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“Hints of Righteousness”

Genesis 4:25-5:32
Bob DeGray
October 9, 2005

Key Sentence

The basics of righteous living have never changed.


I. Calling on the Lord (Genesis 4:24-25)
Interlude: Generations (Genesis 5:1-20)
II. Walking with the Lord (Genesis 5:21-24)
III. Trusting in the Lord’s Promises (Genesis 5:25-32)


        One of the greatest of the early African American preachers was John Jasper. Born in 1812 in Williamsburg, Virginia, Jasper was a slave who as a young man worked on a tobacco plantation and in his own words ‘had not turned his back on sin’, nor on hatred toward his white masters. But in 1831, during a celebration in a public square, the teen-aged Jasper heard a gospel message which troubled his soul. Three weeks later he confessed his sins and called on Christ for salvation. By God’s grace he began to lose his hatred for those who enslaved him, and to love the unlovable. Eight years later he felt called by God to preach. His entire formal education was seven months of spelling taught by a fellow slave. But Jasper felt that when God calls, he also equips, and he went boldly forth to preach the Gospel, with an implicit trust in the Bible and everything in it. As one contemporary said ‘He had no other lamp by which his feet were guided.’

        So Jasper preached. He preached 24 years as a slave, and after the Civil War he preached another 39 years as a free man. He walked with God through those years, through the difficulties of both slave and free life. For example, after one night of marriage, his master sent him away to Richmond and never allowed him to return to see his wife. But he continued to preach. One observer had the following comments on his preaching: “If Jasper wasn’t the soul of eloquence that day, then I know not what eloquence is. He painted scene after scene. He lifted the people to the sun and sank them down to despair.” People far and wide came to hear the famous preacher who had so much conviction of soul, so much reverence for the Bible, so much love of the Lord. Thousands wanted to know better the Christ about whom Jasper spoke with such loving yet firm conviction and utter sincerity.

        Jasper was especially known as a preacher of funerals, during which he ‘swept people into another world’, filling them with a hope of heaven that comforted and challenged the soul. His 1908 biographer, William E. Hatcher, devoted a whole chapter of his biography to ‘Jasper’s picture of heaven’ and said ‘With him it was as if he were camping outside of a beautiful city, knowing much of its history and inhabitants, and in joyous expectation of soon moving in. The immediate things of the kingdom chiefly occupied his attention; but when his sermons took him into the neighborhood of heaven, he took fire at once and the glory of the celestial city lit his face and cheered his soul.” Jasper believed in God’s promises.

        Now what does this have to do with Genesis 5? My idea is that the righteous have similar character qualities in all ages. Those in a right relationship with God that makes a difference in their lives will exhibit these qualities whether they are the earliest inhabitants of earth, or African American slaves, or American suburbanites.

I. Calling on the Lord (Genesis 4:24-25)

        The basics of right living have never changed. So as we look today at the genealogy of Genesis 5, we should not expect to find a dusty list of names, but rather some of the earliest hints of what righteousness looks like. We’ll see that right living involves calling on the Lord, walking with the Lord, and clinging to his promises, and that’s just as true today as they were before the flood or for John Jasper. We begin where we left off: Genesis 4:25 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." 26Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.

        It’s likely that Adam and Eve had other children after Cain and Abel and before Seth. That would help us understand where Cain did get his the wife we saw last week. These verses teach that after Abel’s death, Eve looked on her next child, a son, as being ‘in the place of Abel’. She called him a name that means appointed or substituted and implies Eve’s faith that through this son the promises of God would be fulfilled.

        Verse 26 jumps ahead a bit and tells us that in the time of Seth’s son Enosh, ‘men began to call on the name of the Lord.’ This is a hint of righteousness: men are calling out to the Lord, crying out in his name. The later uses of this phrase imply first, public worship of the Lord, probably replacing the practice of individually meeting with Him as Cain and Abel had done. Second, the practice of prayer, seeking God’s intervention when his immediate presence was no longer accessible. Third, trusting or having faith in him for his rescue. Listen to a few verses and see if you don’t agree with these implications. Genesis 12:8 “Then [Abram] proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel . . . ; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.” 1 Kings 18:24 "Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God." Psalm 116:17 “To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” Joel 2:32 "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So to call on the name of the Lord implies worship, prayer, and even saving faith on the part of these people.

        By the way, we already asked whether, in light of Exodus 6, these earliest generations could have called on the name ‘Jehovah’ as implied here, and concluded there was no real reason why they shouldn’t: Exodus 6 reveals the character of this Lord, but it’s not necessarily the first time men have known his personal name.

        So a hint of righteousness is found in the time Seth and his son Enosh - they called on the name of the Lord, and established a pattern for the godly who followed. What does that mean to us? At the very minimum you and I, as God’s people, have to be those who call upon the name of the Lord. How? By gathering for worship, to praise and proclaim the name of the God who loved us and sent his Son.

        And by crying out to him in prayer, depending on him to meet our deepest needs and our daily needs. And third, by trusting him in saving faith. Joel 2:32 says ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ The saving name the Lord has revealed to us is ‘Jesus’. Acts teaches that ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’ Jesus is the one God sent as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of men, so that by his death and resurrection he paid the price of our sins and guarantees eternal life. And this forgiveness and life is taken hold of not by merit or good works of our own but by turning to him in faith as the only one who saves, calling out to Jesus in trust.

        So the first hint of righteousness is seen in these early generations when they called on the name of the Lord. And that’s the only hint we see for many year. Genesis 5:1-20 gives us a genealogy, a generational account of this line of men who were the direct predecessors of Christ. If you look in Luke’s genealogy of Christ you find this same list. In fact this genealogy is the first step on a journey of thousands of years in which God prepared the world for the coming of Christ. These are the first steps down that road, and the other end of the road is Jesus, whom we call on.

Interlude: Generations (Genesis 5:1-20)

        Let’s walk through this genealogy. Genesis 5:1 This is the written account of Adam's line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man." 3When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.

        Notice that in Genesis 5 Moses goes back and ties the genealogy to the creation. Ignoring for the moment the fall and the tragedy of Cain and Abel he emphasizes that God created and blessed man, and that the line of God’s promised rescue comes through Adam’s son Seth. Notice also that for Adam as for each person in this genealogy, three pieces of data are given: their age at their son’s birth, the son in the line of Christ, how many more years the father lived, and how old he was when he died. From this information we can begin to create a chronology of the pre-flood world. Some have argued that there might be gaps here, so that the total extent of this pre-flood age would be longer, and its just possible there might be. But while I see some evidence for that after the flood, I don’t see any real evidence here; it’s my conviction there are no gaps in this record.
        “6When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. 7And after he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.
        9When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. 10And after he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11Altogether, Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.
        12When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. 13And after he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14Altogether, Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died.
        15When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. 16And after he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17Altogether, Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died.
        18When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. 19And after he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20Altogether, Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.

        Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared. Six generations spanning almost fifteen hundred years from Adam’s creation to Jared’s death. This is the heart of the pre-flood civilization. Notice how much overlap there is: Adam died many years after Jared, was born. Most of this is caused by the excessively long lives of these men, for which many explanations have been given. One is the canopy theory which says a huge amount of water was stored in a vapor canopy above the pre-flood earth. This vapor canopy would create a greenhouse effect, making the earth warmer than it now is, would inhibit the formation of storms, would filter out destructive radiation, and increase hyperbaric pressure. The last two of these might well have contributed to human longevity. But the case for a vapor canopy is a bit dicey, which is why I haven’t mentioned it before, and in my opinion the long lives of these people can be adequately explained by the slow development of disease agents after the fall, in an environment that had been originally designed for eternal human life. In any event we do see a rapid decline in these life-spans after the flood.

II. Walking with the Lord (Genesis 5:21-24)

        So, generations have passed, earth’s population has grown, and at least a few of these men and women worshiped, prayed to and trusted the Lord God. But not many. In the next generation we see the one pre-flood example of a man known for his righteousness. Genesis 5:21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. 24Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

        This generation starts out following with the same pattern: Enoch becomes the father of Methuselah at the relatively early age of sixty five years, and he has other sons and daughters. But every other person on this list is said to have lived so and so many years and then died. Not Enoch: he walked with God. The phrase is used twice and is especially striking in verse 24 ‘Enoch walked with God and was no more.’ There is no doubt this phrase implies a special closeness to God. Enoch not only called upon God in worship, prayer and trust, but he went through life in fellowship with God, in devotion and service. As a result, in what seems to be an almost entirely unique thing in the Biblical literature, Enoch was taken away without dying: he walked with God and was no more because God took him away.

        The only other person in Scripture who seems to have had a similar fate is Elijah, who was taken away in a chariot of fire at the end of his ministry. Hebrews 11 makes it clear that all this happened because of faith. Enoch is the second person mentioned in the ‘faith hall of fame’. Hebrews 11:5-6 “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. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” So Enoch walked with God by faith, and God rewarded that in this unique way. But Hebrews says God always rewards faith in him with his own presence and pleasure: those who live by faith please him and come to him and receive his reward.

        What does it mean to walk with God? The Hebrew verb ‘halek’, walk, is used over a thousand times in the Old Testament in all kinds of contexts. But some of these thousand verses do stand out. When God calls Abraham it is with these words “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” Notice the strong hint of righteousness there: the person who is blameless is the one who not only calls on the Lord from time to time, but who by faith walks with the Lord day to day: it’s not just a Sunday thing, it’s not just a crisis thing, it’s a daily life thing. So Psalm 89:15 says “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” And the prophet Micah says “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” One of God’s great promises in all Scripture is phrased in terms of God walking with us. Leviticus 26:12 “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

        But how do we receive this promise? Well, it’s a relationship: if we are daily calling on, trusting in and praying to the Lord God, that goes a long way toward walking with him. But to make it a two way relationship, we also have to hear from God and the best place to do that is in His word. Psalm 1:1 says “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Blessing comes as we meditate on God’s word and apply it. Psalm 119:1 “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.” To walk with God we need to be walking according to his Word.

        This is one of the things I learned about John Jasper: his heart’s desire was for the word. I can’t do the dialect, but let me read you a few sentences from one of his sermons. “Low me ter say, dat when I wuz a young man and a slave, I knowed nuthin' wuth talkin' 'bout consarnin' books. Dey wuz sealed mysteries ter me, but I tell yer I longed ter break de seal. By de mursy of de Lord a thing happened. I got er room -feller - he wuz a slave, too, an' he had learn'd ter read. In de dead uv de night he giv me lessons outen de New York Spellin' Book.

        It wuz hard pullin', I tell yer; up de hill ev'ry step, but when I got de light uv de less'n into my noodle I farly shouted, but I kno'd I wuz not a scholur. De consequens wuz I crep 'long mighty tejus, gittin' a crum here an' dar untel I cud read de Bible by skippin' de long words, tolerable well. Dat wuz de start uv my eddicashun-dat is, wat little I got. 'Bout seben months after my gittin' ter readin', God converted my soul, an' I reckin 'bout de fust an' main thing dat I begged de Lord ter give me wuz de power ter und'stan' His Word. I ain' braggin', an' I hates self-praise, but I boun' ter speak de thankful word. I b'lieves in mer heart dat mer pra'r ter und'- stand de Scripshur wuz heard. Sence dat time I ain't keer'd 'bout nuthin' 'cept ter study an' preach de Word uv God.” The word is the key to walking with God.

III. Trusting in the Lord’s Promises (Genesis 5:25-32)

        So men began to call on the Lord, but Enoch alone walked with God. The third character quality we see in these early day is hope in God’s promises. Genesis 5:25 25When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. 26And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died. 28When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed." 30After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31Altogether, Lamech lived 777 years, and then he died. 32After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

        Notice that Methuselah, Enoch’s son, ends up as the longest lived of all these people. He lives 969 years, but apparently he does not call on God or walk with God, because he is the only one listed who dies in the year of the flood - most likely in the flood.

        Lamech’s words on the other hand lead us to think that he is among those with a hint of righteousness. In particular, when he gives birth to Noah he gives him a name that means ‘rest’ or ‘comfort’, and his words look forward to God’s reversal of the curse of the fall: “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” Lamech was probably a prophet, and so these words are not just his, but God’s, looking forward to the role Noah would play in the rescue of a few from that ungodly age, and looking even further forward to the rescue Jesus would give from the burden of sin, and ultimately to his return and reign. Lamech could see the effects of sin all around him, and longed for the day God would heal. This awareness and longing is a strong hint of righteousness, something God’s people have always had, as they look forward in faith to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Hebrews 11 teaches that ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’ and says of people like Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Moses “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.”

        So Lamech looks forward in hope and trusts God to keep his promises. Notice that Lamech may be expecting immediate fulfillment through his son Noah, as eve did through hers. We’ll see, of course, that God does do a tremendous work of rescue through Noah, saving the remnant of mankind from the judgment of the flood. But we also know that Noah’s work is not the ultimate work of rescue. That rescue belongs to Jesus, whose birth was even further down this line of promise. It was Jesus who ultimately saved the remnant of mankind, all those who recognized the awfulness of their sin and called to God for a savior. He paid the price of sin on the cross and brought us through death to new life; he himself was raised from the dead. He reversed in us the effects of the fall and of sin by taking those effects upon himself.

        And now we have a hope made more sure than the hope of Lamech: he could see comfort in his son, Noah, but he died just a few years before the flood - he saw neither the judgment nor the rainbow of promise. But we see an eternity of promise in God’s son, Jesus. All that he did not complete in his first coming will be completed in the day we long for, when the dwelling of God will be with men “and he will live with us. We will be his people, and God himself will be with us and be our God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

        Thus Lamech’s hope is ultimately ours: reverse the curse. It’s already been reversed in us through Jesus, so that we can call on God and walk with God in righteousness, righteousness given as a gift. But it has not yet been reversed around us, so that life in this world is still a life of painful toil, of broken relationships, of anger and hatred and hurt, of loss and poverty and despair, of sickness and pain and death. So, like Lamech, in the midst of a fallen world, the righteous cling to the hope of God’s promises; call on him, walk with him, and look forward with conviction to the day when the curse is reversed. John Jasper had this hope. His last words, as he died at the age of eighty-nine, are engraved on his tombstone: “I have finished my work. I am waiting at the river, looking across for further orders.”

        God’s people in every age are characterized by the fact that they call on the name of the Lord: worship him, pray to him, and trust him for salvation. They are characterized by the fact that they walk with the Lord: seeking daily the intimacy of his presence, especially in his word. And they are characterized by hope, as they look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Hints of these things were present even before the flood. They have been very real in the lives of believers like John Jasper in all ages. May they be increasingly present with us.