Well, you’re back again! Great!
Yesterday we looked at the creation and at mankind’s first sin, the sin that threw everything “out of kilter” (Romans 8:19-23). And it all goes downhill from there.
After the fall, Adam and Eve have sons, Cain and Abel. Cain becomes a farmer and Abel a shepherd. In time the young men need to both make a offering to the Lord, and both make an offering of the work of their hands. Cain makes an offering of what he had grown in the field, and Abel offered a firstling of his flock. And the Lord had liked Abel’s sacrifice — a blood offering; Cain’s vegetable offering, not so much. Cain became angry!
The text tells us that God, like a good parent, had a good, practical conversation with Cain about it. If I may be allowed a little paraphrasing: “Why are you angry, Cain? If you do it right, won’t you feel better? But if you continue down this path, watch out! This emotion leads to worse things!”
But Cain didn’t listen to God’s counsel and ultimately murdered his brother — over religion (…becoming the world’s first jihadist? But let’s not get distracted from the main point here). Cain got his nose out of joint for the same reason that many still do — they want God to approve of what they do (in worship, lifestyle, marriage, ethics, etc.) regardless of whether it matches God’s commands or not. The lesson here is that God isn’t going to compromise and make an exception for you or me or anyone; He simply calls us back — like He called Cain back — to do what is right, and says, “You’ll feel better, when you do it My way.”
Many like Cain, don’t listen, and they remain angry — usually at God but sometimes at the other Abel’s in the world, who are doing it right — and sometimes it spills over into violence, sometimes into atheism, and sometimes into long-term psycho-therapy (so they can be told over and over that they’re really OK).
In any case, God calls Cain to account for it and as punishment makes him a wanderer. An interesting detail in the text here is that Cain doesn’t seem to repent. He whines about his punishment being too great for him to bear, and he seeks protection from God, but there doesn’t seem to be any repentance. The long range effect of this is that Cain’s descendants learn his violent behavior, and we see the first examples of generational sin coming to its apex with a violent, proud, and unrepentant man named Lamech (Gen. 4:18-24). It really should give us all pause for thought about the areas of our lives that we refuse to repent from, because it is learned by our children and even influences others around us. We fool ourselves by thinking our little sins too small to be too harmful; what we don’t realize is that such sins (as in Cain’s case) grow deeper and darker and more harmful in subsequent generations — giving new impetus to God’s advice, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” (4:7).
Chapter 5 is a genealogical list with ages — really amazingly old ages. The sort of ages that have called into question the historicity of the Bible — usually by folks who don’t want to believe. Interestingly enough, however, geneticists have recently suggested that if certain genes were turned off, we might all live considerably longer than we presently do. So — maybe the Bible is more historical than we thought? (Insert ironic smile here.)
And by the way, if you do the math, you find out that Methuselah died in the same year of Noah’s flood. Sort of makes you wonder, was it old age or drowning?
Lastly for today, the beginning of Noah’s story is found in Genesis 6. I’ll talk more about Noah tomorrow, Lord willing, but it is sad and instructive in the extreme to read (6:6) that God’s great heart was grieved to the core by how low and how quickly mankind had sunk in their sinfulness. Sometimes we, like children toward their parents, never consider the wounds we inflict on God through sin.
As children we are egocentrically aware of only our own feelings and sensitivities and consider parents as immeasurably strong and immune from words, slights, blows, and insults — then we grow up and learn differently. Likewise, as humans we are often egocentrically aware only of our own feelings, considering God to be more of an impersonal, infinite force and less of a personal being — hopefully we grow up spiritually to understand that sin insults, wounds, offends, and effects God emotionally. This is not to say that God is “needy” or codependent or curls up in the fetal position in depression, when we sin — there are more responses to grief than tears and depression (say — shock-and-awe wrath); but it is to say that if we do love God as we claim, let us make every effort to honor rather than offend, obey rather than grieve, our Almighty God.