Walking with God in a Dying World (Gen. 5:1-32)
This past week Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and Pixar Animated Studios, called the modern day Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, died of pancreatic cancer. He is credited to have created or co-created 338 different inventions. Obviously the man was a genius who has truly changed the way we see the world. We know he was able to do this, because whether he realized it or not, he was created in God’s image. Being created in God’s image allows us to be creative like God. Being created in God’s image is why we work, as we bring order out of disorder for the flourishing of mankind.
But when mankind decided to be God and decide that he was more important than anything else (Gen. 3:5), everything started to go downhill. Sin made disorder out of order. So we started loving things out of order. We love creation over the Creator. We love people over God. We love stuff over people. Sin reduced creation into nothing (like Cain killing his brother). Out of mankind’s rebellion, we now have two groups of people: those of the seed of the serpent and those of the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). God promised that out of the seed of the woman, the promised One would come, though no one knew when that would be.
But God promised something else: death (Gen. 3:19). Interestingly Jobs said in a speech to Stanford grads in 2005: “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away.” There is some truth there in his statement. Unless Jesus comes back, death will come to all. However, Mr. Apple is wrong as well. Is death the best invention of life? Are you just cleared away? One author says, “Death isn’t natural. It wasn’t meant to be that way. Death is the worst thing that happened, not the best. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 that death is the result of sin. Death isn’t the end. You’re not “cleared away”…You’re still around—you’re a soul that God created.” Though Jobs is lauded as one of the most creative and inventive men of all time, he could not invent something to stop death. There is no app for death!
Last two weeks in Genesis 4 we saw that sin is powerful, leaving us without an identity, wandering and even trampling and destroying the image of God in people we love. Sin destroys our legacy. Yet we saw God’s grace is greater than our sin, that God is faithful to the seed of the woman and even gracious to Cain, before and after he went on the side of the serpent. Though the seed of the serpent seemed to be winning and more powerful through Cain’s legacy (Gen. 4:16-24) God had the finally say at the end of Gen. 4, with the descendants of Seth pioneering worship of Yahweh (Gen. 4:25-26). But what will life be like now in the battle between the two seeds? Moses’ audience may have wondered about God’s promise of death. Did that ever happen? What about the fact that we were image bearers to be glory fillers? But how can we live with sin now in the mix? Moses in Gen. 5 is going to tell us how the seed of the woman is going to survive after the Fall and give us clues on how we can survive as well. Take note of this first point:
I. Despite our sin, we are still blessed to be image bearers of God (vv.1-3)
Moses starts a new section in Gen. 5:1. He has 11 of these “introductions” that start with “this is the book of…” or “this is the generations of…” It’s like, a review or he’s about to give us the next sermon. Interestingly, only one other book starts the same way: Matthew 1. Genesis 5 ends with Lamech hoping and crying out for rest and relief in his son Noah (Gen. 5:29). Perhaps he is thinking Noah will be the promised seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15)? But we know that wasn’t the case. Matthew ends in Christ. It is almost as if Matthew is saying to his Jewish audience, “I know everyone in Genesis was longing for the ultimate Seed to come, but guess what? He has come!”
The author refers back to the original intention of creating man. Why is man created? It goes back to the first poem in Gen. 1:26. This was God’s original blessing. Sin doesn’t take away the potential and blessing of God for us to be His image bearers. By the way, Moses uses “blessing” over 80x in the book of Genesis. God wanted His image bearers to be His glory-fillers of the world. God wanted man to be a ruler, like He was. And God promised to provide everything we would need to fill the world with His glory> Remember glory means “weight” in Hebrew i.e. the fact that God is the most important, most real and the only thing that matters. The more weight God has in your life, the more great He will look through your life!
Being created in God’s image as a review, means that we are relational beings. We are made for God and to be in relationship with each other. We are simply the sum total of our relationships. And because we are made in God’s “likeness” (Gen. 5:1), we possess dignity, value and worth. It also means we are called to be reflecting His image just as a mirror reflects the sun.
But notice what Moses adds here in Gen. 5:3. Adam, like God, creates a son “in his own likeness, after his image.” And like God, Adam names him. Why say it like that? It implies that God is the father of Adam, and thus God is shown to be the Father of all humanity. And this God, being the Father of all, despite our sin, will accomplish His purposes for His glory. God the Father will take care of His children. Surely all are not His children except those who go over to the side of the seed of the woman. This also teaches us that when we have kids, we are creating little image bearers of God, but at the same time, little sinners. So not only will you have the opportunity to fill the world with image bearers/reflectors, you will also be filling the world with sinners.
Sin has deformed what God had originally formed. Sin caused alienation, so we no longer want to look at God and reflect Him. His image in us has been marred. But God stepped in. Jesus, of whom Paul calls “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), was trampled on by our sin. His image was deformed so that our image of God can be transformed! Now in Christ as we face Him, He changes us into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:, so we can be His image reflectors and glory fillers again!
This truth changes me. Sometimes we feel like soon as we are called something, or hired to something, or if our status changes, we must perfectly live up to that calling. You might feel like you are called a Christian, but some of our days, we don’t look like or even feel like a Christian. But this truth teaches us that we still becoming what God has declared we are. So though I was declared a husband in 2004, but my wife can tell you there are many days I am not exactly that. Some days I don’t feel like the best dad or pastor around. But in Christ, I am more of a human “becomings” more than human beings. I am not yet what I shall be and God is committed to changing me day by day, as I believe the gospel more and more. Secondly,
II. Because of our sin, we still face death (vv.4-20, 25-32)
Now we have a long genealogy. Yes, I know it’s like reading a phone book, but if you remember from Nehemiah, genealogies often make a theological point. If I was writing Genesis, I would probably leave these names out, but I’m thankful that God cares more about individuals than we do.
But notice that the genealogy is only concerned with the firstborn son of each new generation, since each one had “other sons and daughters.” Look at the contrast between the line of Cain a.k.a seed of the serpent, and the line of Seth, a.k.a. the seed of the woman. Interestingly lot of similar names here: Enoch and Enosh, Irad and Jared, Mehujael and Mahalalel, Methushael and Methuselah as well as two Lamechs and two Enochs. Why all the similarities? Well, it was not uncommon for two people to bear the same name at the same time. But perhaps Moses is emphasizing that the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman are similar in a lot of ways, just as Cain and Abel on the surface, but if you look closely, while one progresses forward in technology, agriculture, music and the flourishing of civilization (all good things), it is anti-God. The other line, the seed of the woman, though no significant contributions can be noted, are simply worshippers of Yahweh. The seventh on the line of Cain is Lamech, the chest-pounding gangsta rapper, poster boy of the seed of the serpent. Who is the seventh in the line of Seth? Enoch. And Enoch is known for what? Simply walking with God. Cain’s Enoch made much of himself and had his own city, but God’s Enoch was His friend who made much of Him.
But notice that one phrase rings through this section: “And he died.” Eight times this phrase (though just one word in Hebrew) is repeated. What is the author saying? Despite technology (4:17-24) and spirituality (4:25-26), man cannot rise above the curse of death. Despite the fact the divine image is passed on, death is the result of sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23) like God had said. The devil had lied to the first parents (Gen. 3:4). Adam and Eve died following the lie and so does every one else. Listen to Rom. 5:12: “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Pastor and Professor John Koessler says, “Death is not a natural stage in the cycle of human development. Death is a curse. The presence of death is an intrusion.” Death is a horrible reminder that we have wronged the holy God and that someday we all must stand before Him. And the moment when Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually and were sentenced to eternal death and they would begin to decay toward death physically at that moment.
Pastor Colin Smith says, “You may say, "Wait a minute. How can any sin deserve everlasting destruction? If God is just, how can he punish like this?" [Consider] the stages of the following scenario: Suppose a middle school student punches another student in class. What happens? The student is given a detention. Suppose during the detention, this boy punches the teacher. What happens? The student gets suspended from school. Suppose on the way home, the same boy punches a policeman on the nose. What happens? He finds himself in jail. Suppose some years later, the very same boy is in a crowd waiting to see the President of the United States. As the President passes by, the boy lunges forward to punch the President. What happens? He is shot dead by the secret service. In every case the crime is precisely the same, but the severity of the crime is measured by the one against whom it is committed. What comes from sinning against God? Answer: Everlasting destruction.” I like that line: “the severity of the crime is measured by the one against whom it is committed.” And when Adam and Eve sinned against God, the just judgment was given.
Let’s talk about physical death. How many of you have ever run on a treadmill or a stationary bike? You pedal, pedal, pedal, get off until the next time. Human history is like that. One generation gets off and the other one gets on. And some people think, “Look at how far we have come!” But in the end, history does repeats itself. Look at the Caininite line in Genesis 4. There is huge advancement in everything, but in the end they are fine living without God. And what do we have today? The same thing! Like I said earlier, but there is no app to cheat death, though people are trying. President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler said this week in light of Job’s death that, “unerring taste, aesthetic achievement, and technological genius will not save the world.”
A world without God is a world trying to cheat death. In fact, trying to look younger and prevent aging and prolong living has become an $88 billion a year business. Arlene Weintraub wrote a book recently titled, Selling the Fountain of Youth: How the Anti-Aging Industry Made a Disease Out of Getting Old—And Made Millions. According to an article based on this book, "The anti-aging phenomenon started off with good intentions. Baby boomers were getting older and didn't like what they saw or how they felt." In 1990 the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that human growth hormone (HGH), which was previously used to treat growth disorders in children, could be used to reverse aging. Adults latched on to this news like "junkies." Then, in 1993 a number of doctors started injecting themselves with HGH. A little later these doctors started opening clinics where patients could learn to inject themselves with HGH (for thousands of dollars of course). Today supermarkets and drugstore aisles teem with bottles adorned with the words "anti-aging." In 2009 Botox sales topped $1 billion. Anti-aging "institutes" have also continued to expand their client base…What's driving this quest to find, bottle, sell, and ingest a modern-day fountain of youth? The answer might be found in this book's subtitle—How the Anti-Aging Industry Made a Disease Out of Getting Old. Sadly, for many people in our culture, getting old isn't an opportunity to grow in wisdom and grace; it's a "disease."
Paul writes that if we only have hope in this life, we are to be most pitied (1 Cor. 15:19). We don’t need somebody who can cheat death, but one who can defeat it. Look down at Gen. 5:28. Lamech is a believer, but he is longing for rest and the promised One to come. He’s looking for a deliver from the curse. He’s hoping it is Noah. We don’t know why he thought so, but we can see several generations down that death has taken its toll already. This is not how it was meant to be.
Steve Jobs is wrong. Death is not the best invention of life. It is our enemy and as Paul says, our last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:26). Sin must be punished. But what God did was He took our sins and placed them on Christ. Christ was treated as we deserved: an enemy. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Is. 53:5). And the author of Hebrews says that through death, Jesus destroyed the one who has the power of death…and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Heb. 2:15). Like a bee, which loses its life when it stings you, death lost its sting (1 Cor. 15:55) when it stung Jesus to death. So listen to Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26a). So let me change that, there is an app to defeat death: It is applying Christ’ death on your behalf! Jesus Christ made an app to defeat death that Steve Jobs or anyone can ever make! And so because He died for us, we can live again! And because He lives for us, we can die without fear!
So we do not need to fear death, but it is biblical to think about our own mortality. Moses said, “Teach me to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Jonathan Edwards, perhaps one of the greatest American theologians of all time, had seventy, what he called “resolutions” he would read to keep his mind on the Lord. Listen to three of them:
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
This is not simply morbid introspection, but biblical. When was the last time you thought about your own mortality? What will be on your tombstone if you died today? We don’t have a lot of time. Only one life, it will soon, soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last. Don’t fear failure, but succeeding at things that don’t matter. What are we living for? And is what we are living for worth what Christ has died for? Lastly:
III. Walking with God is the only way to live in a dying world (vv. 21-24)
By the way, why do you think all these people lived so long? Are these ages symbolic? Did God want humans to be fruitful and multiply quickly? Was the Earth’s atmosphere different and more conducive to longer life? We don’t really know. It does seem that sin brought disease and decay so that by Moses time, the average people lived 70 years or 80 years (Ps. 90:10), though Moses lived up to 120 years.
It is interesting that as you read through this genealogy, each name goes on and on until the seventh name: Enoch. Moses changes up the pattern and highlights something for our attention. Enoch has a son when he was 65. For some reason, after he brought a little image reflector into the world, Enoch had a relationship with Yahweh. I don’t know if this was true for Enoch, but I can tell you that when you’re a parent, there are times you are running to God for help. I’m reaccepting Jesus into my heart all the time after failing with my kids! So perhaps he couldn’t take raising Methuselah anymore that he found faith in God through it? Or maybe just the thought of being a father like God? We don’t know. But Methuselah is a very interesting name. It means, literally, “His death shall bring it,” or loosely translated, “When he dies, it will come.” What will come? The flood! The year Methuselah dies (if the years here to be taken literally) is the year the Flood comes!
But this is beautiful. Two times Moses writes that Enoch “walked with God.” The last time “walk” was used was in Gen. 3:8 when we learned that God was walking in the Garden. “Walk” here indicates a communion or intimacy with God. This is incredible. Just when you thought we lost it all in the Fall, we have a God who we can walk with outside the Garden of Eden. Later it says, “Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). God tells Abram later to “Walk before me” (Gen. 17:1). The prophet Micah would later say that God ultimate desire is that we “walk humbly” before Him (Mic. 6:8). What is Moses saying here?
I think he’s saying that the only way to live is to walk with God. And walking with God is how you have victory in a dying world. Commentator John Sailhamer says, “Enoch is pictured as one who did not suffer the fate of Adam (“you will die”) because, unlike the others, he “walked with God.” The sense of the author is clear. Enoch is an example of one who found life amid the curse of death. In Enoch the author is able to show that the pronouncement of death is not the last word that need be said about a man’s life. One can find life if one “walks with God.” For the author, then, a door is left open for a return to the tree of life in the garden. Enoch found that door in his “walking with God” and in so doing has become a paradigm for all who seek to find life.” Bruce Waltke adds, “Enoch’s life affirms that those who ‘walk with God’ (5:22, 24) in this fallen world will experience life, not death, as the last word….”
Man was not born to die. Man was born to live and now walking with God is the way to live, actually it is a step above merely surviving. What does it mean to walk with God? Pastor and Commentator Kent Hughes adds that the phrase “walking with God, “…must be distinguished from other Old Testament phrases such as walking before God (cf. 17:1; 24:40) and walking after God (cf. Deuteronomy 13:4), which describe blameless moral and ethical conduct. Walking with God is far more intimate.” Sometimes we think the Old Testament was about obeying a bunch of laws, but here we see early on that God has always been a God who wants relationship. This describes the closest possible communion with God, as if you are walking by His side. Earlier we saw that God called us to glorify Him by reflecting His image and filling the earth with His glory. But here we see that walking with God is how we do that. Like C.S. Lewis says, “Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” So what you enjoying the most is what you glorify and give the most weight to in your life.
You may be a “good” person, walking before God and after God in your behavior, but are you walking with God? Are you going where He’s going with your life? Are you enjoying God? Amos asks how can two people walk together if they don’t agree? (Amos 3:3). I see God as a Father here, taking Enoch’s hand and saying, “Let’s go for a walk.” Where Dad is going, son is going. What Dad is doing, son is doing. And Dad watches out for you, keeps an eye on you, out of harms way, loves you, leads you and protects you. As a result, Enoch just kept walking and staying close with God. His was a life of faith. The author of Hebrews in Heb. 11:5 says that Enoch’s faith pleased God. The next verse tells us what this God-pleasing faith was like: “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.” Enoch also believed the negative side of this—that God judges those who reject him and continue to go their own way. Jude 14, 15 reveals that Enoch (just like Noah after him) preached this.
What a beautiful picture of a relationship with God. That’s a new beginning right there! Our sins separated us from God, (Is. 59:2), but we know now in Christ, we who were “afar off have been brought near” (Eph. 2:13). We were dead in our sins, walking after evil. But then Christ got a hold of our heart and became our legs through the Spirit of God.
Paul uses this image of “walking by the Spirit” frequently (for ex. Gal. 5:16). Walking is a “reiterated step.” It is to take a series of small steps in the same direction over a long period of time. The Christian life is a habitual, constant, moment-by-moment intentional and deliberate choice to be in tune with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does not operate automatically. He waits to be depended on. Steve Zeisler says here that Paul is referring to “the everyday experience of putting one foot in front of the other, the morning to night, inhale-exhale, normal process of living life.” How do babies learn to walk? By a number of failings as they learn to put their weight on their legs. To walk in the Spirit or be led by the Spirit means to go where the Spirit is going, to listen to his voice, to discern his will, to follow his guidance.
And what happened after 300 years of walking with God to Enoch? It’s almost as if God was like, “My son, we’ve been walking for a while. Why don’t you come over to my place and we’ll keep walking.” Somehow Enoch simply disappeared: “God took him.” Enoch walked right into Heaven! His walk was a walk to remember! (unlike that Keanu Reeves movie, which was a walk I want to forget). Enoch and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11-12) are the only ones who have not tasted death.
And what is Enoch doing now? He is still walking with God. And what does God promise to those who trust in Him? “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death will be no more…” (Rev. 21:3-4). But we don’t have to wait until then to walk with God. What an epitaph to put on his tombstone! Enoch walked with God. I would love that on my tombstone. I want to be a better walker with Christ than a preacher and anything else. Is that the cry of your heart? We may not be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or whoever. But if we can just walk with God in this dying world, we would have done a lot more for eternity than any great technological advance. Yes this is not showy or flashy, but this is godly. This is true life. Have you been walking before God or walking with God? Would you simply turn your heart to the Lord today and extend your small hands to His, and ask Him, “Dad, I want to walk with you. This world is dying around me. I just want to stay close to you. Your company is the company I truly enjoy. Father, my only joy is to be found in obeying you, my only true fulfillment is to be found in worshipping you, and my only wisdom is to be found in trusting and knowing you.” And before you know it, you will be filling the world with His glory and reflecting His image and inviting others to join you in this walk that never ends.
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From a sermon, “Life Rocks” by Dr. Ramesh Richard at Connext Conference 2011 in Dallas, Txpreached on September 17, 2011.
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Attributed to C.T. Studd, the British cricketer.
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Zeisler, S. As quoted in “Gal. 5:16 Commentary,” http://www.preceptaustin.org/galatians_516.htm#5:16 accessed 13 May 2011.