah.
We also know from Luke 3:37 that Enoch is also in the line of Christ. But that’s pretty basic stuff. Jude ups the ante’ when he calls Enoch a prophet of Judgment in verses 14-16:
“It was about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied saying, ‘Behold the Lord came with then thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on all and to convince all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Jude goes on to speak of the nature of these folks that were under such judgment:
“These are grumblers, malcontents, those who follow their own sinful desires, they are loud mouthed boasters and those who show favoritism to gain advantage.”
So, let’s recap what we know so far:
Enoch was the father of Methuseleh, lived a long time, is in the genealogy of Christ, and is a prophet foreseeing final Judgment.
But there is far more to him than that and none of these things are what Enoch is best known for…he is one of two men who did not see death, but who walked with the Lord into heaven directly without dying.
The other person, of course, was Elijah.
Our passage this morning clarifies for us what took place when Enoch is mentioned in Genesis 5:24 when it says, “Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him.”
Now, before we leave Genesis 5 and move to our passage in Hebrews, I want to point out just how important a role Enoch plays in the Old Testament. You see, Genesis 5 is a chapter that transitions us from the life of Adam to the life of Noah. Genesis 11 does much the same, transitioning us from Noah to Abraham. In Genesis 5, though, there is a deliberate refrain that echoes from generation to generation… “and he dies, and he dies, and he dies.” Kind of depressing, isn’t it? It is meant to be. The effects of the Fall are not just a theological premise for us to debate about, but they are real and are experienced by people from generation to generation. I turn, they are one thing that we all have in common as this applies the same to every man, woman, and child on the globe…save for two people that did not have to face death themselves.
And we should pay attention to that:
Because it means that no matter who we are, what our skin color or nationality, our religion, our educational background, whatever our walk of life, we all suffer and face death. We all grieve. We grieve differently, but we grieve nonetheless and suffer nonetheless. And you who know the Gospel have something of hope to offer with anyone you meet, whether in the Dominican Republic, or Kenya, or Ukraine, or Tibet, or anywhere else in the world you might go — even it it is talking to your next door neighbor.
Secondly, it also means that the prejudices that you might have are overall, pretty silly. Deep down (where it really matters) we aren’t that different from one another.
Yet, in the midst of the refrain, “and he died” we find Enoch’s deliverance and are given a reminder of Grace and a redemption to come.
Hebrews 11:5 reads this way:
“By Faith, Enoch was changed (some of your Bible’s read “taken” and if you use the KJV, it uses “translated — we will get back to that…)
By faith, Enoch was changed and he did not see death; he could not be found because God had changed him — for before the change, it was testified hat he pleased God.”
At the heart of this verse, as we have mentioned, is the explanation of Genesis 5:24. At the heart of Genesis 5:24 is a message of hope that death will not swallow us completely. There is life in God’s presence for the people of faith who please God.
Yet, before we talk about what i s pleasing to God found in verse 6, let’s go back to that one word in verse 5. Hear the verse again:
“By faith, Enoch was changed and he did not see death; he could not be found because God changed him, for before the change it was testified that he pleased God.”
Did you notice that repetition: changed, changed, change…
Rule of thumb, when a Biblical author uses a word repeatedly over and over, he is making a point. So, what is the point and why is it important?
If you are using a modern translation like the ESV, NASB, or the NIV, you will find that the language states that God “took” him, or something close to that. The KJV renders the word: “translated.”
Okay, so I’m going to throw a word in your direction and I am banking on the fact that since there are a lot of medical professionals in the congregation, for many of you this won’t be a totally alien term.
The word in question is “metathesis.” It comes from the Greek word metatithami which is used in the text before us. Metathesis is one of those words that is used more technically today, but was still a technical term in ancient times. Literally it refers to a change, either in location or in the essential nature of something (or both).
For those of us who studied English in college and spent time looking into word origins, the word metathesis is used commonly to refer to the change in the order of a letter. For example, the word “thrill was originally, “thirl.” With usage and time, the “i” and the “r” changed places and hence the word changed. That is metathesis. It is also the same thing that happens when children look at that plate of pasta you put in front of them and call it “psghetti.” Simply, the sound “ps” is easier to make than the sound, “spa.” That change is called metathesis. That is a change in location and that is what our modern translations are picking up on…that Enoch was taken from one place to another.
But there is another use, one that the author of Hebrews practices each time he uses the term in this book. This refers to a change in essential being. In chemistry, for example, when two molecules are brought to gather and the way they bond actually creates two different molecules, this is called metathesis. It is how many of our plastic fibers are created as well as many of our pharmaceuticals…hence the medical connection.
What the author is saying here is that it is not just that Enoch got taken from living on earth to living in heaven, but that he was glorified in the process as well — translated from one form to the other (as suggested in the KJV).
Okay, pardon the pun, but lets bring things back down to earth and move from the technical to the practical.
I often get asked the question, what will our glorified bodies be like? Of course, we don’t know for sure, they will be physical though, but fundamentally different from our physical existence now in this fallen world — they will be metathesized.
And let me say this too, while we are on the topic. Remember, when you speak of eternity, do not think of it as a spiritual existence but as a physical one in the new creation…new heavens and the new earth. Even so, Heaven too, is substantial enough because three persons are physically living there: Enoch, Elijah and Jesus.
Hold onto that reality because our hope is not in our spirits going to heaven but in a bodily resurrection like Jesus’.
And, so we move forward to verse 6 and ask, how does one please God?
Vs. 6 begins this way:
“For without faith, it is impossible to please (him)…”
Let’s stop there for a moment to let our heads be wrapped around this idea. It is popular in our society to say things like, “God loves all of us just the way we are.” But is that wheat the text says? No, it says that you cannot please God without faith.
Now, we have already seen the language of Habakkuk 2:4 quoted here in Hebrews 10:38 (the last verse of the previous chapter!) — “the righteous will live by faith.” Yet, we can turn that around to apply it and say that those who have faith will strive toward righteousness.
Is this not what the Apostle John teaches when he writes:
“Little Children, let no one deceive you; whoever practices righteousness is righteous as He is righteous and whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason that the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:7-8)
That, folks, is what a life of faith looks like — striving to be righteous as Christ is righteous — which is what James is getting at when he talks about faith and works — remembering too that works do not begin with feeding people in poverty-stricken areas (though that is important), but recognizing that good works begin with seeking to live righteously. Without living in faith there is no pleasing God,
So, with what do we please God?
— by pursuing God’s will and not our own (Romans 12:1-2)
— by serving Christ and not self (Romans 14:8)
— by living in a way that Christ approves of (2 Corinthians 5:8-10)
— as children, obeying their parents (Colossians 3:20)
— by doing good works that God has prepared for us (Hebrews 13:16-21; Ephesians 2:10)
And again, to apply this, many people say, “Look, I can live like I want to — don’t judge me” or “I don’t need the pastor or a church to tell me what I should and should not do…”
But is that living by faith? No. That is not a lifestyle that Jesus would approve of and it is not following God’s will instead of our own. So, if it requires faith to please God, when when one does not live by faith, is it not displeasing to God?
Folks, God calls us to live lives that are pleasing to him, recognizing that means such a life won’t always be pleasing to us — God often demands us to make sacrifices. We are called to “take up your cross” not to “take up your EZ-Boy recliner.” But we skew our priorities, we neglect public worship, we are lax in the study of God’s word and flatly ignore it in practice. We don’t speak of him often enough to others and we rarely live in a way that communicates that we have been set apart for God’s purposes (and not for our own).
We often earn God’s displeasure because we do not live or work in faith. And of that we need to repent and to make that repentance something that drives your life.
Let’s go back to the text…
“For without faith it is impossible to please (him); for the one who draws near to God must do so in faith that He is (we don’t have time to explore this and its implications for apologetics, but come tonight and we will discuss it at TOPIX) and he rewards tho one who seeks him earnestly.”
Note, unlike what snake-oil salesmen like Jesse Duplantis will tell you, this reward is not about health, wealth, and success (or Jet planes). The reward of which the author is speaking is the reward that Enoch received — not your translation into heaven (that ended with Christ) but drawing closer to God — a literal working out of storing up your treasure in heaven.
So, the call and challenge are before you; seek him earnestly and live in a way that is pleasing to Him — live in faith.