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Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Since Martin Luther first posted his 95 Theses 500 years ago, five principles have emerged which summarize the Protestant understanding of the Christian faith. They are five Latin phrases known as the Solaes or Slogans of the Reformation. Sola Fide by “faith alone”: Sola Scriptura “by Scripture alone”: Sola Gratia “by grace alone”: Solus Christus “by Christ alone”: and the sola most popular among musicians, Soli Deo Gloria “to the glory of God alone.” For Luther, faith alone was always the most important. But faith for him was not simply a spoken confession. It was always an action based on trust. This morning we continue our sermon series exploring the faithful actions of the Old Testament characters mentioned in the Book of Hebrews. Last week we began with the story of Abel’s better sacrifice, and today we turn to one of scripture’s oldest men- Enoch, the man who walked with God.
From Hebrews 5:6
By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
What’s not to like about walking? It’s free, it’s easy to do. And there’s no question that walking is good for you. The benefits are numerous. The Arthritis Foundation promotes the following 12 benefits. 1. Walking improves circulation. 2. Walking shores up your bones. 3. Walking leads to a longer life. 4. Walking lightens mood. 5. Walking can lead to weight loss. 6. Walking strengthens muscles 7. Walking improves sleep. 8. Walking supports your joints. 9. Walking improves your breath. 10. Walking slows mental decline. 11. Walking lowers Alzheimer’s risk. 12. Walking helps you do more, longer.
Of course, there is a humorous side to walking as well. When my grandfather turned 60, he started walking five miles a day. Now he’s 97 years old and we haven’t the slightest idea where he is. I love long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me. Walking can add minutes to your life, which will enable you at 85 years old to spend an additional 5 months in a nursing home at $10,000 per month. Now, it may surprise you, but God actually longs to walk with you. You may have been taught to think that God is only interested in your worship and your service, but that is not true. God is wants to be your companion. From the very beginning of creation, God has longed for a relationship with his children. He had a relationship with Adam and Eve that found them “walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” but then they hid from him. The same was true for Cain and Abel, when they walked without God to the field. You see, God created men and women for enjoyment and for a walking relationship that involves companionship, conversation, and mutual delight. But we often turn aside. Enoch, however, was different.
Enoch’s name in Hebrew, Chanok, means “dedicated.” Interestingly, it is the same base word as Chanukkah, the Feast of Dedication. In the book of Genesis we read that, “After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.” Now that is quite a “run” of dedication. One thing, however, strikes me about Enoch’s walk. According to Genesis, it was uneventful; it was lacking in glamour; it was routine. Nowhere do we read that Enoch marched around a city with trumpets blasting, like Joshua, or that he brought any king to his knees like Moses, or that he brought fire down from heaven like Elijah. Instead, all we read is that he walked with God.
Perhaps it was because of the uneventful, but pleasant companionship that God enjoyed with Enoch that the miracle occurred. “By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death.” Without dying, or entering the portals of death, God took Enoch to heaven. He did it again years later for Elijah. And so, as the great British preacher Spurgeon once wrote, “At the tender age of 365 years God called Enoch home to heaven. I say “tender” because he was the youngest man in this chapter of Genesis to die. In the age before the flood when men lived almost a thousand years, Enoch’s death was like that of a thirty year old man today. Enoch lived and walked so close to God and did his work so well that his “day’s work was done at noon.” Incidentally, Enoch’s son Methuselah lived to be 969.
So for 365 years, Enoch walked with and pleased God. There is a beauty in experiencing a walk with someone you love. It is just as true for two young people who have discovered the wonder of the l world strolling hand in hand, as an elderly couple who have been married for 40 or 50 years who are walking side by side, arm in arm. There is work in the walking, but there are also great benefits.
I am reminded of the young bride and groom-to-be who had just selected their wedding ring. As the girl admired the plain platinum and diamond band, she suddenly looked concerned. “Tell me,” she asked the elderly salesman “is there anything special or wing I have to do to take care of this ring?” With a fatherly smile, the salesman said, “One of the best ways to protect a wedding ring is to dip it in dishwater three times a day.”
There are some wonderful benefits that God brings when you walk with him and put your trust in Him. First, he guides you. Martin Luther once said, “I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.” He can always be trusted. God our traveling companion is trustworthy-he knows the way, He knows the pitfalls, and he erases worry from our minds when we put the details of the journey in His hands.
Second, he comforts you. Sometimes you may wonder whether the demands of life will be too heavy for you. Will you make it? But God’s answer is simple, “As your days may demand, so shall your strength be.” God has promised that when you walk him, you will never walk alone. He will be with you. 30 years ago, I was given an engraved, key ring that I still use today. The words are barely legible, but I know the promise. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” As a companion, God comforts.
Finally, he protects you as you walk together. That’s a wonderful promise. Life can be a frustrating journey. It has many uncertain turns. I, for one, need a trusty guide and friend to show me the way, and protect. God arranges the details of the journey. He knows the destination because he has been there before; all you have to do is go with him, listen to him, follow his instructions and enjoy his companionship. Not even death can separate you.
Lars Erickson walked with God. He was a member of the first congregation I served over three decades ago. He was a typically stoic, and silent Norwegian whose conversation was seldom more than a stubborn, but timid “hello.” He came to America alone and never married. He had worked almost his entire adult life as a hired hand with never a home he could call his own. When Lard retired at the age of seventy, he stayed on at the last farm he worked. The family had arranged a small room for him above one of the sheds. He had a few pictures of his family scattered about the room, an old feather bed and a wood burning stove. Along the one wall stood a wooden table and two chairs, and above he table one could read the familiar words of the Norwegian Table Prayer. “I Jesu navn, In Jesus name.” I once asked Lars why he had two chairs when he always ate his meals alone. “O, I never eat alone,” he answered. “Jesus is always with me. When I was a little boy growing up in Norway, my mother taught me to pray by placing a chair in front of me, telling me to speak to Jesus as if he sitting in the chair. That’s Jesus’s chair.”
Shortly before Lars passed away he became very sick. The family on the farm arranged for him to be transferred to the hospital. I visited him there. Just as I was about to sit in the chair next to the bed he whispered to me faintly, “Please don’t sit there. That’s Jesus’ chair.” Lars died that evening. When the nurses found him, they noticed that his hand was outstretched as if reaching towards his friend’s chair.
My friends, just as there are physical benefits to walking, there are emotional and spiritual benefits as well. Enoch knew this. Often that benefit is a new perspective on life and death. Yes, one moment, you are walking with God in time, and the next moment in eternity. One moment you are communing with God by faith; and the next moment you are communing by sight. It all comes from walking with God by faith. “For without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.