“A Legacy of Faith”

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.”

(Hebrews 11:5)

Hebrews 11:1 begins with a description of faith as a positive response to God. We hope for what we don't yet have or haven't experienced yet (Rom. 8:24-25) but we're certain  we will experience it in the future because we trust God. When we believe in what we hope for and are as confident of it as if we already possess it, then we have  faith. Faith, then, is forward-looking to an unseen future (2 Cor. 4:14).

This assurance is what stands beneath and supports that hope of a better future. When we hope for something with faith, at the base of that hope is unwavering trust in God that He will bring it about. So biblical faith is something that connects an unseen future with the present, much like an anchor connects a ship to the sea floor. This kind of trust provides a strong motivation to endure the present, however difficult, until we obtain the promised future.

The next verse states, “For by it (this biblical faith) the men of old gained approval” (Heb. 11:2). The Hebrew writer has already said that God was not pleased by sacrifices of the Old Law (10:5ff) but He was pleased by the faith of His people even before the law of Moses was written (Rom. 4:9-15). He has also already outlined that those who did not possess genuine faith were not approved (Heb. 3:19). Chapter 11 is the positive flipside. Here, the writer gives some great examples of faith and calls the Hebrews to walk worthy of their legacy.

One such person who received the approval of God on the basis of his faith was Enoch. But where Abel was killed for his faith (Heb. 11:4), Enoch never died! Enoch was a descendant of Seth, seven generations removed from Adam (1 Chr. 1:3; Jd. 14). The only information we have about him outside of his genealogy is found in Genesis 5, “the diary of death,” showing the fruit of Adam’s sin which spread to all mankind (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12). Story after story ends with the same phrase “and he died” (Gen. 5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20). But Enoch’s story interrupts the gloomy list of death with a curious statement: “and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24).

Enoch did not “see” (or experience) physical death because he “walked with God” (Gen. 5:22, 24). The author of Hebrews understood this "walk" meant Enoch had faith. The Hebrew word for “walk” conveys the meaning of an ongoing, intimate fellowship (Gen. 3:8; 6:9; 17:1; Psa.1:1). Enoch had a great relationship with God. He walked by “faith” (2 Cor. 5:7) and because of this “he was not found,” by anyone on earth or by death itself. This was his reward (Heb. 11:6). By taking Enoch up and thus delivering him from death, God was testifying that He was pleased with him (Heb. 11:2). If we walk with God now we will be taken up to Him later.

What a great example! What a great legacy! It may seem strange that for all of Enoch's 365 years (Gen. 5:23) this is all the information we have about him. But the scarcity of information is precisely the author’s point. These few verses are all that we need to remember his legacy, and Enoch’s was a legacy of faith. He was a man who walked with God and was rewarded by being delivered from this life into the next.

By contrast, the next name on the list is Methuselah (Gen. 5:25-27). The only pertinent information about him was that he lived 969 years and had some children. Again, the little that is said is significant. Despite the fact that he lived more than the lives of 10 men today, nothing of eternal value is recorded! Instead of a legacy of faith, Methuselah’s legacy is one of a wasted life, albeit a long one.

Imagine that your genealogy was in the book of Genesis. Based on how you are living your life right now what would be the most outstanding characteristic? What would your legacy be?