Everyone wants to be remembered for something, but the accounts of Enoch and Noah point us to the only epitaph worth having and the only legacy worth leaving:
They walked with God.
They walked WITH God before they did any great work FOR God. They were concerned for the salvation of their households. Their legacies were not born out of natural talent, physical prowess or leadership skills, but out of a persevering FAITH which moved them to obey God in whatever he called them to be and do.
Their lasting legacies were birthed from a faith that kept walking with God through the mundane and momentous details of life… over a lifetime.
Our text today is Hebrews 11:5-7:
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.7
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
They walked by faith, not by sight
Enoch and Noah are listed in Hebrews 11 as heroes because they lived by faith, sure of things hoped for and convicted of things not seen. (Heb 11:1). Both gained God’s approval through their faith, but never saw God’s promises fulfilled in their lifetimes (Heb 11:39). We are told that both men lived lives that were pleasing to God (Heb 11: 5; 7) as they walked with God (Gen 5:22-23; Gen 6:9). Enoch’s entire story is summed up in four short verses in a genealogy, whereas Noah’s account takes up seventy-four verses (Gen 6; 7; 8; 9).
In human terms, Noah was the one who played a pivotal role in redemptive history, not Enoch. The 600-year old man with the long white beard is the darling of Sunday school classes and Toddlers’ Bibles, whereas I’ve never seen Enoch’s story get a mention. Admittedly, nothing spectacular happens in Enoch’s life (except at its unique end), whereas Noah’s legacy was stunning: From the age of 600 to 720, Noah knocked nails into a watertight ark the length of one-and-a half rugby fields and as high as a four-storey building. Although he lived 4400 years ago, Noah built a vessel that was as large and seaworthy as a modern day cargo ship. Despite no sign of a flood for 120 years, he “did everything just as God commanded him” while a wicked generation looked on apathetically and ignored his warnings of coming judgment. He dared to stand alone as the only ‘blameless’ man in his corrupt and violent generation. For this he ‘found favour in the eyes of the Lord’ (Gen 6:8;9). While buffeted on high waters for over a year, Noah took care of all the animals on the ark– no mean feat for any zookeeper! Noah was a colossus in the arena of faith in action and deserves his spot in every children’s Bible.
For our impatient generation, Noah’s long-term commitment (121 years) to doing exactly what God told him to do is truly staggering. Because of his obedience, God saved Noah and his family from a vast flood that wiped out every other living thing on the face of the earth (Gen 7:21; 22; 23). Noah’s legacy is obvious for all to see.
However, Enoch’s claim to fame is more subtle than spectacular. In fact, it seems that Enoch lived a common, pedestrian life. Little is mentioned about him except the gems tucked into the genealogy of Genesis 5:
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
Without a body to bury, Enoch’s funeral may have been unusual. But these four verses would be a fitting eulogy at any believer’s funeral. Unlike Noah, Enoch was not assigned a great project or pivotal role in redemption history. Nor did he live to a ripe old age for his day. (By comparison, his son, Methuselah lived 969 years and his grandson, Lamech lived 777 years!) Enoch’s lasting legacy was simply that he walked with God as he went about the ordinary business of life. His faith was an ongoing habit of life.
It struck me that Enoch walked with God from the time he was 65 years old, the year his son Methuselah was born (Gen 5:22). The birth of a child is always a momentous event. I wonder if he had a personal encounter with God as he looked at the tiny baby in his arms and saw God’s handiwork in his son’s perfect frame? Perhaps this day branded him forever as a man who walked by faith and not by sight—the day he received saving faith? After Methuselah’s birth, Enoch was a father to other children and walked with God for three centuries. At that point God considered his work on earth done.
The subtle statement “Enoch walked with God” is repeated by the inspired writer, so it must be significant (Heb 11:22; 24).
An epitaph worth having on our tombstone
Enoch may not have owned a tombstone in a graveyard, but he had a significant epitaph recorded in Genesis 5:24 for hundreds of generations to read. Enoch’s epitaph challenges us:
When we die, will people remember us as someone who walked with God? This is the only epitaph worth having.
Walking with God is an ongoing habit of life rather than a few isolated encounters. It hints at intimate friendship with a steady rhythm, like two pilgrims enjoying each other’s company on a long journey together.
Walking suggests a daily dependence on God through the mundane and momentous details of life.
Walking is active, determined progress towards a destination– as opposed to stagnation.
Walking with God is not a sprint, a sleep or a solo. It is not an endless quest for the spectacular, nor sanctuary from the rough and tumble of life. It is keeping in step with the Holy Spirit in the messy details of life (Gal 5:16;25).
A habit takes 66 days to install– a relatively small chunk of time out of a lifetime. There is no habit more worthwhile than an early morning rendezvous with our heavenly Father, in which we read the Bible and pray honestly to him. We cannot ‘walk’ with God unless we listen and talk with Him along life’s way.
A legacy worth leaving
When faithful Christians walk with God in the details of life, they become winsome. The grace and love of the Lord Jesus spills naturally into their demeanour. They long to pass on the gospel of grace to others. This is the lasting legacy they leave behind them.
It’s easy to overlook Enoch’s legacy as we get bogged down in the genealogy of Genesis 5 and engrossed by the flood thereafter. Enoch passed on a lasting legacy that he could not have foreseen at the time:
Enoch was the great-grandfather of Noah! (Gen 5:25-30) And Noah pointed the way to Jesus, the great Redeemer!
Noah did exactly what great-grandpa Enoch modelled for him—he walked with God. This led him to be favoured by God—a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time” (Gen 6:8; 9). Through the INFLUENCE of Enoch, Noah learnt to treasure and obey God before all else. Through Enoch’s EXAMPLE, Noah learned to trust God even when he could not see why. That is why God entrusted Noah with the Ark.
What Noah did not see
Noah could not see beyond his immediate context, but his Ark still stands as a powerful beacon of God’s Redemption of the world. With hindsight, we can see that Jesus embodied the Ark that sheltered Noah’s family from God’s judgment:
“This is God’s message that everyone should know when they walk away from Noah’s account. The message that God is the Creator, that sin has consequences, and judgment is coming. The people of Noah’s time lived how they wanted to live up until the Flood took them. They never took the time to repent of their wickedness.
The Bible tells us there was only one door to the Ark (Gen 6:16). Similarly, there is only one way to enter into a relationship with God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). For those who believe in Him, Jesus is our one entrance into God’s redemptive grace.
The Bible warns us that a second judgment is coming—this time by fire (2 Peter 3:7). People are turning from God, rejecting Him as Creator, and putting themselves in His place. God continues to be longsuffering, as He was in Noah’s day, but there will come a time when judgment will come. During Noah’s time the question was, “Were you standing in the boat or standing out in the world?” There was no hope of survival for the people outside of the Ark, God’s means of physical salvation. In Noah’s day grace came in the shape of an Ark. Today grace comes in the shape of a Cross. The only way a person can be saved from the eternal consequences of their rebellion against God is to turn from that sin and trust in the Savior Jesus Christ—the way, the truth, and the life. Where do you stand?”
Enoch, Noah… and us
Enoch and Noah point us to the only epitaph worth having and the only legacy worth leaving.
No Christian is ‘just’ a mother or father, aunt, uncle, grandparent, youth leader or school teacher. Like Enoch, our EXAMPLE and INFLUENCE will have massive ramifications that we cannot see now. We are entrusted with the flaming torch of the gospel to pass on to future generations. Even if we have no family of our own, every believer is entrusted with a sphere of influence, no matter how small. To God, it was enough that Enoch was a godly husband and father who walked closely with him. His influence and example in his family was greater than he could have imagined. We do not know what else he did in his lifetime, but his faithfulness in ordinary things pleased God immensely. The writer of Hebrews calls us to follow in the footsteps of those that went before us, to pass on our faith to the next generation and keep our eyes on the end goal of history.
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,“in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith…(Hebrews 10:36-38).
- Meditate on these verses as you ask God to help you to trust in God’s promises and walk by faith and not by sight: Acts 1:8; 2 Cor 5:7; Heb 12:2; Luke 4:18; Matt 28:19; Matt 7:20; Phil 4:13.
- Worship as you click here and listen to this beautiful song “By Faith” which is based on Hebrews 11 (Stuart Townend, Keith and Kristyn Getty- Awaken the Dawn.) The lyrics are printed below.
Lyrics of the song By Faith:
By faith, we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design;
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness,
Who walk by faith and not by sight.
By faith, our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand –
A place where peace and justice reign.
We will stand as children of the promise,
We will fix our eyes on Him, our soul’s reward.
Till the race is finished and the work is done,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.
By faith, the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death,
And rise triumphant from the grave.
By faith, the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news,
In every corner of the earth.
By faith, this mountain shall be moved
And the power of the gospel shall prevail,
For we know in Christ all things are possible
For all who call upon His name.