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Pleasing God

Chapter 11 of Hebrews has earned the distinction of being the “Faith Chapter” of the Bible. Within its verses there are many specific individuals mentioned that exhibited God-pleasing faith, who serve as models for us. One of those role models is Enoch, who is the focus of our text:

“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:5-6).

Enoch was one of two biblical characters whom God translated (transferred) into heaven without experiencing death. It's worth noting not even Moses, whom the Lord buried on Mount Nebo, was afforded this privilege. Enoch and Elijah alone were recipients of this death-denying benefit.

Enoch was a godly man who had relationships with other believers. After his translation, Enoch came up missing. Friends looked for him, could not find him. Enoch literally disappeared off the face of the earth. The verbs in the phrases “had this testimony” and “he pleased God” are both perfect tense. The first is passive voice, the second active voice. The perfect tense signifies a past action with settled results. Enoch's testimony was not only a lasting one, but one he did not take unto himself. The passive voice means he was assigned that testimony, either by God, his fellow man or both. It was rock-solid. That Enoch “pleased God” is perfect active. The perfect tense signifies a permanent condition. Enoch walked in a manner so agreeable with the will of God there was no thought, word or action God would find disagreeable. It's no wonder God one day decided to take him to glory!

In Genesis 5:22-24, we're twice told Enoch “walked with God.” Hebrews 11:5 says Enoch had a testimony that “he pleased God.” How could the writer of Hebrews know that? Isn't it reasonable to assume that if God and a man “walk together” that they enjoy each other's company? That's fellowship! Consider our Lord's invitation to the Laodicean church: “If any man open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). A shared supper speaks of a believer and Jesus enjoying each other's company. The ultimate goal of the Christian life is for God and the believer to fellowship so the believer becomes more like his Lord. There's no doubt in my mind Jesus thoroughly enjoyed his time with the disciples. They enjoyed their time with him. The testimony of Enoch—that he pleased God—should be the goal of every believer.

The point of our text: While Enoch's translation was obtained by TWO, the testimony of Enoch is obtainable by ALL. Pleasing God comes from trusting God. But without trust, pleasing God is impossible! We who live 2,000 years AFTER Jesus came have the same ability to please God as Enoch did 3,000 years BEFORE he came. The basis for pleasing God has NEVER changed! Jesus said: “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). Since Jesus was always PLEASING the Father, it means Jesus was always TRUSTING the Father! So should we!

Our text points out three essential components of a God-pleasing faith: 

I. Existence

The foundation of our faith lies in the fact that God IS. He exists self-sufficiently, eternally. This is more than a belief in God's existence, which even the devils acknowledge (James 2:19). It is a firm persuasion concerning ALL that he is because he IS. 

Perhaps no passage of scripture reveals more about who God IS than Exodus 3:1-15. It's was here the angel of the Lord revealed himself to Moses in the midst of a burning bush, which was aflame but not consumed. The angel of the Lord was the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Christ. We know this because the text further identifies him as the “LORD” (3:4, 7) and as “God” (3:4, 6). After the LORD God called Moses to travel into Egypt to deliver Israel from Pharaoh, he began to offer four reasons (excuses) why he was NOT the man for the job. 

He expressed the first reason as follows: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (3:11). He told God he had NO REPUTATION that would carry any weight in Pharaoh's court. He said: “Who am I?” God said: “Certainly I will be with thee” (3:12). In other words, my PRESENCE is all the standing you need! Furthermore, after you bring my people out of Egypt, you're coming back to this mountain. God spoke to Moses in past-tense terms about future events.

After God answered his first objection, Moses offered up a second: “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (3:13). He now told God he had NO MESSAGE for the children of Israel when asked about who sent him. God responded: “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (3:14). In other words, my EXISTENCE—an eternal existence that made me LORD God to your fathers—is the same existence upon which I'll be the LORD God to you!  

When the writer to Hebrews says we “must believe that God IS,” he means to say we must believe that God is I AM. The NT validates this truth. Jesus told the religious elites of his day: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). In addition, Jesus said: “I AM the Bread” (John 6:35, 48), “I AM the Light” (John 8:12; 9:5), "I AM the Door" (John 10:7, 9), "I AM the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11, 14), “I AM the Resurrection” (John 11:25), “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6), “I AM the Vine” (John 15:5). 

In John 18. when Judas came with a "band of men and officers" (18:3) to Gethsemane, Jesus asked: “Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I AM he (v.4-5). When he said, “I AM he”, they went backward, fell to the ground (v.6). It's important to note that "band" is the Greek σπεῖρα (speira), which represents one-tenth of a legion (600-700 men), who had "weapons." In other words, this was no small group of officers dispatched to arrest Jesus. When Jesus said "I AM" all 600 of these weaponized men fell backward. That must have been quite a display of power, unleashed by the mere mention of his identity. Now that Jesus had both told and shown them who he was (i.e., the I AM who appeared to Moses), he asked once again: “Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth” (v.7). Then Jesus answered: “I have told you that I AM he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way” (v.8). 

In Matthew 18:20, Jesus made this promise to church-goers: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." When God's people gather together in his name on the first day of the week, the Lord Jesus, the I AM and all that he IS, is in the midst of them. What does this say about the infinite and eternal resources available to God's people when they assemble? There are many churches that go through the motions of doing church. Then there are those rare congregations that experience the I AM each and every time they meet. Isn't that what you want for your church? 

To these great truths about Jesus, scripture adds: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God is unchangeable! What he IS he will always BE! He is not a software system that requires periodic upgrades. Jesus Christ, the Head of his church, is the same Christ who spoke the worlds into existence, parted the Red Sea, brought down the walls of Jericho, shut the mouths of lions and filled the temple of Solomon with his glory. 

II. Subsistence

In Genesis 15:1, the LORD told Abram he was his “exceeding great reward.” The word “reward” is the Hebrew sakar (wages or pay). In our text, the scripture says God is a “rewarder” of them who live their lives trusting him. The word “rewarder” is the Greek misthapodotēs (one who pays wages).The rewards that God GIVES are an extension of the reward that God IS. Moreover, there are two different verbs translated “is” in 11:6. In the phrase “believe that God is” the verb is eimi (to be). In the phrase “is a rewarder” the verb is ginomai (to become). The difference in the two is not an accident. It is God's EXISTENCE, and all that his existence means, that brings SUBSISTENCE (rewards) into the believer's life. God's rewards are tangible assets.  

We can illustrate the difference in the two verbs with a courtship-marriage analogy. John IS a single man. One day Jane, who IS a single woman, catches his eye. John begins to pursue Jane, diligently seeking to spend time with her. The relationship blossoms into romance. Finally, John pops the question, she says “Yes!” The marriage date is set. Prior to the wedding, John IS a man, Jane IS a woman. But on their wedding day, John BECOMES a husband, Jane BECOMES a wife. God is I AM. To the one who diligently seeks I AM, he becomes a Rewarder. The change in verbs does not signify a change in God's existence, but rather a blossoming of the relationship between God and the believer.

At first blush, the concept of rewards, or things earned, may seem counterintuitive to grace, or unmerited favor. There is no contradiction for this reason. Whereas the grace of God flows from God's LOVE, rewards flow from his RIGHTEOUSNESS. In 6:10 affirms: “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love.” When the believer labors in kingdom matters as a result of grace operating in his life, God rewards him in a righteous manner. 

The remainder of Hebrews 11 calls attention to the tangible assets (rewards) that God brought into the lives of believers. Noah got the tangible reward of a blueprint for an Ark of salvation (11:7). Abraham received land, a promised son and a promised Seed (11:8-10). His wife Sarah, barren in old age, conceived Isaac (11:11). 

Two other OT personalities illustrate perfectly the rewards of diligently seeking God. The first is king David.  He diligently sought the Lord over the illegitimate son he fathered with Bathsheba. You cannot read Pslam 51 without being struck with David's diligence in seeking forgiveness and restoration. Although the child died, David proceeded to take Bathsheba to wife. She gave birth to Solomon, whom “the Lord loved” (2 Samuel 12:24). Solomon would later succeed his father on the throne, enjoy both wisdom and riches, and build the temple of God, which God filled with his glory. To say Solomon was a reward is an understatement!

The second is king Hezekiah, who sought the Lord diligently over (1) his impending death, for which God gave him fifteen additional years, and (2) Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who surrounded Jerusalem with the intent to destroy it. The Angel of the Lord slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in the process of protecting Hezekiah and Israel. I'd say the rewards of his own life and his nation were significant rewards indeed!

III. Persistence

God is a rewarder of them that “diligently seek him” (11:6). The verb “diligently seek” is ἐκζητέω, the prefix ἐκ (out) and the root ζητέω (to seek). The verb contains the idea of an investigative search. It reminds me of a story I heard one time about a black preacher dressing for church who couldn't find a certain tie he wanted to wear. He complained to his wife. She came in, went through the closet and found the tie. He said; “I looked in there!” She replied: “Yeah, you looked in there, but I searched in there!” The rewards of God are for diligent searchers, not just casual lookers. The verb form is present active participle. Literal translation: “those who are continuously seeking him out.” The durative nature of the present tense suggests habit of life rather than occasional inquiry. The dynamic duo that engages God in the lives of his children is dependence mxed with diligence. 

At the Jerusalem Council, James used the same word to summarize what ALL for whom Christ died should do: “That the residue of men might SEEK AFTER [ἐκζητέω] the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things” (Acts 15:17). While Hebrews 11:6 encourages the believer to KEEP ON seeking the Lord, Acts 15:17 admonishes all men to START seeking him if they haven't already done so. The truth of scripture is simply this: God WANTS to be investigated, searched out in earnest, by ALL men!

Two more biblical references are in order. In Acts 17:27, Paul spoke these words to an audience on Mars' Hill: “That they should seek [ζητέω] the Lord, if haply they might feel [handle, touch] after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” The scripture affirms that everyone who sets out to seek God will not have to look very far, because he is NOT far from every one of us. Then we have the words of Jesus: “For the Son of man is come to seek [ζητέω] and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus stated his very purpose on earth was to seek the lost. Those who set out to “diligently seek him” are simply RECIPROCATING a search Jesus INITIATED. When ANY individual, saved or lost, sets out to seek the Lord, he's seeking the Lord who's already seeking him!

Pleasing the Lord involves a belief in God's existence and ALL that his exiistence means coupled with a belief that God who IS our Reward BECOMES a Rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Show me a believer, and I'll show you a seeker! Without the kind of persausion that issues forth in action, pleasing God is impossible! 


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