So, last week we were looking at Genesis 4 and the story of Cain and Abel. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and on his offering while he did not look with favour on Cain or his offering. And we learned from the book of Hebrews that the reason why the Lord accepted Abel and his offering was because of Abel’s faith. He believed God and he believed God’s promise that he would one day send a Redeemer into the world to deliver us from our sin and misery. Abel believed, while Cain did not. And Cain was angry. And he hated his brother. And he killed him. And as a result, the Lord drove him from the land and made him a restless wanderer on the earth, without a home or a place to call his own.
Well, then we read of some of Cain’s descendants. And the one who really stood out was Lamech. And I didn’t mention it last time, but it’s worth noting that Lamech was the first man to have two wives. Though God’s intention was for marriage to be between one man and one woman, Lamech took two wives for himself. And then he boasted about murdering a young man and he swore vengeance on anyone who every did anything to him. He was excessively vengeful, whereas the Lord Jesus taught us to be excessively forgiving. Lamach wanted to be avenged 77 times, but the Lord’s people should be willing to forgive one another 77 times. In other words, again and again and again. Our willingness to pardon one another should never come to an end.
So, we read of Lamech. But at the end of chapter 4, Moses mentioned the birth of Seth. And Seth was born to replace Abel. And after Seth was born, men began to call on the name of the Lord. They began to worship him. And from the time of Adam and Eve, right up to the present day, and beyond, the Lord has been calling sinners to himself and he’s been adding them to the church. And he will continue to build his church on the earth until Jesus Christ comes again. And when he comes, all who have called on the name of the Lord will be saved for ever and ever. We will enter into our eternal rest in the glory of the life to come. And all those — like Cain and Lamech — who refuse to repent, but who continued throughout their life in their sin and rebellion, will be sent away into everlasting punishment.
Not a complete genealogy
Well, that was last week. Today we’re turning to chapter 5 and to this genealogy which runs from Adam through Seth to Noah.
And the first thing to say about this genealogy is that this list of names is not a complete genealogy. From time to time, people phone me because they’re trying to trace their family history and they want access to our marriage registers and baptism registers because their family tree is incomplete and they’re trying to trace one last person and they’re hoping that I can help them. And they can’t rest and they’re not satisfied until all the names in their family tree are recorded. But Moses, when he wrote this genealogy, wasn’t interested in completeness. Look at verse 1, for instance. He says this is the written account of Adam’s line. And then he goes on to mention Seth. But what about the rest of Adam’s sons and daughters. We know he had others, because Moses refers to them in verse 4. But they’re not named.
And for the rest of the chapter, he only ever mentions the firstborn son in each new generation. So, look at verse 6 where it tells us that Seth became the father of Enosh. Enosh is the only son mentioned by name, though Moses goes on in the next verse to mention that Seth had other sons and daughters. But he doesn’t name any of them. And it’s the same all the way down through the list until we reach verse 32 where Moses tells us the names of Noah’s three sons. He normally mentions the firstborn son only, and no one else in the family tree. So, this is not a complete genealogy.
The long lives
The second thing to say is just a word about the length of their lives. Take a look at the number of years they lived. Adam lived 930 years. Seth lived 912 years. Enosh lived 905 years. Kenan lived 910 years. Mahalalel lived a mere 830 years. Jared lived 962 years. We’ll skip over Enoch for now and go to the man who is the oldest man in the Bible: Methuselah who lived until he was 969 years old. Lamech, his son, lived for 777 years. And when Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.
What are we to make of these long lives? Is it possible that they really lived so long? There are various suggestions to explain the length of their lives. Some people have argued that the names here refer to tribes of people and not to individual people. So, what Moses is listing here is not the names of individual men like Seth, Enosh and Kenan and so on. He’s listing the names of tribes named after Seth, and Enosh and Kenan and so on. On that basis, the entire tribe of Seth lasted for 912 years and the entire tribe of Methuselah existed for 969 years. That’s one suggestion.
Others have suggested that the units of time in those days were different from what they are now. So, 969 years in those days is not as long as 969 years now.
Another suggestion I’ve come across is that the ages are to be taken symbolically so that the numbers mean something special. The only problem is, no one is sure what the numbers symbolise. But perhaps they stand for something.
And there have been other suggestions too, none of which is terribly convincing. So I think it’s best to take them as they stand and to accept them as literal. But, if that’s the case, how it is that people in those days were able to live so much longer than we live today? The truth is we don’t know because the Bible doesn’t tell us. But perhaps the point is that the grip of death over us has steadily tightened since the beginning of the world. And while once humans lived a long time, death now comes upon us much, much sooner than it once did.
So, those are two brief introductory points about chapter 5. This is not a complete genealogy. And though there have been a number of suggestions made to explain the length of their lives, none is entirely satisfying.
The next thing to say is really very important. We have to ask ourselves:
What’s the point of a genealogy like this?
Roland was reminding us this morning that this is the word of God. This is God’s word to us. God’s word is a sword by which we defend ourselves against temptation. And it’s a sword which pierces us and convicts us of our sin and guilt. And it’s a seed that produces the fruit of good deeds in our lives. It’s all of those things.
But then we come to a list of names like this, and we wonder:
What can we learn from this?
Well, I remember when I was at college, one of my fellow students in our OT class complained to the lecturer about these genealogies which we find in the Bible. They’re so boring, she said. Wouldn’t the Bible be better without them?
But, of course, since we believe that the Bible is God’s word, and since we believe that all of Scripture has been breathed out by him and is useful for us, then we have to believe that these lists of names are also useful for us. When the Lord inspired Moses to record this genealogy, he must have had some good reason for doing so. There was something here that we needed to know. So what is it? What can we learn from this Genesis chapter 5?
Well, in fact there are four things we can learn from this passage. And that’s what we’re going to be thinking about now.
So, the first thing we learn from this passage is that, despite Adam’s fall into sin and misery, the Lord has ensured that life on the earth continues. You see, after Adam and Eve had taken the forbidden fruit, the Lord could have simply give up on us. He could have said to himself:
What’s the point? What’s the point with me putting up with men and women if this is the way they’re going to be?
And so, he could so easily have brought the world to an end and be done with us for ever.
He could have done that. But he didn’t. Instead, he had a plan to put right all that had gone wrong. And that plan involved sending his Son into the world in order to redeem us from our sin and misery and to give us everlasting life. So, instead of destroying us — which he was entitled to do — he decided to save us which we did not deserve.
And, of course, in order to save us from our sin and misery he had to sustain the world around us, and he had to sustain the human race, throughout the generations. He had to sustain us in order to give him time to put his plan to save us into action. So, he had to sustain us until the time came to send his Son into the world. And since then, he’ll continue to sustain us until it’s time for his Son to come again. In order to put his plan into action, he needed to sustain life on the earth.
And that’s one of the things we see in this chapter. Adam did not die immediately, but carried on living for 930 years in total. And he had a son, Seth, as well as other sons and daughters. And Seth went on living for 912 years in total. And he too had a son, Enosh, as well as other sons and daughters. And Enosh had a son, Kenan, as well as other sons and daughters. And so on. Despite our sin and guilt, the Lord upheld the human race and he sustained us. And he continued to uphold and sustain the human race, generation after generation, so that — when the time was right — the Saviour would be born.
So, that’s the first thing we see from this. Though we’re sinners who deserve nothing from God except condemnation, nevertheless the Lord upholds the human race and he allows life to continue so that his plan for our redemption can be completed.
But that’s not the only thing we see here. You see, it seems that Moses is trying to hammer something home to us. Go up to B+Q and buy yourself a hammer and some nails. Perhaps there’s a picture you need to hang on the wall. Well, whatever it is, sometimes the nail goes in easily and it really only need a few taps with the hammer. But sometimes it’s harder and you have to hit the nail again and again and again and again until it’s far enough in. Well, Moses is hammering home to us again and again and again that everyone dies. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and, when they did, it’s as if they opened a door, and death came right on through. And since that time, everyone has died. So, look at how Moses hammers this fact home. Verse 5: Altogether, Adam lived 930 years and then he died. Verse 8: Altogether, Seth lived 912 years and then he died. Verse 11: Altogether, Enosh lived 905 years and then he died. And so on. And then he died. And then he died. And then he died. And then he died. Do you get it? Everyone dies. Even though the Lord continued to uphold and sustain them, and even though they lived such long lives — far, far, far longer than our lives today — nevertheless, in the end, death caught up with them.
And death catches up with all of us. Think of all the funerals I’ve conducted since I was installed here in 2011. All the times I’ve had to go to a home because death has visited that family. Think of all the times we’ve stood at the side of an open grave and watched as the remains of someone we loved were lowered into the ground. How many more funerals will there be this coming year? We don’t know. But we do know that death comes to us all.
And by hammering this message home — and he died and he died and he died and he died — Moses is teaching us that it has been this way ever since Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit.
But, of course, there’s one exception in chapter 5, isn’t there? Look with me at verses 21 to 24. Here Moses mentions Enoch. And we’re told two important things about him. First of all, we’re told that he walked with God. In fact, we’re told that twice. Do you see that in verses 22 and 24? Now, there’s a similar phrase that we come across fairly often in the Old Testament. From time to time, we read about so-and-so who walked before the Lord. So, in Genesis 17, for instance, the Lord commanded Abraham to walk before him. In Genesis 48, Joseph mentions how his forefathers walked before the Lord. Later in the Bible, King Hezekiah said that he too walked before the Lord. Well, walking before someone is what a faithful servant does. He walks before his master, paving the way for him. Or, he’s standing before his master, ready to do his bidding. But walking with someone, as Enoch did with the Lord, is different. You see, companions walk with one another. They walk side by side. They walk together. And that’s the idea here: Enoch walked with God, meaning he enjoyed close fellowship and communion with the Lord. The Lord was his daily companion for the 365 years he lived on the earth.
That’s the first important thing we’re told about Enoch. The second is that he didn’t die. And he didn’t die because God took him away. One day he was here on the earth; and the next the Lord took him away. And instead of experiencing death, he was taken straight into heaven.
Listen to how the writer to the Hebrews explains what happened:
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.
Can you imagine Mrs Enoch shouting up the stairs for Enoch to come down because his dinner is ready? But there’s no answer from Enoch that day. So Mrs Enoch goes looking for him. But she can’t find him. He’s gone and there’s no sign of him anywhere. Where was he? Well, the Lord had taken him away. So, there was no funeral. There was no coffin. There was no death notice in the paper. The Lord simply took him.
But what was the first thing the writer of the Hebrews said about him? Listen again. He said:
By faith Enoch was taken from this life.
By faith. Enoch believed the promise of God that he was going to send into the world the Saviour who would crush the head of the serpent and destroy the Devil and all his work. That’s what Enoch was hoping for. That’s what he was longing for. He believed God’s promise. And God took this believer away and took him straight into glory.
And so, here in this list of names, we’re given a hint of hope the gospel gives to all who believe. It’s just a hint. Just a suggestion. But, in the middle of this long line of men who died, here’s someone who did not die. And it’s teaching us that there’s more that the world around us and all these things which we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands. There’s this life, and there’s the life to come. There’s this life, and then there’s the life to come with God. And after Enoch had lived here for 365 years, the Lord took him to enjoy everlasting life with him.
Well, it’s only a hint. A suggestion. But many years later, the Lord Jesus made clear what is only hinted at in Genesis 5, because the Lord Jesus announced the good news that whoever believes in him — as Enoch did — will not perish but will have eternal life.
So, this list of names teaches us that the Lord has ensured that life on the earth continues. And it teaches us that death comes to us all. And it also teaches us about the hope of everlasting life. Fourthly, look with me now at verses 28 to 31. Here we read about another Lamech. This is not the same Lamech as we read about last week who was descended from Cain. This one is descended from Seth. And in verse 28 we’re told that this Lamech had a son named Noah. But then Moses quotes something that Lamech said. Now, he didn’t record what anyone else in this chapter said. So that makes these words important.
So, what did Lamech say about his son? Look at verse 29:
He will comfort us in the labour and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.
Well, on one level, this could simply mean that Lamech was hoping their son would be able to help them on their farm. You know, his firstborn son will be able to help his elderly parents to do some of the hard work in the fields. But since these are the only recorded words in this chapter, it seems more likely that Lamech meant something more important than that.
You see, he’s hoping that his son is the promised seed of the woman who will crush the Devil and all his work. That was God’s promise to them in Genesis 3:15: One day, one of Adam and Eve’s descendants would deliver them from their sin and misery and bring them relief and comfort and peace and rest. Lamech believed God’s promise. That’s what he was longing for. That’s what he was hoping for. Every day, whenever he went into the fields, and struggled against the thorns and thistles, and had to wipe the sweat of his brow, he longed for the day when God would send them their Redeemer, who would crush the Devil and put right all that had gone wrong in the world. Lamech knew that God had intended for our life in this world to be so much better than it is. He knew that originally, God had made a world that was very good in every way. And he was looking forward to the time when God would send the one who would restore all things to the way they were meant to be. And whenever his own son was born, he hoped that his son would be the one and that Noah would give them relief from all their sorrow and sadness in this fallen world.
Of course, he was wrong about his son because Noah wasn’t our Great Redeemer. Nevertheless, Lamech was right to believe God’s promise and to look forward to the coming of the Saviour. And really he represents all those who, since the beginning of time, have believed God’s promises. And, as we go through the Old Testament, we see others like him who believed God’s promise and who were looking forward to the coming Saviour.
So, there’s Noah himself, who believed God’s warning about the coming flood and he believed the promise that God would deliver them by the ark.
There’s Abraham, who believed God’s promise about the land of Canaan and who left his home and his family to find the Promised Land.
After him, there was Isaac and his son Jacob, both of whom trusted that God would keep his promises to them.
And there was Joseph who trusted that his times were in God’s hands and that God was working out a great salvation.
And then there was Moses and there were so many others who we read about in the pages of the Old Testament, until at last we reach the New Testament and Mary and Joseph who believed the angels who promised them that they would be the ones who would see the birth of the Redeemer. And, of course, since that time, the Lord has continued to teach men and women and boys and girls to believe his promise that Jesus Christ our Great Redeemer is able to deliver us from our sin and misery and to give us everlasting joy in the life to come.
In other words, from the time of Lamech until the present day, the Lord has been building his church here on the earth, by enabling men and women and boys and girls to believe his promise of salvation by a Redeemer who is Jesus Christ his Son. And so, down through the ages, we’ve always had this line of believers, this godly line comprising all those who love the Lord and trust his word. We’ve always had the church. Sometimes it’s been very small. For instance, in the days of Noah, it consisted of only 8 people. But the Lord has ensured that there will always be some who believe his promises. As it was in the days of Seth and Enoch and Lamech, so it is today: the Lord is building his church.
Lamech believed God and he looked to the Lord and to the promised Redeemer to comfort him and to give him relief from the sorrows of this world. And Lamech provides us an example to follow, because we too must learn to look to the Lord and to our Redeemer to comfort us and to give us relief from all the sorrows of this world, and to give us eternal rest and peace in the world to come. Remember what I said on a previous Sunday? Every time we suffer in this world, it’s a reminder to us of how we have all turned away from the Lord who created us to enjoy something far, far better than this. But, of course, every time we suffer, we should also remember and believe God’s promise that through Jesus Christ there is salvation: salvation from all the miseries of this life, because he’s able to comfort us and uphold us and strengthen us; and everlasting salvation in the life to come, when we will enter into eternal peace and rest in the presence of our Great Redeemer, and join with Seth and Enoch and Lamech and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and on and on, all those who heard and believed the promise of God.