The next two messages are meditations on the patriarch Enoch whose story is briefly told in Genesis 5:18-24 and whose faith is commended in Hebrews 11:5-6).
When Enoch was 65, he fathered Methuselah. He started walking with God then and kept on for another 300 years during which he fathered other sons and daughters (Gen. 5:21-24). This was a time when people had begun raising herds of cattle and living in communities. Jubal had commenced musical entertainment and his brother Tubal had begun making tools out of bronze and iron (Gen. 4:20-22).
It’s good to reflect on these social developments. Family responsibilities, work obligations, and entertainment are all commonly cited reasons for refusing or neglecting a walk with God. “Walking with God” is how Scripture describes a life of prayer and obedience to the will of God.
Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a man who planned a great banquet and invited many guests. But all of them sent regrets with excuses. The first invited guest said “I just bought property and must inspect it. Please excuse me.”
Another said, “I just bought five yoke of oxen and must try them out. Please excuse me.”
Another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.” And so on (Luke 14:15-20, par).
Property ownership, business success, marriage, family, and the arts are all things that we esteem highly. Go to any bookstore, secular or religious, and you will find shelves of books on how to improve your position in all these aspects of living. Our employers, clients, vendors and churches hold retreats to focus us on our achievement of “greatness” in these things. Our lives are so measured by the milestones of achievement that our first question on meeting someone new after “What is your name?” is “What do you do?”
Jesus said that the party host reacted with anger at the excuses. He threw the party open to the poor, crippled, blind and lame. In fact, anyone off the streets who could run, walk, limp, crawl or be carried in the door of the banquet hall was welcome to enjoy the festivities. The host then said, “The original invitees won’t even get a taste of my banquet” (Luke 14:21-24, par).
Earlier in the same evening when he told this story, Jesus told the guests who were vying for the best seats at a dinner party that their social climbing efforts could spoil their enjoyment of the party. Then in the story of the banquet, he unleashed the radical truth about grace: Those who seek their success in wealth, business, and even, dare I say it, marriage and family at the expense of their relationship with God do not get into the party at all. The real party-goers have no claim on God’s welcome except their enthusiastic “yes” to his invitation.
Enoch began his walk with God when he became a father at 65. That’s a youthful age for someone who will live to be 365. I began my serious walk with God when I was 37, having become a father just before my 34th birthday. My own experience gives me an insight into Enoch’s walk and Jesus’ banquet. Nothing will reveal your inadequacies like parenthood. Caring for a child will speak God’s love to you as nothing else will.
When I walked with Andrew taking his first steps, I had to lift him up and over obstacles too large for him to master. When I held him close to my chest during night feedings and kissed the top of his sweet head, I was filled with a love that displaced all other thoughts. When he answered my call to “Come to Daddy?” by toddling across my office lobby and entering my waiting arms with a smile, I came alive with delight that made all the other frictions of the work day disappear.
When Andrew tried to cross busy streets by himself or to climb too high to safely come back down, I was filled with stern concern for his own protection against dangers he could not appreciate. When I spoke to him too quickly in judgment and misunderstanding or projected my own fears and insecurities in correcting his course, I realized my need for the Father’s heart of wisdom and grace. How can I love my son if I do not accept that I am loved? How can I rear a son if I do not acknowledge my own childhood with God?
The excuses of work, asset management, entertainment, and other relationships do not cut it against the needs of a two-year-old whose hunger will not wait, whose cleanliness and warmth is entirely dependent on your provision, and whose prayers will be learned from your words. Our God, who rules the universe and commands all things in his sovereign will, makes no excuses to us. He knows what we need and will not withhold good things from his children who ask him (Matt 6:31-33; 7:7-10).
Enoch faced the distractions of business, entertainment, and family and community life. Yet, somehow God reached out his hand and Enoch reached up and took it and they walked together. The same hand reaches out for ours. Jesus said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in” (Matt 18:3, MSG).
To start over as a child is to reach out and take the hand of love offered to you and to hang on in trust that the One who holds your hand knows the way and will take you there and won’t let go of you during the journey. Even if you break loose and wander off, thinking you are too sophisticated to hold on, when you come to your senses and realize you’re lost you will remember that the Father’s house is the place where you were loved best and most and you will want to go home (Luke 15:17). We are never too old for that desire.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who find refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Next time we will continue looking at the lessons to be learned from the life and times of the patriarch, Enoch.
Under the mercy of Christ,
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The Lord is the strength of his people;