“Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there” (Genesis 11:31, ESV).
I don’t know what kind of man Terah was since very little has been written about him. We do know that Ur of Chaldeans was kind of an up-and-coming land. It was a place where prosperity had just begun to sweep through the land.
Abram was born in this land that was becoming wealthy. It was a land with a great future and great promise that it would be a good place to live. But for some reason Abram’s father decided he needed to leave. We don’t know if it was because of an ambition to go somewhere new or to build something new.
Genesis 11:31 says, “Terah took” and “took” in the Hebrew means “to grasp.” It was kind of a gritting of the teeth and a clenching of the fist and saying, “I will take hold of my future. I will make my future what I want it to be.” And there is something very dangerous in that. There was no indication that God had given him a promise about the land of Canaan but instead he had this self-ambition.
The outcome of this grasping kind of lifestyle is always the second word we will look at in this passage “they settled there.” For some reason when Terah got to Haran he just paused—he settled.
Have you ever done that? “The journey is too much for me. The pressure, the intensity, always having to try to push this stone up a hill.”
Whenever you start something in the flesh, you end up doing what Terah did. He settled in Haran. There is no worse way to spend your life than settling for mediocrity. Nothing is further from God’s agenda for your life than for you to start on a journey and all of a sudden just give up.
Whenever we start grasping for ourselves, taking for ourselves, trying to become rich, trying to become famous, trying to become successful in our own energy—we will always end up “settling.” Why? Because you’re only halfway to where you set out to go.
“But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
It takes more than academic rigor to win the world for Christ. Correct doctrine alone isn’t enough. Proclamation and teaching aren’t enough. God must be invited to “confirm the word with signs following” (see Hebrews 2:4). In other words, the gospel must be preached with the involvement of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven.
The apostles prayed for God to do supernatural things. They wanted people to know their belief was more than positional or theoretical. There was power in this faith. “O God, stretch out your hand—work with us in this.” They wanted a faith that was obviously alive, a faith based not just on the cross but also on the empty tomb. The cross, as poignant as it is, is understandable from a human perspective: an innocent man was murdered by crooked politicians and religious leaders. But the empty tomb—what can you say? Only a supernatural God could accomplish that.
In too many churches today, people don’t see manifestations of God’s power in answer to fervent praying. Instead, they hear arguments about theological issues that few people care about. On Christian radio and television we are often merely talking to ourselves.
What we are dealing with today is an Old Testament “vow religion” comprised of endless repetitions and commands to do the right things. Modern preachers, like Moses, come down from the mount calling for commitment. Everyone says yes but then promptly breaks the vow within two days. There is little dependence on God’s power to make an ongoing difference. There is little calling upon God to revolutionize us in a supernatural way.
Jesus is saying today, as He said to the church at Sardis, “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. . . . But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief. . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:1-3, 6).
I am not advocating melodrama or theatrics that work up emotion. But I am in favor, as were the apostles, of asking God to stretch out His hand and manifest Himself.
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn and longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson, Cymbala is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.
“Before his translation [Enoch] had this testimony, that he pleased God!” What was it about Enoch that pleased God so much? It was that his walk with God produced in him the kind of faith God loves. These two verses cannot be separated: “Before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:5-6).
Throughout the Bible and all of history, those who walked with God became men and women of faith. If the Church is walking with God daily, continually communing with our Lord, the result will be a people full of faith—true faith that pleases God.
Some conduct faith seminars, distribute faith tapes, quote faith Scriptures—all trying to produce faith. And it is true, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Roman l0:17). But Jesus is the Word. “The letter killeth,” Scripture says (2 Corinthians 3:6), and without intimacy with Jesus, the letter produces a dead, selfish, demanding emotion that is not faith at all—and God hates it. Faith comes by hearing His Word and walking close to Him. We should always be “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). This intimate walk with God is missing from the Church today. Faith is really knowing who God is. It is becoming familiar with His glory and majesty. Those who know Him best, trust Him most.
Show me a people walking closely with Him, hating sin, becoming detached from this world and getting to know His voice, and we will see a people who won’t need much preaching and teaching about faith. You won’t need “ten steps” on what faith is and how to get it. True faith comes out of the very heart of Jesus. And it will be His very own faith—not ours—that grows within and emerges from our hearts!
Enoch’s walk with God would not have been worthwhile if it had not produced a corresponding faith that was constantly growing. “By faith Enoch was translated.” What an incredible truth! All his faith was focused on one great desire of his heart: to be with the Lord!
Elijah and Enoch, the only two prophets to be translated, had something in common. They both hated sin and cried out against it. They walked so closely with God that they could not help sharing His hatred for ungodliness.
The undeniable effect on all who walk with God is a growing hatred for sin—and not only hatred, but separation from it. If you still love this world and are at home with the ungodly, a friend to those who curse Him, then you are not walking with God. You are sitting on the fence, putting Him to open shame.
“Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). We know from Hebrews that this speaks of Enoch’s translation, the fact that he did not taste death. But it also means something deeper than that. “He was not” as defined in Genesis 5 also means “he was not of this world.”
In his spirit, in his senses, Enoch was not a part of this wicked world. He was taken up in his spirit to a heavenly realm. Each day as he walked with the Lord, he became less attached to the things below! Day by day, year by year, he was going up, heading home, getting closer to glory. Like Paul, he died daily to this world. Yet Enoch undertook all his responsibilities. He cared for his family, worked and ministered—but he was not earthbound! None of the demands of this life could keep him from his walk with God. Every waking moment his mind went back to Him. His heart was attached to God with what seemed like a huge rubber band. The more you stretch a rubber band, the quicker it springs back when you let it go. Enoch’s heart always “sprang back” to the Lord.
As mankind grew more ungodly all around him, as men changed into wild beasts full of lust, hardness and sensuality, Enoch became more and more like the One with whom he walked.
In this day, many Christians are running for the hills to hide from the mounting calamities. So-called prophets are telling people to come to their safe havens. Christian Jews are being warned to get back to Israel to escape the financial collapse anticipated in America.
I know where I want to be when things fall apart. When the financial market crashes, I want to go back to Wall Street where I was during the crash on October 19, 1987. I want to be there like a modern Enoch, walking and talking with God, without fear—a peaceful, fearless witness, preaching Jesus to a people whose world has collapsed.
Jesus said, “Go ye!” not “Hide ye!” I want to be where the Holy Ghost is and you can be sure He will be on the frontlines of the battle, calling the troubled and fearful to Himself.
Enoch saw this world as ungodly. His own society was wicked, and as he looked down through all of history to the very last days, all he could say was, “Ungodly! Ungodly!” Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-15).
Are you walking with the Lord? Then you must see the world as Enoch saw it: ungodly and full of the spirit of antichrist and hard speeches against your God. How can you be a part of what is ungodly? How can you associate with those He is coming to judge? He is coming with ten thousands of His saints to judge a sinful, lost world. Which side are you on?
If you are arm in arm with Jesus, talking with Him, listening to Him, then you will hate this ungodly world system. You will take His side against those who talk against Him. You will hear Him say, “He that is a friend to the world is an enemy to me” (see James 4:4).