By Wayne S. Walker
Some people find an interesting past time in going into old cemeteries, walking about the graves, and looking at the epitaphs on the tombstones. It is our custom today to have only the person’s name and dates on the graveyard markers, but in previous years it was quite common for a cemetery stone to include an epitaph, or short statement summarizing the person’s life. Of course, if someone did not die, there would be no need for a tombstone. Two such individuals are recorded in the Bible. One was Elijah. The other was Enoch. “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). However, even though Enoch never died, we could still ascribe the epitaph to him that he walked with God.
I. What is meant by Enoch walking with God? I believe that Herbert C. Leupold answered this question best in his Exposition of Genesis. “Now the significant thing reported concerning him is that he ‘walked with God’ . . . ‘To walk about’= ‘to live.’ The particular preposition used. . . denotes ‘intimacy, fellowship’. . . . We are thus driven to take the expression, ‘to walk with God,’ figuratively, in the sense of inner communion, as living one’s life in such a way that in faith one remains uninterruptedly conscious of the’ nearness of the almighty God and so walks as the thought of that presence determines. Life was lived Lo please God, so far as this was humanly possible” (pp. 241-242).
There are others in Scripture who are said to have walked with God. “This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). In what way did Noah walk with God? “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22). Abraham also walked before God (Gen. 17:1; 24:40). How did he do this? When God told Abraham to leave his country and kindred, “Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him” (Gen. 12:1-4). When God told him to offer his son Isaac, “Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son” (Gen. 22:1-3). These examples show us that basically walking with God means obeying his will in all things.
We also have the privilege of walking with God today. In what manner do we walk in order to walk with God? The New Testament tells us to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We must walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16,25). We are commanded to walk in good works (Eph. 2:10). It is necessary for us to walk in love (Eph. 5:1-2). We ought to walk wisely, redeeming the time (Eph. 5:15-27). And we should walk in the light (1 Jn. 1:7). There has been a lot of discussion on this last point through the years, but a look at the other similar passages leads us to conclude necessarily that while walking in the light does not require sinless perfection, it does mean that we cannot continue in sin. Only when we live according to all the commandments of God can it be said that we are walking with God, and that includes repenting of our sins.
II. What were the circumstances in which Enoch walked with God? It is clear from the context that they were not favorable. Adam and Eve had already brought sin into the world (Gen. 3), and Cain had set the tone for the life-style of his descendants by his murder of Abel (Gen. 4). The world was becoming quite corrupt, even in Enoch’s day, because it was not long until we read that, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Shortly after this, we are told that God was grieved that he had made man and determined to destroy man from the face of the earth by means of a flood. It would be a mistake to think that Enoch lived in a time when it was easy for him to walk with God.
True men of God have always been at their best in unfavorable situations. Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery by his own brothers, had a master whose wife tried to seduce him, and was put into prison because he refused to yield. Yet he is cited as an example for our faith (Heb. 11:22). Moses had to put up with the hatred of the Egyptians, the stubbornness of Pharaoh, the rigors of the wilderness, the constant complaining of the Israelites, and opposition by some of his followers. Still, he is described as more humble than all other men who were on the earth (Num. 12:3). David was chased by King Saul who tried to kill him, suffered the rape of his daughter Tamar by his son Amnon, was driven out of Jerusalem by another son Absalom who tried to usurp the kingdom, and faced continual fighting among his assistants. However, through all this he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Consider also the courage of Daniel in Babylonian captivity and the steadfastness of Paul through all of his persecutions.
We also live in adverse circumstances. Peter called the people of his day “this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). Paul referred to it as “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15). With rank atheism becoming more common, secular humanism taught in our schools, immorality rampant throughout the land, and all kinds of ungodliness portrayed in the media, can the people of our day be called any less? Even so, as those who are to be children of God, we cannot give in to the world and its ways by being conformed to it (Rom. 12:1-2). Rather, we must deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Tit. 2:11-12). This is the only way that we can hope to be “like a little candle, burning in the night” and walk with God in the midst of our current evil generation.
III. What were the results of Enoch’s walking with God? Our text says that he was not, for God took him. That is, he did not see death. “By faith, Enoch was translated so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found because God had translated him’; for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God” (Heb. 11:6). I remember hearing a preacher several years ago say that Enoch walked with God so long that finally they were closer to God’s place than to Enoch’s, so God just took Enoch home with him. In any event, there was something about Enoch’s character, his way of life among the people with whom he dwelt, that prompted God to do this. What a blessing it must have been not to have suffered the pain and agony associated with physical death!
Of course, all other human beings (beside Elijah) have died, and so must we unless the Lord comes first (Heb. 9:27). But great men of God, even though they knew that they must die, still looked forward to being with God. David knew that his first child by Bathsheba could not return to him after it died, but he also knew that he would go to be with it (2 Sam. 12:23). Because Jehovah was his shepherd, he expected to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psa. 23:6). Likewise the apostle Paul looked upon death as that time when he could depart from all the sorrows of this life and be with Christ, which he described as being far better (Phil. 1:23). He had lived in such a way that he was confident that “there is a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Furthermore, Paul said that this crown would be given “not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” This same hope and expectation can be had by every Christian who walks with God. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12). Jesus told the church at Smyrna, “Do not fear any of those thing which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). I know that we, in spite of our sins, can walk with God and receive these promises because Old Testament worthies did, and disciples of Christ in the first century did too.
Yes, Enoch walked with God. When I was just a small child and heard sermons about Enoch’s walk with God, I always pictured a nice, grassy field on a bright, sunlit day, with two people, one a giant-sized person and the other a normal-sized individual, holding hands together and walking down a fence row. Of course, that is not what actually happened. From Hebrews 11 it is clear that for Enoch to walk with God meant that he lived his life in such a way as to please God. Are you walking with God? “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thess. 4:1). As Christians, we must walk with God by following his revealed will in every aspect of our lives. And if you are not a Christian, you need to begin your walk with God by giving your life to Jesus in obedience to his word. Let us all strive to “walk with the Lord in the light of His word” as we “trust and obey.”
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 5, pp. 136-137
March 3, 1988