Summary: Week two of our look into Hebrews 11, this week I look at Enoch and what we learn from his life and "translation".
No Ordinary Family 2 Enoch
Every story has a beginning and this story has a strange beginning. In most of the stories that are told in Hebrews 11 there are some really neat things happening, nations begin, arks are built, people are rescued. But listen again to the scripture that was read earlier Hebrews 11:5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—”he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.
That sounds like something out of x-files. “Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying.” You might say “there he was and there he was, gone.” Taken up to heaven without dying. That is so cool and it’s even cooler in the King James Version because it reads Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Enoch was translated. I’ve had my words translated, and we all know what that means. You speak using words from one language and they are repeated in a different language. One night on my first trip to Africa my friend Nick Graham spoke in English his words were translated into a second language and then another person translated them into a third language.
So we know that when you translate a language the message remains the same but the words used are different. In the original language the word used meant “To change, or to turn” And another friend of mine H.C. Wilson, who gives oversight to the Wesleyan Church worldwide has referred on some occasions to translators as “Word Turners”
So Enoch was changed, he was turned from one thing into another thing, while the essence of who he was remained the same. And we don’t know how, not at all. And if anyone tells you they know how it happened they are bluffing.
But it is a neat concept. When I was trying to figure out what happened and how it happened this is what came to mind (scene from Disney’s Cinderella). The essence of who Cinderella was remained the same but she had been changed and translated.
Quite a number of years ago now Joe Diffie had a song called “Prop me up beside the Juke Box When I’m Gone.” And that’s why I love country music. And in the song there is a line that says “I’m not afraid of dying it’s the thought of being dead.” But for most of us it is the opposite, we’re not afraid of being dead it’s the thought of dying and not knowing what that will look like.
And I don’t think I’m alone in that four hundred years ago Francis Bacon wrote “I do not believe that any man fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death.” And forty years ago Woody Allen said virtually the same thing “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
And probably if most of us were honest here today we would admit to the same thing. That we have the assurance of an eternity with God, but we aren’t really looking forward to the journey. It’s like travelling with Angela, she wants to be wherever it is we are going but she hates to fly and doesn’t look forward to that part of the trip.
If we could be assured of the transition and that it would be peaceful, then perhaps we could say with Samuel Butler “To die is but to leave off dying and do the thing once for all.” Or Joyce Cary who said “I look upon life as a gift from God. I did nothing to earn it. Now that the time is coming to give it back, I have no right to complain.”
I love the bumper sticker that says “I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming like the passengers in his car.”
But we don’t get that choice; most of us won’t get to pick how we are going to go.
So what do we know about Enoch? Not much. He is mentioned three times in the New Testament, here in Hebrews. In the book of Luke he is mentioned in the genealogy of Christ and there is a brief and obscure reference to a prophecy of his in the book of Jude. There is almost as much written about him in the 2 verses in Hebrews 11 as there was in the original story where we read in Genesis 5:21-23 When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.