First Things First – How the World Came to Be
11. From Adam to Noah: Lessons from a Genealogy
I believe this is the first sermon I have ever preached from a genealogy. To most people, the genealogies are the most boring part of the Bible - an endless list of unpronounceable names - “So-and-so begat so-and-so who begat so-and-so who begat so-and-so, and so it goes, up one page and down the other.”
But genealogies shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly. Many of the same people who call them boring spend hours poring over tiny numbers on a long list from the Stock Exchange (these are really tiny numbers) or reading the latest batting averages of their favourite players. A list is only boring if it doesn’t apply to you. A genealogy isn’t boring if you know someone on the list or if your name is on the list.
Ten Faithful Men
This is a genealogy of 10 men starting with Adam and ending with Noah - spans the time from Creation to the Flood - record of 10 men who lived by faith in a time of increasing unbelief and widespread secularism. We are reading more than a dusty list of ancient names. These 10 men stand before us as giants of the faith, men who refused to follow the prevailing cultural trends of their day. In a world rushing headlong toward judgment, they followed the way of the Lord.
Putting Genesis 5 in Context
There is some debate about whether or not this is a “closed” or “open” genealogy. The Hebrews felt quite free to omit parts of a genealogy on certain occasions. The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew is obviously selective because we know it deliberately omits certain generations that are mentioned in the OT. Might also be happening here. However, the way the list is constructed certainly makes it sound as if this is a literal genealogy.
This list shows the flow of history across many generations. It joins the story of Adam and Eve with the story of Noah and the flood. The genealogy is a chain that joins events that might otherwise be floating unconnected to anything else. God wants us to know that he is in control not just of the “high points” of biblical history, but also of everything else in between.
There is much encouragement from this list. These are the godly descendants of Adam. In contrast to Cain who founded secular civilization, these men were faithful to God. God was faithful to remember them and to record their names in his book. There are always some who serve God. No matter how many bow the knee to Baal, God never leaves himself without a witness. Even though believers may be in a minority at a given time and place, the Lord is still there watching over his people and protecting them in times of crisis. God remembers the faithful and he rewards them in his own time and in his own way.
In the midst of ungodliness, they were godly.
In the midst of wickedness, they were good.
In the midst of rebellion, they were righteous.
In the midst of bitterness, they were blessed.
I also find great encouragement regarding the possibility of building godly families. These men established vast families of sons, daughters, nephews and nieces. From these men come vast clans and tribes that filled the ancient Middle East, travelling in large caravans, establishing towns and cities of their own, taking their faith in God with them. Thank God for praying fathers and praying mothers. Thank God for praying grandparents. Here is hope for all of us who dream of establishing a godly heritage that will last long after we are gone to heaven. Though we may sometimes despair because of the sin we see around us, Genesis 5 is positive proof that with God’s help it can be done. 2 unique facts
A. The Repeated Phrase “And He Died.”
Only Enoch did not die. We are told about Noah’s death later. There is a “drumbeat of death” that echoes across the generations. Each man of faith lived and then he died. Death has now become a regular fact of human existence. The entire race is under a death sentence because of sin. First Adam died because of his sin. Then each man after him died because of Adam’s sin—and because of his own sin following in Adam’s steps. Only Enoch did not die.
B. The Long Lives of the Patriarchs
You can’t escape the long life spans of these men: Adam 930 years, Seth 912 years, Enosh 905 years, Kenan 910 years, Mahalalel 895 years, Jared 962 years, Enoch 365 years, Methuseleh 969 years, Lamech 777 years.
Is this for real? The answer seems to be yes. There is nothing that suggests these numbers are not literal. Before the flood, the life spans were much longer. It seems that conditions on the earth were radically different before the flood. Perhaps there was some sort of vapour canopy over the earth. Perhaps the decaying effects of sin took a few generations to produce negative results in the human body. The real issue is not whether we can explain it but whether we are willing to accept what the Bible says. I am happy to answer yes. I believe these men really existed and really did live for centuries on the earth, just as the Bible indicates.
High Points of Biblical History
Let’s focus on 3 individuals -
A. Adam v. 1 - 5
The father of the whole human race. Adam had a son in his own likeness and in his own image. What is the implication of this? Adam is made in God’s image. Seth is born in Adam’s image.
Does that mean that Adam is in God’s image but Seth is not? No - because the “image of God” is what separates us from the animals. We are made in God’s image and the animals are not. Since Adam is created in God’s image, and since Seth is born in Adam’s image, he too is made in the image of God.
Another truth implied here. Romans 5 reminds us that sin came into the world through Adam, and that when Adam sinned, we all sinned in him. When he fell, we fell because he was the head of the human race. So now he is a sinner by choice and by nature and that nature (with its desires) is now passed along to his descendants. Genesis 5 tells us that the whole human race now shares in Adam’s fallen estate. We are all made in God’s image and we are all born with a nature that leads us to rebel against God.
Cain isn’t mentioned. Genesis 4 tells us what happened to him. He went out from the presence of the Lord and founded a secular civilization that remains with us today. Genesis 5 traces the line of faith, which is the only line that matters to the Lord. All that secular power and wealth and achievement is just so much dust in the wind as far as eternity is concerned.
B. Enoch v. 21 - 24
Enoch stands out as the only man who did not die. “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Instead of dying, he was lifted off the earth while he was alive and was taken directly into God’s presence. One moment he was on earth, the next he was in heaven. He did not die, he was not kidnapped, no one killed him and he did not waste away from some dread disease. He simply walked with God so long that he walked all the way from earth to heaven. Hebrews 11: 5 “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.” Genesis says he walked with God; Hebrews says he lived by faith and was commended as a man who pleased God. He and Noah are the only 2 people in the Bible who are specifically said to have walked with God.
What does it mean to “walk with God?” Walking - a series of small steps in the same direction over a long period of time. In Enoch’s case, he began walking with God after the birth of his son Methuseleh. Perhaps he was like many men who don’t get serious until they look into the face of their firstborn son or daughter. Suddenly they realise the heavy weight of responsibility that is upon them. Many men get serious about marriage and fatherhood and their faith because of the birth of a baby. Perhaps that’s what happened to Enoch. In any case he walked with God for 300 years.
Walking together meant that every day he got up and said, “Lord, where do you want to go today?” Wherever God went, Enoch went too. He set his heart to walk with God, by his side, in the same direction, at the same pace, all day long. Because his heart was set to follow the Lord, he walked with him as a habit of life. Eventually, he didn’t have to think, “Will I walk with God today?” That decision had been made long before, and he simply continued in the same direction he had started.
C. Lamech v. 28 - 31
Lamech named his son “Noah,” meaning “rest” or “comfort.” What a contrast with the “other” Lamech of Cain’s line. That Lamech was a boastful, arrogant, violent man who bragged about a man he had killed. But the Lamech of Seth’s line was a man of faith who believed that through his son would come some deliverance from the curse. As a godly father, he looked into the future and saw that somehow his son would be used to comfort people and bring deliverance. He got what he hoped for—both more and less. He could not have foreseen the great flood that covered the world and wiped out everyone except his son’s family. He could not have imagined the promise God would give Noah. That covenant was a promise of a great salvation that would be ultimately fulfilled in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth.
As Genesis 5 comes to an end, we see how the line now narrows to 1 man, Noah, and to his 3 sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. So we see the faithfulness of God to preserve the line of salvation even in times of rebellion and widespread unbelief.
Living Lessons from an Ancient List
A. People Matter to God.
Kenan and Mahalalel are unknown to us. We can’t say anything definite about them. But this we know. They were in the godly line that stretches from Adam and Noah and they were both vital links in the chain. Even though Adam and Noah are much better known to us, without Kenan and Mahalalel the line would be broken and Noah would not be born. Mahalalel was the grandfather of Enoch who walked with God. These names that are just words on paper to us represent men who lived for God in an ungodly age and they believed in God when others scoffed at them. They are true heroes and deserve to be remembered and honored. They remind us that no one is ever forgotten or overlooked by the Lord. Those who today stand strong in their faith will one day shine as the brightest stars. God is not so unjust as to forget those who labour in obscurity for him. People matter.
B. Death Still Reigns Today.
This list is like a monotonous drumbeat of death: Adam lived … and he died. Seth lived … and he died. Enosh lived … and he died. Kenan lived … and he died.
Death reigned in the earliest generations of world history. Death still reigns today. Death also reigns for you and for me. If there is one thing about which we may be certain it is this: Unless the Lord returns in your lifetime, you are going to die someday.
How certain is the fact of your death? There is an entire industry built around the expectation of your death. It’s called the life insurance industry. The only reason you buy life insurance is because someday you are going to die. If you lived forever, you’d never need life insurance. You pay the money, but in order to get the insurance benefit, you have to die. But when you die, someone else gets the money. You lose either way. Don’t miss the point: Life insurance is based on one great truth—Death reigns.
When you die, a death certificate will be issued. There’s a space that says “Cause of Death.” If we understand the Bible, the answer is always the same: “Sin.” Not sickness, not cancer, not accident, not old age. Those are merely symptoms of the one great cause of death: Sin.
C. God Honours Those Who Live By Faith.
The Christian life is in a sense a relay race where one person runs and then hands the baton of faith to the next runner who runs and hands it to the next runner. The most critical moment in any relay is the few seconds when the runner who is finishing hands the baton to the runner who is starting. Timing is critical. The tiniest mistake can cause the baton to be dropped. Relays are often won or lost at exactly that moment.
Adam ran the race of faith and handed the baton to Seth who ran hard and handed it to his son Enosh who also ran hard. Before he died, he passed it along to his son Kenan who passed it to Mahalalel who passed it to Jared who passed it on to Enoch. As Enoch was rising to the sky, he tossed it to his son Methuselah who caught it and started running. Eventually he passed the baton of faith to Lamech who made sure that Noah got it. 10 generations, 10 men who lived by faith, 10 fathers who made sure their sons caught the faith and then passed it along to the next generation.
That’s the whole life of faith in a nutshell. What we have been given, we pass along. Nothing matters more than this. If we are rich and successful, if we are famous and blessed with worldly acclaim, if we are regarded as the best and the brightest, if we are quoted and praised by all men, it will all count for nothing if we fail to pass the baton of faith along to the next generation. What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and yet lose his own family? If we go to our grave knowing that our children and grandchildren believe in Jesus, we can die happy, knowing that our time on earth was not spent in vain.
May God help us to run the race with endurance so that we can pass the baton of faith along to those who come after us.
Prayer - Eternal Father, teach us to live in light of eternity. Help us to walk with you, wherever you lead, with nothing held back, so that those who follow us will really be following you. Amen.