************ Sermon on Hebrews 11:5-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 18, 2016
Genesis 5:21-24; Jude 1:14-15
"Enoch's Faith (2)"
What does your heart delight in? What gives you pleasure? What gratifies you? Different people have different answers: work, sex, money, children, grandchildren, family, things, sports, exercise, fishing, cycling, golfing, Christmas. Nothing wrong if a Christian finds pleasure in any or all of these. But none of these should be the main delight of your life.
I Christians Delight in Pleasing God
A What does your heart delight in? What gives you pleasure? What gratifies you? If you are a Christian, you should especially find pleasure in pleasing God -- not because you have to but because you want to; not out of a sense of duty but out of love; not because you mistakenly believe your destiny hangs in the balance but because your destiny is already sure.
Christians delight in pleasing God. Does this describe you? Is this something you want to do? I know this is the passion of many here. I also know there are some here who don't feel this way at all. Perhaps the whole idea of pleasing God leaves you cold or strikes no responsive chord in you at all.
B Christians take pleasure in pleasing God. You should know this desire does not come from within. It is not something you decide to do. It can't be your decision because this runs counter to the natural disposition of fallen people. Rather, a desire to please God can only be a gift of God's grace. Q & A 1 of the Catechism speaks of this: 'What is your only comfort in life and in death?" Listen to what the final paragraph of the answer says:
Because I belong to him,Hear the answer? Because they belong to Christ, Christians take pleasure in pleasing God.
Christ, by his Holy Spirit, ...
makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
C So, what is it that pleases God? What gives God pleasure? You cannot please God by an ascetic lifestyle of self-denial. You cannot please God by flagellation -- that is, by flogging or beating yourself as is done by some Roman Catholics and Muslims to this day. You cannot please God by confessing every one of your sins day-in and day-out. You cannot please God by striving to be obedient to His Law. You cannot please God by having a life filled with Christian exercises like prayer and Bible reading and worship and Bible Study. Put this altogether: I am saying you cannot please God by your works -- for they are imperfect and filled with sin.
So, what is it that pleases God? What gives God pleasure? We are given the answer as we look at Enoch.
II How Enoch Pleased God (vs 5)
A Enoch is one of the Old Testament heroes of faith that we find listed in Hebrews 11. His inclusion in the list is somewhat surprising when we compare him to other Old Testament heroes of faith. The life of Abraham, for instance, covers more than 12 chapters in the Bible. David is found in more than 18 chapters. Daniel is found in the entire book bearing his name. Moses is found throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The entire life of Enoch, by way of comparison, is covered by only 35 words in the Hebrew. So why is Enoch even listed in Hebrew's list of saints?
Here is why: Our text from Hebrews 11 tells us that Enoch "pleased God." "He was commended," we are told, "as one who pleased God" (Heb 11:5).
B Let me review with you what the Bible tells us about Enoch. Enoch's father was Jared (Gen 5:20) and his son was Methuselah (Gen 5:21) -- nothing here that makes him a hero of faith.
Enoch lived 365 years (Gen 5:23) which was a drop in the bucket compared to the 969 years of Methuselah (Gen 5:27) -- again, nothing that makes him a hero of faith.
Enoch lived just before the Flood; in other words, he lived during a time of great evil and wickedness (Gen 6:5). I want you to note that this makes his days similar to the days of the Hebrew Christians. I want you to also note that this also makes His days similar to our days. We are getting at something here.
During this time of great wickedness, Enoch was an unpopular preacher who warned that
(Jude 1:14-15) the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones (15) to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.Why do I say Enoch was unpopular? Because back then, just like at the time of Paul, just like today, the popular preachers told the people what their itching ears wanted to hear. They certainly did not preach about judgment and damnation. But that was Enoch's message. In the midst of a wicked and evil generation he dared to speak the truth.
The Bible also tell us that Enoch walked with God (Gen 5:22). For 300 years Enoch walked with God. The same word is used for God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the Garden. Which means Enoch was God's friend, God's companion. Which means Enoch loved God and served God and obeyed God and followed God and sought God. We would expect no less from a faithful preacher who did not hesitate to bring a warning message of judgment. Yet, like you and me and the Hebrew Christians, Enoch was also a sinner; no where does the Bible tell us he was perfect in all his ways.
Another thing the Bible tells us: Enoch did not die; he "did not experience death" says Hebrews (Heb 11:5). This means he was unlike Adam, Seth, Jared, Methuselah and every other person back then; Genesis makes a big point of telling us they all died. Enoch was also unlike Abraham, Moses, David, and even Jesus. Enoch is unlike you and me and our loved ones. Enoch did not die.
If Enoch did not die, what happened to him? Genesis says "he was no more, because God took him away" (Gen 11:24). Hebrews says Enoch "was taken from this life" (Heb 11:5). Another Bible version says Enoch was translated. He was taken from this life to another life. Which we know to be life in heaven. Which we know to be life with God. Death is my entrance into heaven. Death is your entrance into heaven. We get to heaven only by first experiencing death. But not Enoch. He got to heaven without the experience of death.
This means Enoch was like Elijah. Elijah, if you remember, was taken from earth to heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Ki 2). We aren't told anything like that about Enoch. All we are told is that God took him. One day Enoch was on this earth, busy preaching and warning people about judgment. The next day Enoch was gone. Poof. Just like that he was gone.
Enoch was no more. People wondered about this. They wondered what happened. Not because they loved his preaching. But because all of a sudden this crazy preacher was missing. Hebrews says "he could not be found" (Heb 11:4) which implies that people looked for him. You might remember that when Elijah went missing people looked for him too. Fifty men from Jericho searched for Elijah for three days but did not find him (2 Ki 2:17). Like Elijah, when Enoch went missing he also could not be found.
Lastly, the most important detail the Bible tells us about Enoch is that Enoch "pleased God." "He was commended," we are told, "as one who pleased God" (Heb 11:5).
It is because Enoch pleased God that he did not experience death. It is because Enoch pleased God that he was translated into the immediate presence of God in heaven. It is because Enoch pleased God that he was taken away. It is because Enoch pleased God that he was no more.
C How did Enoch please God? The answer lies in the first two words of our text. Two words that are repeated over and over again by Hebrews 11. "By faith." Enoch pleased God "by faith." He lived by faith. He preached by faith. He walked with God by faith. He was translated by faith. He was taken into heaven by faith. It was all by faith. On the basis of faith.
III How We Please God (vs 6)
A I want to remind you, for a moment, that Hebrews was written as a word of encouragement or exhortation (Heb 13:22). So, how does it encourage the Hebrews Christians as well as you and me?
The story of Enoch tells me it is possible to live with God even though I live in a wicked and evil world. It is possible to know God and be known by God though the worst of sinners are all around me. It is possible to walk with God though the world hate me. It is possible to love God in spite of trials and hostilities.
But, like Enoch, I can only do this "by faith." I need to live my life by faith, on the basis of faith. I can only please God by faith. In fact, "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb 11:6). I need to have faith. I gotta believe.
Only faith pleases God. Hebrews forces us to ask what kind of faith. What kind of faith pleases God? We need to ask this because we know that both the devil and his demons have a kind of faith. So what kind of faith pleases God? Our text from Hebrews tells us two things about faith pleases God.
B First, says Hebrews, faith that pleases God "must believe that he exists" (Heb 11:5). A literal translation: "must believe He is." Faith that pleases God must believe He is.
The Hebrew Christians would pick up something here that escapes most or all of us because we don't know Greek and don't read the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Greek for "He is" is very similar to the Greek for "I am." God uses "I am" when He introduces Himself to Moses out of the burning bush: "I AM WHO I AM." The Hebrew is YHWH. "I AM."
Telling us what? Telling us faith that pleases God must believe the God of the Bible. Telling us faith that pleases God must believe in the covenanting, creating God Who is the source of all life. Telling us faith that pleases God must believe in the God Who saved His people out of Egypt and from the hands of wicked Pharaoh.
In a conversation with the Pharisees, Jesus claimed to be this God: "before Abraham was born, I am!" (Jn 8:58). The Pharisees understood exactly what this means. So they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. This tells us faith that pleases God necessarily believes Jesus is God, that Jesus is the source of life, that Jesus loves us and saves us. Faith that pleases God is faith that believes in Jesus.
If your faith is the faith of the liberals who deny the miracles and divinity of Christ, then your faith is not pleasing to God. If your faith is the faith of those who deny Jesus was a real, historical person, then your faith is not pleasing to God. If your faith is the faith of the JWs -- who deny Jesus is fully God -- then your faith is not pleasing to God. If your faith is the faith of the Mormons, then your faith is not pleasing to God. Those who come to God, like Enoch came to God, must believe He is.
C Second, faith that pleases God must believe "that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Heb 11:6). Consider what this is saying to the Hebrew Christians. God is saying the benefits of knowing Him and serving Him and seeking Him and walking with Him -- as Enoch did -- far outweigh the persecutions and trials that the world throws their way. The advantages of knowing God and Christ far outweigh the suffering that results. The good that comes from knowing Christ outweighs all the insult, persecution, prison, and confiscation of property that the Hebrew Christians experienced (cf Heb 10:32-34).
Faith that pleases God must believe "that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Heb 11:6). Hebrews isn't talking about riches here. It isn't talking about position and glory and power. It isn't talking about earthly treasures. It isn't talking about a prosperity or health and wealth gospel.
So, what is the reward for seeking and knowing God? What is the reward of living by faith? The reward -- maybe I should ask for a drum-roll here -- the reward is God Himself. Enoch walked with God by faith. And his reward was more of God in the presence of God in heaven. Similarly, Elijah lived by faith and his reward was more of God in the presence of God in heaven. Do you remember what God said to Abraham? "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward" (Gen 15:1).
The reward for seeking God is God. Listen to these words from Jeremiah:
(Jer 29:11-14) "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (12) Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (13) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (14) I will be found by you," declares the LORD ... (cf 1 Chr 28:9).What are God's plans for His people? To find God. To be with God. To get more of God. More and more and more of God.
D The reward for faith is God. Which means forgiveness and salvation and eternal life and sweet communion with the Lord.
Is faith, true faith, worth it? Is faith worth the hatred of the world? Is faith worth persecution and trials and hardships and the loss of property or income? You bet it is. Because every sinner who seeks God finds Him and is forgiven by Him and is saved by Him and receives eternal life from Him.
If you are not a Christian, seek this God Who saves. Come to Him in faith. And your reward is God and His salvation.
If you are a Christian, keep seeking this God, keep walking with this God, keep faith in this God. Because your reward, too, is God. More and more and more of God. Don't forget, this is what happened to Enoch. He had been seeking God for 300 years. And his reward was more of God in the presence of God.
I want you to realize this was also the case with the Lord Jesus Christ. He walked with God as none other. He had faith as none other. It is He Who pleased the Father more than any other. His reward: He was raised from the dead and raised into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father. His reward was more of the God He walked with and talked with.
We have no promise that our faith will bring us directly into heaven as happened with Enoch. Consider Abel who also walked with God but to get to heaven he had to suffer death. But what we do know is that those with faith get God, more and more and more of God.
Do you want to please God? Do you want to give Him pleasure? Live by faith like Enoch lived by faith. Live by faith in the God Who loves us in Jesus Christ. Live by faith in the God Who gives us Himself, more and more of Himself.
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