The Faith of Enoch
Enoch is an interesting figure in the Bible because he is only mentioned in three passages of Scripture, including the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11.
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5).
Enoch was taken up to God before he died because he pleased God. Why was he taken up by God…weren’t there other people in history who have pleased God? Why weren’t they taken up? Perhaps most importantly, “how did Enoch please God?”
The next verse gives us some insight, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Apparently, Enoch 1) came to God, 2) Believed that God exists, 3) Diligently sought God, knowing there is a reward.
This is what Genesis has to say about him: “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21-24).
Of all these people in the genealogy from Adam to Noah, Enoch is the only one who is described as walking with God. He is also the only one who did not die. Between Enoch and Noah, apparently men just got more and more wicked. Read Genesis 6:5-9. Noah also walked with God. God wanted to save Enoch before the flood, knowing that He would have to start over with Noah.
The point: Faith is Walking With The LORD. This is what pleases God. It is about a relationship, not what we can do for Him. Like Hebrews points out, it takes diligence on our part, knowing that everything is from the LORD.
The reward is a heavenly city which God is preparing for those who walk with Him (Heb. 11:16).
What does it mean to “walk with God” knowing our heavenly reward?
Jude gives a strong exhortation and mentions Enoch to make his point. Jude is warning of false believers who claim to have faith but they are actually denying the Lord Jesus Christ—not submitting to His life. As the example with Enoch goes, they were not actually walking with God. “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him’ “ (Jude 14-15).
Walking with the Lord is not denying Him—let Him have full access and dominion over my whole life. FAITH IS LETTING THE LORD HAVE FULL ACCESS AND DOMINION IN MY LIFE.
It is actually literally sharing in Christ’s life. This is not just a metaphor or poetic language: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He gave Himself for me—that is a present sharing of His life, then eternally. Let us not seek to please ourselves, but the Lord in everything.
***Am I doing that in my:
Success and Suffering: 1 Peter 5:5-7; Psalm 55:22
Work: Colossians 3:23-24
Family/Relationships: 1 Cor. 13:4-7
Ministry: 2 Cor. 3:17—4:2
The Faith of Abel
Hebrews 11 builds on the exhortations and encouragement which the preceding chapters give by substantiating the identity of the Son and the possibility to endure in His name by faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). By the facts that we now see Christ and God’s word is completely given, how much more should we be able to endure by faith than those who experienced the dim shadow of the reality? Everything which the people in Hebrews 11 did was by the power of Christ, who is the “author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). In other words, He has saved us by giving us the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8), is the one who is currently sustaining everything by His word (Heb 1:3), and will bring everything to perfection someday as the reigning King (Heb 1:3; 12:2). Through the examples we should see the greatness and glory of Christ who, by His promises, has made those triumphs possible. It just takes cooperation on our part. That is faith.
I have always been intrigued by Hebrews’ mention of Abel in chapter 11. I think it is significant for a couple reasons. He is the first person mentioned by name (I know the author is going in chronological order, but still…). Also, this is the only example in Hebrews 11 of a juxtaposition between two people: Abel vs. Cain. Abel had faith, and Cain did not. Cain is just as instructive as Abel, then. To quote Hebrews 11:4, we can make some important observations: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”
“Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Why was his sacrifice more excellent? For one thing, we can look at the attitude of the offerers. It is important we try to picture ourselves in the scene to understand the full meaning. The first few chapters of Genesis are an ocean, and there is much more under the surface than what the text explicitly says. Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer. “Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat” (Genesis 4:4). “…Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD” (Gen. 4:3). Abel brought his best, clearly. It is not apparent that Cain brought his best, though it does not speak to this clearly. Cain’s response is telling: he got angry and felt rejected. He wanted God’s acceptance, but he also thought what he had to bring—the work of his own hands—was of value. We know God was not rejecting Cain, as He does show him mercy in Gen. 4:15. He did not regard Cain’s offering and attitude behind it. In contrast, Abel brought something living to sacrifice to God. Abel had the right attitude, as he was remembering something very important: God’s mercy on his parents. When Adam and Eve sinned, God showed them mercy by clothing them in animal skins and casting them out from His presence. They did experience spiritual death in separation from God's presence, yet the physical death they deserved was not given to them. Instead, God killed an animal in their place. Abel was pleading with God for the same mercy He showed to Adam and Eve.
“God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Heb 11:4). That Abel is still speaking is important to keep in mind as Hebrews is constantly bringing us back to what God has spoken in His Son—the final definitive word—seen through examples of His word spoken through redemptive history. An interesting textual feature happens from Hebrews 11:13-16 into verse 17. Hebrews 11:13-16 is a summary statement of all the preceding examples of faith, then the author picks up the discourse in verse 17 with Abraham again. Abel was among those who were looking for “the promises” confessing they “were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (verse 13). Abel was among those who desired a better “homeland” (vs. 14), not remembering where they had set out from (vs. 15), looking forward to the heavenly country—a city which God has prepared for those who live by faith (vs. 16). His offering was a remembrance of God’s mercy and also a pleading for re-entering God’s presence which we know from Hebrews 9-10 in particular that Christ accomplished once for all.
Hebrews 12:24 speaks to how we have come back into God’s presence through Christ: “[we have come] to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” The blood of sprinkling alludes to the High Priest sprinkling the blood of the goat to enter the Most Holy Place (Lev. 16) which we can read in Hebrews 9-10 that Christ did once for all. Some translations say “speaks better than the blood of Abel.” That is to say, the blood of the animal which Abel sacrificed—not Abel’s blood which Cain spilled. Abel was the first person in Scripture who sought reconciliation with God by faith—not by works like Cain—looking forward to Christ, the one who would crush the serpent’s (enemy’s) head (Gen. 3:15).
Another aspect of “Abel’s blood” could indeed be his own blood which the LORD said “cries out to me from the ground” (Gen 4:10). This could be poetic language, but Abel obtained testimony that he was righteous. Therefore, he is still alive in the spirit! Christ’s blood speaks better because the righteousness which Abel shared in was the very righteousness of Christ Himself.
That is the message for us today: sharing in the life of Christ by faith--not by anything we can do. Are we pleading for God's mercy and seeking His presence daily?
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). I am realizing that the “time of need” is every moment of every day.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In other words, faith is a present experience of God’s presence which points to the future reality of perfection in Christ being fully realized. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
This is my reflection on the two videos linked below and how Leviticus 16 relates to Hebrews 9-10. These videos are not my work, but I encourage you to check them out!
"Sacrifice and Atonement" by The Bible Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_OlRWGLdnw
After watching the Bible Project video, what struck me was their application to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper. Connecting the fact that the Old covenant sacrificial system was temporary, pointing forward to Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice is definitely consistent with the theology of Hebrews. They take that a step further, as would the author of Hebrews in his exhortation sections, to make sure Christians understand the newness of life we should be experiencing in light of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
In speaking of Leviticus 16, Garret Kell said, “The Day of Atonement is the Calvary of the Old Testament.” “God provides a way for our sins to be covered and carried away forever.” We see this through the goat which was sacrificed as a way to enter the tent of meeting and the scapegoat which was sent into the wilderness after the sins of the people were put on it.
The day of Atonement is the shadow where Christ is the substance (Hebrews 8:5). Hebrews 9:22 says, “without shedding of blood there is no remission [of sins].” The way into the Holy of Holies for the High priest was to purify the entrance to the tent of meeting and the mercy seat by the blood of the goat. Christ’s blood made it to where humankind can enter God’s presence again by His entering once for all after “making purification of sins” Hebrews 1:3. Further, it is our hearts which are sprinkled clean which makes it possible for us to enter God’s presence even now through the Holy Spirit who will dwell in us (Hebrews 10:19-22).
The scapegoat was a foreshadowing of the truth which the prophet Jeremiah also looked forward to: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34, cf. Heb. 10:17).
Interestingly enough, the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16 and referenced in Hebrews 9-10 happened every year. The main point the author of Hebrews is making is that the perpetuity of the old covenant sacrificial system demonstrated its insufficiency. In contrast, “By one offering He [Jesus] has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
The thrust of the exhortation passage in the second half of Hebrews 10 is to not think lightly of this immense sacrifice. God has made it possible for us to enter His presence—even now—and He has quite literally forgotten our sins. Praise God He actually has the power to completely forgive and forget.
THE CROSS—a picture of what God has done for us in Christ
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!