The City of God 1.0 (Genesis 5:1-32)

Moses started the book of Genesis with a description of how God set up the universe as a temple where he could meet his creation. That was Chapter 1, and for Moses that was Book 1 — or, in modern terms, we would call it a prologue, an introduction to the rest of Genesis. 

Now we have just finished Moses’ Book 2, which was the story of the garden of Eden and what happened after Adam lost it. Moses traced in detail how Adam and Eve were driven out to the east, and how they gave birth to a son who travelled even further east and set up his own garden, his own city, his own religion, centered around himself. And Moses showed us how that city grew in size and corruption over many centuries until it became the absolute center of pride, degradation of women, injustice, and the self-actualization of powerful men — the complete opposite of God’s garden of Eden.

Book 2 started so well! and ended so badly.

But in the last few sentences of the book, Moses hinted that the story is not quite over. Apparently another son had been born to Adam and Eve, a son who did not rebel against God, a son who started to build a civilization in the image of God’s garden.

Today, Moses begins Book 3 of Genesis, which is the story of that son and the civilization he built.

And Moses tells us he is starting a new book the same way he told us he was starting Book 2: he uses his special key phrase, [1] this is the written account of Adam’s family line.

Last week we ended thousands of years in the future, with Cain’s city reaching a peak of power and corruption. Here, Moses rewinds right back to the beginning, and he uses the same words he used at the beginning:

When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. [2] He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.

So this is Moses’ big reset button. He goes back and reminds us of the original setting, the original purpose: God made mankind with his DNA, in his image. He designed them male and famale so they could be creative, so they could work together to bring life to the earth. And he named them “mankind” —

— and actually this word “mankind” here is literally the word “adam”, which if you recall from previous sermons, means “dirtling”. So God created them and called them dirtlings, which is not an insult. God, by naming them dirtlings, is acting as their Father. And the name itself is a reminder that they are mortal, they can only exist through him. That is something that Cain and all his sons forgot: they started calling themselves gods. But this is Moses’ reminder to us that Adam and Eve have another son who accepted God’s name, who was not ashamed to admit that he is dependent upon God for protection and provision.

And so now Moses begins the story of that son:

[3] When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.

Cain rejected God as his Father, and took on the image of the serpent. But Seth is truly in God’s image, in Adam’s image: he has faith in God’s promises, he knows how to repent of his sins and admit his need for a Father.

[4] After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. [5] Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

[6] When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh.

And as we recall from last week, it was during the time of Enosh that people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

So what we are seeing here is that, somewhere in the east, in the land of Nod, Cain is building a civilization centered around the worship of men. But at the same time, just outside the garden of Eden, Seth is building a civilization centered around the worship of God.

[7] After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. [8] Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

[9] When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. [10] After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. [11] Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.

[12] When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. [13] After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. [14] Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.

…and on, and on, and on.

And some people have tried to make this bit more meaningful by trying to figure out if the names have some special meaning. That’s really not the best approach, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, right back in the first sentence Moses told us this is the written account of Adam’s family line. Apparently Moses, for this section, is copying some older resource. So the names are the names. Moses does not appear to be trying to tell us something through these names, like he did last week by telling us the names of Lamech’s wives. He is simply copying what was already written.

Second, it is actually the repetition itself that is supposed to teach us something. It’s supposed to be repetitive and a little bit boring. Because — if you think about it — a boring life is a safe life. The fact that these men all live so long is Moses way of pointing out how perfectly God kept his promises to them. God promised Adam food, he promised Eve children, and here we get to see how generously God keeps his promises to each generation.

The repetition also shows us how every generation gets to benefit from the blessing of death. Remember, these men are all surviving through painful toil. And while God is supporting their painful toil and continuing to provide for them — nobody wants to live like that forever! So in the end God blesses each one with death.

So the repetition itself teaches us something about God, and about how he cares for his people.

Which also means that when the repetition is broken, we should sit up and pay attention!

The repetition is broken in verse 22. There is this guy Enoch who produces a son named Methuselath. And then, we are told, after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.

So, that’s different: Moses says he walked faithfully with God. He did not say that about anyone before this, so that must mean that this guy Enoch is special somehow.

Then, verse 23, altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years.

And…that’s different also: Enoch died quite young! Which is strange, because we would expect God to reward a man like this with a longer life than usual, not a shorter one.

Any many people have noticed that “365” is a very familiar number, because that is the number of days in a year. Is that significant? Who knows!

But it gets even more different:

[24] Enoch walked faithfully with God

— which we already knew —

Then he was no more, because God took him away.

Meaning? He disappeared. God took him away. In other words: he did not die.

God rewarded Enoch for his faithfulness by somehow translating him directly into the next world without passing through death.

Which leads us to a very important question: what does it mean that he walked faithfully with God?

Well, in one sense we already know what walking faithfully with God means: it means true worship. It means faith in God’s provision and protection. It means repentance when we fail. It means accepting God as Father.

But surely all of Seth’s sons have been doing that, right? What makes Enoch special?

To answer that, we need to notice something about Enoch that ancient people would have noticed at once. Modern Christians tend to be fascinated by the strange names, we wonder if there’s some secret message hidden there. Or we tend to be fascinated by the long lives, we start adding up the numbers to see if that might tell us how old the earth is.

And we totally ignore the one set of numbers that actually does matter: we fail to count the number of names.

Enoch is the seventh from Adam. Seven: the number of completeness, perfection. So for Enoch to be the seventh from Adam is Moses’ way of saying, “This guy is the pinnacle. This guy is the perfected result of the whole breeding program, he is the best of the best!”

But we’ve heard this before, haven’t we! Last week we met a man who was the seventh from Adam. He also was the perfected result of the whole breeding program. But he turned out to be the worst of the worst. So…what are we supposed to make of this?

Well, last week Moses finished Book 2 by setting up a contrast between Cain and Seth. Cain set out to build a civilization centered around the worship of men. Seth set out to build a civilization centered around the worship of God. Here, Moses is finishing that contrast: Cain’s civilization reached its peak of corruption in Lamech, the seventh from Adam. But here Seth’s civilization reaches a peak of faithfulness in Enoch, the seventh from Adam. Lamech’s highest achievement was taking life. Enoch’s highest achievement is receiving life — eternal life.

In other words, Enoch’s system of true worship has actually managed to achieve what Lamech’s system of false worship was trying to do. Lamech lifted himself up to be worshiped as a god, he tried to reach out and take immortality for himself. Enoch humbled himself in worship before the true God, and he was given immortality.

So, is Moses saying that Lamech and Enoch were rival kings who ruled over rival cities, Lamech ruling the city of Man, Enoch ruling the city of God?

Yes. And no.

Yes, Moses is implying that Lamech and Enoch were rivals.

But, no, Enoch did not rule the city of God — because God rules the city of God. Enoch was God’s son, God’s servant. And that is what set him apart from Lamech.

See, the entire design of the two kingdoms is different. Cain built a city that was really a temple, and he set his son Enoch up as the god-king of that city, with warrior-priests guarding the gates, protecting the purity of the temple. The people that joined that civilization would have lived in primitive villages around that central city-temple, looking to their human god-king for provision and protection. And archaelogists tell us that this is exactly what the earliest cities looked like. We have a few examples of the type right here in Asia: Angkor Wat is one, Borobudur is another.

But Seth did not need to build a city that was really a temple, because he already had one: the garden of Eden, with God himself at the centre of it, the cherubim guarding the gates. So Seth’s civilization, as it grew, would have looked a lot like Cain’s civilization: it would have consisted of villages gathered around that central garden, looking to their divine Father for provision and protection. But it actually would have been very different.

Because the rulers of Cain’s city-temple thought they were gods, so they lived inside the city-temple and forced the people outside to feed them. This quite naturally turned their society into a slave society from top to bottom.

But the rulers of God’s city knew they were not gods. They lived outside the city-temple, alongside their people. And they were gathered around a God who fed them, and not the other way around! And this, quite naturally, would have resulted in a very different kind of society, a society centered around humility and kindness and freedom.

So Enoch was probably a ruler — but he would have ruled as a servant of the divine King. Today we would call him a Prime Minister. And this Prime MInister served God so faithfully and so humbly that God eventually rewarded him by allowing him to actually enter the garden-temple that no human being had seen since the time of Adam.

Cain refused to wait for God to reopen the gates of the garden-temple. He moved away and built his own garden-temple and he taught his sons to do the same, and the result was tyranny, degradation, slavery, death.

But Seth waited patiently for God, he taught his sons to wait patiently, and the seventh son from Adam received what had been promised: the cherubim at the eastern gate of the garden lifted their swords and let Enoch pass safely into God’s presence.

And understanding this — understanding that Enoch was God’s Prime Minister whose rule was a direct contrast to Lamech’s rule — actually helps us understand what Moses means when he says that Enoch walked faithfully with God in a special way. Moses is not necessarily saying that Enoch was more faithful than Seth or anyone else. Moses is saying that Enoch had a special calling at a special time. Enoch was called to protect God’s people from the most violently wicked king who had ever lived up until that point. And so God gave Enoch a special measure of grace, and a special reward.

Later on in scripture we actually find this pattern repeated. 600 years after Moses, the seventh king of Israel became the most violently wicked king Israel would ever experience. His name was King Ahab. But even in that darkest of times God did not leave his people unprotected. He provided Israel with a prophet: Elijah, a prophet with such a special measure of grace that he became the measure of every prophet who followed. And Elijah, just like Enoch, did not die, because God took him away.

What Moses is showing us here is the beginning of a pattern: when God’s people are in need, when they are caught in conflict with the powers of this dark world, and are in danger of being swallowed up, God always provides a prophet to protect his people.

Enoch was God’s Prime Minister. He ruled God’s people — but he ruled as a prophet, not as a king. This is why Enoch needed such a special measure of grace: because God did not call Enoch to resist Lamech’s violence with even greater violence. Enoch was not called to protect God’s people with a sword, he was called to protect God’s people with God’s Word.

So when Moses says Enoch walked faithfully with God, this is a reference to Enoch’s special prophetic calling. Later on in scripture this is confirmed. One of Enoch’s prophecies has been preserved for us in the New Testament book of Jude: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Enoch’s prophetic message to his people — and to Lamech and his people — was that God is God, and people are dirtlings. And we must not get those two things confused! Lamech may have proclaimed himself to be immortal, and to all appearances he looked immortal, he looked invincible, living in the center of that temple, set apart from the whole world. But Enoch knew the truth, and he told the truth. He protected God’s people by preaching the promise of God’s judgement upon Lamech and all his kind — and then he was taken to his reward.

That is what Moses meant when he says Enoch walked faithfully with God.

After Enoch’s time, the repetition returns: [25] when Enoch’s son Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. [26] After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. [27] Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.

[28] When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son.

— oh, wait a minute. That’s another break in the repetition. All the other guys “became the father of somebody,” but Lamech “had a son.” That’s different wording, it’s supposed to catch our attention.

So, let’s pay attention:

[29] He 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.”

That’s interesting: he speaks. No one else on this list has said anything. So that must be significant! — especially when we realize that this man’s name is Lamech, and the only person to speak in the list of Cain’s sons was also named Lamech.

Most likely Moses is setting up another contrast for us: between the Lamech from Cain’s line and the Lamech from Seth’s line. And sure enough, when we compare what they say, we find that Cain’s Lamech talks about how he is his own messiah, his own saviour — while Seth’s Lamech talks about how he hopes his son Noah might be his Messiah, the son of Eve they have been waiting, for who will save mankind from the curse and open up the gates of the garden again.

[30] After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. [31] Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.

And that number — 777 — confirms that Moses is contrasting Seth’s Lamech with Cain’s Lamech. God promised Cain 7 times the vengeance. Cain’s son Lamech boasted that he would being 77 times the level of vengeance. But now we see that Seth’s Lamech lives for 777 years. Which is Moses’ cheeky way of pointing out that Seth’s Lamech is 10 times greater than Cain’s Lamech, who thought he was 10 times greater than God. Through Lamech’s son, Noah, God is going to bring vengeance.

[32] After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

So we find that Seth’s genealogy ends the same way as Cain’s: with three sons born to the final name.

Cain’s list reached its peak with number 7, Lamech, who took Cain’s city-temple of death and perfected it, whose three sons helped to institutionalize pagan worship and turn it into a real industry.

Seth’s list also peaked at number 7 — but then it went on to an even higher peak at number 10: Noah, because in those days a list with 10 names was better, more royal; the fact that Seth’s line is longer than Cain’s is a way of confirming that these are God’s people, so they are receiving a greater blessing. And now this number 10, Noah, also has three sons.

So that is designed to make us wonder: what are these three sons going to be like? Are they going to be like Lamech’s three sons? Will they help their father Noah build a city-temple? Are they going to help start a new religion?

You’ll have to come back to find out.

And at this point, as we do every week here, we have to ask the question: so what? This is very ancient literature, what does it have to do with us? How is this story supposed to change our lives in this day and age?

Well, one of the best ways to figure out what it should mean to us is to figure out what it meant to the original audience: the ancient people of Israel.

Moses had led them out of slavery in Egypt. He had brought them to Mount Sinai to meet God. God had led them across the desert to the Promised Land — but when they realized the land was full of giants they decided to go back to Egypt.

But God was not going to let them just fall back into slavery. Instead he led them back out into the wilderness where they wandered for 40 years, dependent upon God but free. One by one that whole generation died, and a new generation grew up that had no memory of Egypt. They had no home to look back to, all they could do was look forward.

And so, as Moses led them toward the eastern gateway of their promised homeland, they would have been remembering their parents’ stories about giants. They would have been thinking about the great pagan cities there, each one surrounded by high defensive walls, each one centered around gods that love the taste of human blood — especially the blood of children, and the blood of foreigners captured in battle. As the people of Israel approached the banks of the Jordan River, looking into the land, they found themselves facing one of the darkest, most violent, most perverse cultures of their age.

And somehow they — a nation of sheep-herders! — are supposed to go in and claim it as their inheritance. A wandering people, without a king, without protective walls, centred around a sacred tent! — somehow these people are supposed to go in and redeem the land from those who are destroying it.

What foolishness!

But this is where the story of Seth and his sons would have been a great comfort to them: a reminder that this is not the first time the people of God have lived without protective walls, centred around the presence of God, vulnerable in the face of a powerful, violent, bloodthirsty civilization. This story was designed to remind the people of God that in the battles to come, their victory will not come from metal swords or stone walls, it will come from the Word of God preached through God’s prophets.

Through this story, Moses is telling his people that it is in the times of greatest darkness that God sends his prophets. As Cain’s civilization grew in power and perversion and began to threaten God’s people, God sent them a prophet: Enoch, who prophesied against the gathering powers of that age and then passed through the gates of the garden into the presence of God.

In the same way, as Egypt’s civilization grew in power and perversion and tried to destroy God’s people, God sent them a prophet: Moses, who prophesied against the powers of that age and led God’s people to freedom.

— it is interesting to note, by the way, that — like Enoch — Moses also has no grave. We are told that he died, but that God buried him, and no one knows where. So in a way, Moses also disappeared because God took him away.

But before Moses died, he told his people that, after they had taken the land and lived there for a while, God would send them another prophet just like Moses: a prophet who would do amazing miracles, a prophet who would save God’s people from the dark powers of paganism, a prophet who would speak to them with God’s voice. And Moses told them, “You must listen to him!”

Well, about 600 years later, at one of the darkest times in Israel’s history, God did send them a prophet like Moses: the prophet Elijah, that we’ve already talked about a little bit. Elijah was the first prophet after Moses who performed major miracles, who confronted a corrupted Israelite king, a king who had set up his own counterfeit pagan religion to lead God’s people astray, a king steeped in power and perversion. Unfortunately, the Israelites of that time did not follow Moses’ advice: very few of them listened to Elijah. In many ways, Elijah was a failure as a prophet: he did not convert very many people. And yet, as we have already noticed, Elijah also — like Enoch, and like Moses — has no grave, because God took him away.

And about 800 years after Elijah, at the very darkest time in Israel’s history, God sent his final “prophet like Moses”: a man named Jesus of Nazareth. Like Elijah, like Moses, Jesus also performed major miracles — but about 777 times greater. Like Elijah, like Moses, like Enoch, Jesus also confronted the corrupted rulers of his age, people who had set up a counterfeit pagan religion to lead God’s people astray. Like Elijah, like Moses — perhaps even like Enoch — Jesus also looked like a powerless failure. And yet this man Jesus also has no grave, because God took him away. And the New Testament tells us that he passed through the gates of the true garden, through the veil of the heavenly tabernacle and sat down in his Father’s presence.

And, friends, all this was written down to encourage us as well. Just like the ancient people of Israel, we are standing in the wilderness at the eastern gate of our homeland: our Father has promised that we will inherit this earth! But there are giants in the land. We are confronted with cities populated by millions, all centered around gods and systems that say, “Feed me! Or die!” We live in the midst of a darkness that makes slaves out of everyone and everything it touches. And somehow we are supposed to go in and claim our inheritance. Somehow we are supposed to go in and redeem this earth from those who are devouring it.

But who are we? A small people, wanderers, without true citizenship, living without walls, centred around this, the assembly of God’s people.

What foolishness, right?

Right! And so this ancient story of Seth and his sons is a reminder to us that in our war against the cities of Cain our victory will not come from getting God’s people into government, or putting Christian CEOs in power over major companies, or making Christian movies or music or books — no, our victory will come from the Word of God preached through God’s Prophet: Jesus Christ.

Last week we talked about whether Christians should be involved in cities or not, whether we should engage in culture or not. And we concluded that our Father is telling us to engage with the world around us by maintaining true worship.

This week we are learning how to maintain true worship: by remaining centred upon Jesus, the living Word of God. That is what Enoch did, that is what Moses did, that is what Elijah did, that is what Jesus did. They told God’s faithful people, “Don’t worry, there will be justice. There will be a Messiah.” And they told the evil rulers of the world, “Don’t worry: there will be justice. There will be a Messiah.”

This is how we are supposed to engage with our world: by preaching the mercy and the judgement of God as it has been revealed in Jesus. It is as simple as that.

But we want details, don’t we: what does this look like? What is our practical application? Are we saying that all Christians should be preachers, and not MPs or CEOs or actors or musicians or whatever?

No. Not all Christians are called to be preachers — if by “preaching” we mean what I am doing now. Most Christians are called to work in the world, and that includes work as members of parliament or as CEOs. Sometimes believers are called into positions of power and authority, just as Enoch was, just as Moses was. But we need to be careful not to start putting our hope in those who are called to high positions. Because one very clear message of the bible is that power corrupts: the higher you are lifted, the further you can fall, and even the greatest saints of the Old Testament fell terribly and suffered terrible consequences.

However: yes, all Christians are called to be preachers. Our mouths and our lives are supposed to preach the mercy and judgement of God into the everyday life of the world.

So, practically speaking, what does it look like for every Christian to be a preacher of the gospel in everyday life?

Well, the first step begins right here, in the collected worship of God’s people. Every week we gather around the Word, around the well of living water, and we drink from it. We are reminded, week by week, that there will be justice, that we have a Messiah. We first fill ourselves and one another with the hope of the Gospel.

Then we carry that hope with us back out into the everyday life of the world. And that hope shows up in our words and in our actions. Every time we have mercy on a co-worker who screwed up and is asking for mercy — we are preaching the mercy of Christ. Every time we warn a bully that they will be held accountable for their actions — we are preaching the judgement of Christ.

This is our very simple, practical application: let us keep gathering around the living Word. Let us continue to fill and be filled with his life. And as we are filled with life we will begin to pour that life out into the world around us.

So if you are nervous about being a preacher in your home, in your workplace, in the streets of this dark city — don’t be. It will happen naturally. Our Father will give you opportunities to speak and act as you are filled and as you begin to ask him for opportunities. Our first calling, in times of hope and times of despair, is to keep our eyes fixed upon the Messiah who will deliver us. As Enoch prophesied, one day we will see him coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to lead us into our inheritance, the new heavens and the new earth.

In conclusion here, what we are seeing is that our situation is a lot like the situation Seth and his sons faced. Seth’s people lived without city walls, trusting their Father to protect them in the face of an all-consuming darkness. At just the right moment, God sent his prophet Enoch to encourage his people, and when his task was finished God took him away to his rest.

And then — for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years! — God’s people remembered Enoch’s message of deliverance. They passed it down faithfully from one generation to the next. They constantly reminded each other — and the world — that the darkness cannot last forever, and they looked forward to the day of judgement, when the Lord would descend and redeem the earth from its curse.

In the same way, we live without city walls, trusting our Father to protect us. At just the right moment he send his Son — the Prophet like Moses — to redeem us and mark us as his own. And now, for two thousand years, we have been remembering his message of deliverance. We have been passing it down faithfully from one generation to the next.

Like Seth’s people, we live in the middle of a growing darkness, we share the streets and shops of our world with people who hate the light, we are ruled by powers that want us to worship them as gods. Sometimes we are tempted to flee, to separate ourselves somehow, to build a private little Christian world for ourselves. Sometimes we are tempted to take over, to resist the world’s power by taking power for ourselves — and “for God” of course…

But just like Enoch, we are not actually called to protect God’s people with the sword of political or cultural or economic power, we are called to protect God’s people with God’s Word. Yes, we engage with the world, we enter into every area our Father calls us to, whether that means politics or business or family or whatever — but we do so as Christians, as the children of God, as the living reminders of the mercy and the judgement of Christ.

So let’s keep gathering like this. Let’s keep reminding one another of the hope we have in Christ. And let’s trust our Father with the rest.

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