From the perspective of earthly strength and success, the church of Adam and his seed seemed doomed to extinction. The seed of the serpent was multiplying exponentially and growing in power and glory under the expertise of wicked Lamech and his children. The great warrior of faith, Enoch, would soon be removed from this earth—much earlier than is typical for life spans at this time. But it is against this dismal black background that we are better able to see the glorious wonders of God’s wisdom. This is the way God often works. With Methuselah, God paints a thin bright line across the whole black canvas that links Adam with Shem and the planting of the church in the new world. Because Methuselah and the significance that I would like to address in this article goes far beyond a mere 100 year segment of history, we set our anchor at this point in history and climb to the crow’s nest with our spyglass for a look around.
Methuselah was a mere boy of 13 years at the dawn of the eighth century of the world’s existence. For about 250 years he would sit under the preaching of Adam to hear directly from his mouth the stories of the creation and the fall and the promise of God concerning salvation in the seed of the woman. During this same time he would fight side by side with Enoch, the great warrior of faith who walked in intimate covenant fellowship with God. He would then cherish these words and experiences in his heart through the great persecution of the church. As an old man he would watch Noah build the ark. During those last years before the flood, we can see Shem listening as a young man to that ancient man, Methuselah, speak the wonders of God that he had heard from Adam himself.
This living preservation of the word of God during the history before the Flood was an amazing wonder of God and a precious gift to the church. We read in Hebrews 1:1-2: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” The church of the 8th century of history did not have God’s word in writing, but he did speak to his people, and at the heart of this revelation was the good news of salvation. “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:10-12).
The preservation of the truth about God and man was a wonder of grace. Natural man would try to bury and forget the shameful history of Adam’s fall and the humbling gospel of salvation by grace alone. But men like Enoch, Adam, Methuselah, etc. were moved by the Holy Ghost to speak the truth, as we read in II Peter 1:20-21. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The church at this time was fed by preaching. When the time for writing came, God prepared Moses and moved him to put this prophesy into writing.
The era of long life spans came to an end around the time of Abraham with the deaths of Noah, Shem, and Shem’s great grandchild Eber who all died around the same time. It would appear that the preservation of the word of God through the moving of men by the Holy Ghost to speak that word to the next generation had died with them. Abraham was called out from a family that was quickly departing from that word and making idols. God shows us only a few sparks of a true knowledge of God in the stories of Job and Melchisedec. In Egypt, Satan worked very hard to stamp out the sparks of knowledge in the line of Abraham by trying to disrupt the covenant families. The lively preaching that preserved the history before the Flood seemed to evaporate with the shorter lives of men. Even so, by the time God moved Moses to sit down and write, this history and the promise of God was nothing new to him. His father Amram and mother Jochebed had carefully passed on everything of God’s word they knew to Moses before he was taken into the royal palace of Egypt.
There at the palace, God prepared Moses for the great work not only of leading his people, but also writing down the words that Methuselah had cherished, along with the further revelations needed by the church. The Belgic Confession expresses this truth beautifully with the words “God, from a special care, which he has for us and our salvation, commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit his revealed word to writing.” Whatever Moses needed for this work, God provided. The Holy Ghost would move him to record the stories he had been told by his parents. Whatever history Moses had studied in the libraries of Egypt or recorded by godly families of Israel would be used by God to prepare the gift of the holy scriptures.
God was pleased to use the written word to preserve and gather his church in the new world after the Flood. Before that time, God was pleased to use the memories and lively preaching by ancient men like Enoch and Methuselah who lived for hundreds of years. The church of all ages remembers Methuselah as the longest living man—almost 1000 years (969). This may be an interesting fact, but let’s also remember God’s covenant faithfulness in preserving all the truths of history relevant to our salvation. The living word of God as it entered the ears and heart of the first man, Adam, was carried and preserved in Methuselah right to the door of the new world after the flood. Shem, and through him the whole ancestry and children of Abraham, would hear this living word of God. They were not mere stories and myths that had been retold and embellished after being retold through thousands of generations of storytellers. Abraham heard Shem. Shem heard Methuselah speak, and Methuselah heard Adam himself.