Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
There is one thing these three men have in common: they pleased God.
The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering… (Genesis 4:4b)
Enoch walked with God 300 years… (Genesis 5:22)
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8)
How did they please God? Each of these men seems to be anomalies in the history of humanity. Abel was the son of Adam and Eve, the first to inherit his sinful nature because of his parents’ actions. Enoch’s story is so short it’s a blip in the middle of a list of Adam’s descendants. By the time Noah’s story begins, God is so disappointed and hurt at how humanity is behaving, He wants to cleanse the earth of this troublesome creation.
So what made these three so special?
Let’s set the stage: Adam and Eve are living in Eden when they do something stupid and disobey God’s command, thinking it will make them like God. Because they sinned and corrupted themselves, God forces them to leave paradise and go out into the world where they have to work to survive.
Adam and Eve were probably not the best parents in history. Not the worst, but not the best. I mean, think of the guilt complex and self-esteem issues they probably had to deal with. Christians refer to God as our Father and us as His children. I’m sure Adam and Eve had an inkling of the pain that God felt at their rejection once they started having kids of their own. Can you imagine Cain and Abel as teenagers? Questioning who they are and what their purpose on this earth is? And what about that horrible moment when Adam and Eve had to sit them down for The Talk – no, not that one. I mean the one where they had to tell their sons about Eden.
I imagine Cain would have held onto that, and probably threw it back into their faces whenever they argued.
I think it’s safe to say that God still communicated with Adam and Eve, and that’s because their sons came before God with sacrifices. Perhaps the first family tried to follow God after their fall. In any case, their children were aware of God.
In the midst of a hurting and dysfunctional family, Abel sought God.
He didn’t just obey Him. He didn’t present his sacrifice out of obligation like his brother Cain did. He didn’t do it half-heartedly. At some point, Abel decided that being aware of God was not enough.
There is a difference between knowing of God and seeking God. I have known God all my life. I cannot remember a time not knowing God. I’ve believed in God all my life, even when I didn’t want to. But seeking God? Walking with God? That’s been hard.
Abel sought God. While Cain offered a sacrifice to God out of obligation, Abel offered his out of faith and devotion.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
For some reason, Abel saw past his own failures, insecurities, and pride to devote himself completely to God. Cain couldn’t understand this because Cain couldn’t let go of himself. He couldn’t side with God over himself.
It’s interesting to note that even though Cain committed a terrible sin and murdered his brother, God still cared enough about him to mark him.
Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
God identified Cain and sent him out into the world. Cain had been given every chance to do the right thing, but he still chose to put himself first, and it was only when he was terrified of what would happen to him without God that he called out to God for help. He was still putting himself first.
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
Enoch never died. I mean, that alone is cool, but the reason behind why he never died is far more intriguing – he walked with God.
And it’s not just that he obeyed God and devoted himself to him, it’s because he did so in a world that was destroying itself. Here was one person who followed God.
Enoch was so faithful to God, God decided that he did not deserve the same fate as the rest of us. He simply took Enoch away to heaven instead of letting him die.
God saw Enoch as someone set apart from the rest of humanity. Enoch sought God, followed Him, and walked with Him. Enoch identified himself with God, and God identified him as righteous.
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
This is the account of Noah.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.
Like Abel and Enoch before him, Noah was an exception. He was living in a time when the people of the earth had so given into their corrupted selves, indulging themselves in sin rather than trying to be better. The world was a violent place full of selfish people, and God regretted us.
He regretted us.
But there was Noah, and for some reason Noah went to the other extreme. When those around him rejected God over and over again, Noah rejected himself and his people. He identified himself with God and sought Him.
Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
And when the end came, it was Noah who was saved. And God extended his grace to Noah’s family – his wife, his sons, and his daughters-in-law. God saved them because of Noah, and Noah’s identity extended over his family.
Walking with God
To walk with God means to recognize that there is something more to this life than just yourself. It’s not enough that I follow all the laws, both man’s and God’s. It’s not enough that I give to the poor. It’s not enough that I try to make myself good. To walk with God means that it’s no longer about me. It’s about God.
The focus changes. The motivation changes. It’s not about me being good, it’s about God. To walk with God, to side with God, to identify with God means that I reject myself and I reject what my culture tells me about myself. It means that my worth is found in God, not in me.
There is no me anymore. There is only the person who seeks God. There is only God.
It’s the hardest thing that can ever be asked of us, don’t you think?