What does a life that is pleasing to God look like? Every Christian wrestles with that question from time to time and in various ways. Hebrews 11 not only gives an answer to the question but also paints a picture through the life of Enoch, the man of faith whose life was well-pleasing in the eyes of God.
Enoch is an enigmatic figure in the Bible, mentioned only a couple of times. Very little is said about him, and yet he strangely appears in the “hall of faith” of Hebrews 11. Though little is said about him, the portrait that is drawn of him is actually a beautiful and inspiring one. The author of Hebrews clearly has Genesis 5 in mind when he speaks of Enoch. It is there that we learn how it is that Enoch earned a place among the heroes of the faith. Enoch was not simply a man who walked by faith; he was, in particular, a man who “walked with God” (Gen. 5:24). Enoch was pleasing to God because he not only lived his life by faith in the God of heaven and earth, but he also lived his life in intimate communion with God. To understand Enoch’s life of faith and communion with God more clearly, it is helpful to look at the backdrop against which the portrait of Enoch’s life is drawn.
By the time we meet Enoch in Genesis 5, a lot has happened. Not only has the work of creation been completed, but generations of post-fall humanity have been born and have begun to display the realities of sin. The first sibling set in history (Cain and Abel) embody the first scene of murder and martyrdom. Adam’s family portrait is a broken one, and Eve, the mother of all living, is also the mother of the brokenhearted. By God’s grace, however, there have been almost no repetitions of Cain’s depravity, and God’s grace is manifest even in the common vocational skills with which He has endowed man. Cities are built, music is made, and most importantly, “people began to call on the name of the Lord” (4:26). There is, however, a very clear exception.
Toward the end of Genesis 4 we encounter Lamech, an obtrusive figure who cannot be missed in any study of Enoch. Lamech is the antithesis of Enoch, yet Lamech and Enoch are intended to be viewed as actors on the same stage, continuing the tension first displayed in Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were not only the two sons of Eve, they were also the human beginning of what would develop into two opposing kingdoms—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. In Cain and Abel, the tension between the two “offspring” or “seeds” of Genesis 3:15 is perpetuated. That tension continues to unfold on the scene of history as Lamech, the seventh son of Adam in the line of Cain, proudly and boastfully exalts himself. He is a kingdom builder of the worst kind, as his singular goal is to glorify and enjoy himself. His loud, self-exalting claim to have killed a man in Genesis 4:23–24 makes this perfectly clear. He is Cain perfected, so to speak, as is seen in his vow: “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (v. 24). Lamech, by his own proclamation, is ten times as proud, self-righteous, and murderous as Cain, and Lamech has sworn to take the law into his own hands and execute judgment as though he were God. Lamech, the seventh son of Adam, is truly in line with the seed of the serpent.
Playing opposite Lamech, however, is Enoch. Enoch is also the seventh son of Adam, but he descends from the more faithful line of Seth. In other words, if you created a family tree of Adam’s descendants, Lamech and Enoch would each be seven generations down, but standing on opposite sides—one in the line of Cain and the other in the line of Seth. One side will prove to be chosen and faithful, and the other will prove to be rejected and rebellious. Enoch clearly stands in the line of the faithful, and rather than exalting himself with the proud boasts of Lamech, Enoch is a man of humility and faith. Enoch walks with God. To walk with God in Genesis is not unique to Enoch. The same wonderful affirmation is made of Noah (6:9) and Abraham (17:1; 24:40), and the phrase clearly suggests that these godly men lived in communion with God and in accordance with God’s ways. Later in Scripture, God often referred to the necessity of Israel to walk in His ways as the means of staying in right fellowship with Him. By faith, Enoch walked in the ways of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
This leads us to Enoch’s being “taken up.” According to Genesis 5:24, Enoch did not taste death. He lived a life of faith in which he walked with God, and in the midst of that walk, “God took him.” What a marvelous statement. The text does not say that Enoch simply went to heaven (though he surely did), but rather that God took Enoch for Himself as one whose walk with God began on this earth and continued into the joys of eternity. Geerhardus Vos rightly noted that something unique can be seen when we juxtapose the lives of Abel and Enoch. In Abel we see the first example not only of martyrdom, but of those who enter into heaven with God through the veil of death. Enoch, however, does not taste death. He enters into God’s eternal rest as one who lived by faith, walked with God, and then was miraculously taken up into the presence of God. These are the two doors into heaven: those who die and yet live by way of being raised up on the other side of death, and those who are alive at Christ’s coming and are simply carried into the bliss of eternal life apart fromexperiencing death.
The life and translation of Enoch display not only how it is that we come to please God but also what the reward is for those who live and seek God by faith. The reward is God Himself. This is exactly what God tells Abraham in Genesis 15:1. God is Abraham’s shield as well as his very great reward. What greater thing can await us in heaven than that of perfected communion with God? Hebrews 11:6 makes it very clear that the life that is pleasing to God is a life lived by faith and by seeking after God Himself. Faith is not meritorious. It does not earn anything from God, as God’s favor and promises cannot be earned. Yet faith receives and rests upon Christ in the gospel and apprehends the promises of God in wondrous ways. Scripture compels us to join with faithful Enoch and imitate his well-pleasing faith by seeking God and walking in sweet fellowship with Him by faith.
God Himself is our reward. While we have already begun to experience the joy of that communion with Him now by way of our union with Christ, the fullness of our reward is something we must continue to seek by faith until we enter glory either by the veil of death or by being caught up alive into heaven. Our great calling is to seek the things of God. As we do, the things of this world must, as the old hymn goes, “grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Pride. Arrogance. Self-exaltation. These are the things that displease God and are found in the way of Lamech—the way of death. But the way of life—well-pleasing life in the eyes of God—is humble faith and a joyful seeking after God Himself. Those who seek will not only please God in this life, but they will enjoy the greatest pleasure of all: the pleasure of walking with God.
Originally posted on TableTalk Magazine website in February 2018. Republished by permission.
Dr. Eric B. Watkins is senior pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in St. Augustine, Fla.