“The basic fact about human experience is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.” Now that statement may be a bit of an exaggeration. However, there is a kernel of truth there. We get up in the morning, cook breakfast, eat breakfast, work, drive the kids to school, work, drive the kids home from school, work, cook supper, eat supper, put the kids to bed, go to sleep, and do the whole thing all over again the next day. Life seems like an unending cycle that cannot be broken. The cycle is monotonous and boring. There are yearly cycles too, especially in farming. They can get monotonous as well. Do you ever feel like screaming out at God that you want to get out of life? Life feels like this genealogy. So-and-so is born, lives until a certain age, has a son, lives another length of time, has other sons and daughters, and then dies. Sounds rather boring, rather like an unending cycle that never changes. There is nothing new under the sun. Underlying all of this boredom is the thought of death itself. That is what makes the cycle unbearable: after all this work and toil, the only thing that happens at the end is death. How boring. Does death have the last word? Is that the end of all our striving? Is all our striving losing?
It would seem that death reigned from Adam onward, as Paul says. Death reigned because of sin. The text starts out by a contrast between God’s creation and man’s creation. God creates mankind in His own image, in the image of God. Adam, though, has a son in his own image. That tells us that the Fall is going to perpetuate itself in the following generations. Seth is in the image of God. However, it is an image that is filtered by the distorted image of Adam. It is not a direct image of God. That is the point of the first five verses. That starts this seemingly unending cycle of birth and death.
But we notice one thing right away. These first human beings lived a very long time. This has caused some scholars to be exceedingly skeptical about whether these numbers are to be taken literally or not. They surprise us because the numbers are so large. However, once we consider that human beings were created to live forever, and that the life-span gradually gets shorter and shorter after the Flood, then we should not have any difficulty in taking Moses at his word. We need to notice two things about these long lives. First of all, we need to see that the ages of Cain’s descendents are not recorded for us. That is because all of Cain’s descendents will perish in the Flood. The other thing we need to know is that these numbers are actually small. The Babylonian tradition about the kings who existed before the Flood records some very interesting numbers indeed. There is a document called the Sumerian King List, which gives us the name of ten kings who reigned before the Flood. They reigned anywhere from 18,600 years to 43,200 years. Eight kings ruled for a total of 241,000 years. Beside these numbers, the Genesis account records very modest and small numbers. The point of the Genesis narrative is that no ancestor ever lived longer than 1000 years. Not even Methuselah lived that long. 1000 years is symbolic of eternity, or of a perfect period of time. The Bible says that 1000 years are like one day to God. Man never lives even as long as one of God’s days. This should give new meaning to Revelation 20, which says that Jesus Christ reigns for 1000 years. More on that later.
However long these men lived, there is the depressingly monotonous refrain at the end of every account, “and he died.” However, there is one example that is different from all the others. Enoch does not die. Enoch lives to be 365 years old, the number of days in a year. Have you ever noticed that? Notice also that twice in these brief verses, it says that Enoch walked wit God. What does “walking with God” mean? It means to have close fellowship with God. The Bible tells us that two cannot walk together unless they be reconciled. Methuselah then was saved. He believed in the promise of the Messiah, the one who would crush Satan’s head. Long life (which is what Enoch does not have) is not the most sacred and honorable blessing that can come from God. Enoch had something better. As Matthew Henry says, “As he did not live like others, so also he did not die like others.” Walking with God is the reason for the great reward that Enoch receives. Enoch does not die. In the place of that phrase that we would normally expect to see, there is this marvelous statement: “and he was not, for God took him.” From Hebrews 11 we learn that Enoch walked by faith such that God allowed him not to taste death. A little girl once told this story in a wonderful way: “Enoch and God used to take long walks together. And one day they walked further than usual; and God said, ‘Enoch, you must be tired; come into my house and rest.’” If there is faith, hope and love, these three, Enoch’s faith is what God turned to sight, and Enoch’s hope God turned to fulfillment.
What happened to Enoch would have been a tremendous boost of hope to all those living. Of all his ancestors, only Adam had died, and of his descendants, only Noah was yet to be born. It took place about half-way from creation to the flood. Death does not have the last word! Now remember that what Enoch went through is not the same as a resurrection from the dead. Hebrews makes it plain that Enoch did not taste death.
Enoch’s son is the longest living person in the Bible. He lives 969 years and dies in the year of the flood. The shortest lived ancestor is the father of the longest-lived ancestor. Enoch, though, did not provide complete freedom from death. Methuselah, though the son of Enoch still died. Another solution would be needed. Notice that Methuselah is the father of Lamech.
Now Lamech lives 777 years. Remember that Cain’s descendant Lamech was the seventh from Adam, and boasted of having a 77-fold revenge. Now the descendant of Seth lives 777 years. This is probably not coincidence. What Moses wants to do here is to compare the two Lamechs. There is no comparison. Lamech descended from Seth is a prophet, while the Lamech descended from Cain was a false prophet. What does Lamech say? He says that Noah will acquire relief from the work. Notice that it says “out of the ground.” The NIV gives us the impression that the ground is the cause of the painful toil. He ESV is better here when it says that Noah came out of the ground. In other words, from ground that the Lord had cursed, the Lord would also bring someone to relieve the curse of the ground. The next several chapters of Genesis will tell us whether Noah did in fact get a hold of that rest that Lamech was talking about.
Verse 32 is rather curious. Noah waited 500 years to have his three sons. This is quite remarkable. None of the other ancestors waited this long to have children. The only reason I can think of for this delay is that God providentially kept Noah from raising a family until Methuselah and Lamech were old enough such that they would die before the Flood. This goes to show us that God preserved the promised line of Seth such that not one of Seth’s line died in the Flood.
So how do we see Christ portrayed in these obscure verses from the Old Testament? Well, first of all we have to see that Enoch was just like Elijah, who was just like John the Baptist. Elijah was the second person that God took away without seeing death. Death has been cheated twice; once for Enoch, and once for Elijah. Enoch is another kind of John the Baptist. He precedes Noah, who is the type of Jesus Christ. The word “type” here means a person or a thing or an idea that is a shadow of the reality. A “type” points to something to come later on. A “type” corresponds in at least one recognizable way with that reality. Enoch corresponds to John the Baptist, because Enoch is a herald of Noah. He is the one who comes before. This means that Noah is the “type” of Jesus Christ. Just as all the world would be descended from Noah, so also all Christians would be descended from Christ. There would be one world family in Noah, and so there will be one world of Christians in Jesus Christ. Noah underwent a baptism in the ark, and Jesus underwent the baptism of his death and resurrection. The only way anyone could be saved in Noah’s day was by being inside the ark. The only way anyone can be saved now (normally) is by belonging to Christ’s body, the church. There is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside the true church of Jesus Christ. We will explore those connections in the weeks to come as we look at Noah.
So do we walk with God? Again, what does that mean? We have seen that it means an intimate relationship with God. That can only happen through Jesus Christ, who walked with man, and walked with His Father. Christ bridged the gap between God an man. Man had sinned. The result was death. Jesus came into that death situation in such a way that life was the result. Now, anyone can come into a relationship with God. One only needs to believe in Jesus Christ, that He took our sins on Himself, and gave us His righteousness. We can now stand before God clothed in Christ’s righteousness. We can now walk with God by walking in the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us what walking with God now looks like. Read Galatians 5:16-26. I believe that it is not too difficult to understand what the fruit of the Spirit is. The problem is doing them. As G. K Chesterton wrote, “Christianity is not a religion that has been tried and found wanting; it rather has been found difficult and never tried.” Certainly, we want to say that we cannot walk with God without the Holy Spirit to direct our steps. However, if we are Christians, then we are to walk. We have been reconciled, just like Enoch has been. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us now. How do we walk? We make use of the means of grace: we come to hear the Word of God, we partake of the Sacraments (and if you are not a member of a church such that you can partake, I would urge you to consider joining a church, or becoming a communing member, especially if you are a youth who has not joined yet), we pray, we read out Bibles, we have fellowship with other believers. We should not neglect any of these things. We should rather take every opportunity we have to do these things. That is part of what it means to walk with God. Walking with God also means that we are walking with our fellow believers. It is most definitely NOT true that we can just have a relationship with God, and not have one with the church. Christianity is never supposed to be this “God, the Bible, and me” sort of thing. Paul tells us not to neglect the gathering of the saints. I read Paul as saying that whenever the church meets we should try to be there, knowing of course that emergencies come up, and that we cannot be there every single time. But we should try to attend as much as possible. All of these things we do are not part of our becoming a Christian. They are the result of becoming a Christian.
When we walk with God, then God has promised that if we live until the time when Christ returns, then we will meet Jesus Christ in the air, and we will always be with Him. Enoch’s story promises that for us. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Enoch was tired, as the little girl said. So he went to Jesus, and Jesus gave him rest. He will do the same for you. Rest in Him.