Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cain and Abel – Genesis 4 vs. 1 – 26

I would like to begin with a scripture that has been on my heart lately.  It is from Proverbs 3 vs. 3 – 4: Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 

Considering that Cain did not portray the above, I thought it very applicable starting this chapter with off with this verse.

Therefore with this in mind let us begin.

GEN 4: 1-2… Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. (Probably means living or gotten)  She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel (Probably means breath or vapour).

It is interesting to note at this point however, just for future reference, that some Bible versions use the word ‘begat’ to indicate birth.’ The word ‘begat’ actually may mean children, grandchildren or other lineal descendants and this if very important to keep in mind when working with the chronology of the Bible as it could actually skip several generations.  However, in this case I don’t think this is the case and instead I think that Cain was the first baby born, the first child to grow up and the first person to commit murder.

GEN 4: 3…  Now Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil.

No longer was anything easily provided for, they had to work hard and struggle against the elements to provide food, shelter and clothing for their family. Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer.

GEN 4: 4-5…  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour.  So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

So why do you think that God rejected Cain’s offering? The bible does not specifically say. 

Some Bible experts believe that Abel’s sacrifice was worthy because it was a blood sacrifice and that he learnt this was the correct way from his parents and obeyed. These experts further believe that this already showed a theme in the bible about blood sacrifice and is a foreshadowing of when Jesus died for our sins in the New Testament.

While this may be true in some aspects, I don’t believe in this view of thinking fully.  Cain was a farmer not the shepherd.  If all Cain had to give was the first fruits of the harvest, which is normally the best and ripest, then God would have accepted it.  We further know that later God actually commands the first fruits of the grain harvests to be brought in offering to Him.  So in my opinion I agree with the experts that believe it was not the type of offering Cain brought that was rejected. 

But if it was not what Cain brought then what was it?

Well it is believed that Cain may have already been downcast, and his intentions could have been wrong.  He could have brought the offering not as worship to God but as someone wanting to get something out of it. 

So, as the problem was not what Cain gave but how he gave it (grudgingly), we can gather that God does not only look at the quality of the gift but at the heart / motive behind the offering. Cain’s gift was an acceptable gift from an unacceptable heart, which made it an unacceptable gift.  Abel’s gift was an acceptable gift from an acceptable heart of a giver which made it acceptable. 

The best gifts given without a givers heart are unacceptable gifts but the smallest and most humble gifts (fat of an animal) given with a givers heart are acceptable to the Lord.
Therefore, when we give to God and others we must do so willingly and joyfully through time, money, possessions and talents.  Remember that all things are God’s in the first place so we should not worry how much or what we are giving but offer it as a thanks to God who is our provider.

GEN 4: 6-7…  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must master it.”

After Cain’s offering was rejected God gave him another chance to correct it, to right his wrong and try again. For Cain to master the sin lurking at the entrance of his desires, he would have to give up his jealous rage / anger so that sin would not find a foothold in his life. 

The next time someone suggests you have made a mistake or done wrong, take an honest look at yourself and choose God’s way.

So did Cain do this?

GEN 4:8-10…  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

Nope, Cain did not learn from his previous mistakes but instead Cain tried to play God.  God created life and therefore only God has the right to take it away. 

Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought sin into the world and they may have thought eating a piece of fruit wasn’t so bad, but look at how quickly their sinful nature developed in their children - from disobedience to outright murder and from sin against God to sin against God and man.

A clear theme is emerging and by taking note of the reason behind the murder we can already begin to see the theme.  What is the reason behind the murder? Well put simply its envy or jealousy.  This is also the same reason they kill Jesus centuries later.

It is also interesting to note at this point that Abel was the younger brother.  As we progress though the Bible you will see this theme emerging (i.e. Cain and Able, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau).  In those days it was the eldest who inherited everything but I think God did not want anybody to think they had a natural right to His gifts and inheritance. 

GEN 4:11-16 … God continued, “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you.  You will be a restless wanderer of the earth.”  Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear.  Today you are driving me from the land and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  But the Lord said to him, “Not so if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.”  Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.    So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod (means wandering), east of Eden.

God judges all sins and there are always consequences for our actions because he desires to correct us and restore our relationship with him.  In Cain’s case he polluted the ground which he had worked with Abel’s blood which seeped into it and for this he became useless at his job.  He was a farmer and the ground would no longer produce food for him. Moreover he was alienated from his family and like his parents’ who was sent out of Eden, Cain is sent out further from the presence of God.

“He will suffer vengeance seven times over,” means that if a person were to kill Cain, their punishment would be complete, thorough and much worse than that received by Cain for his Sin.

But why was Cain so worried about being killed by others though?

Well he was scared that his family would take revenge or punishment into their own hands.  After all he was probably married to one of his sisters.

GEN 4:17… Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch.  Cain was then building a city and he named it after his son Enoch. 

So … where did Adam’s children and grandchildren get their mates?  Well Adam lived 930 years and we will later read that ‘he had other sons and daughters.’  He could have had over 100 children during that time and if he took a second wife, he could have had even more.  Then his offspring married other offspring and so the human race was established.  It is believed that as the human race was new and still genetically pure, that there would have been no repercussions / side effects in marrying a family member.

GEN 4:18-22… To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah.  Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock (cattle, donkeys and possibly camels).  His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute.  Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.  Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

It is interesting to note that one of my books actually hint at the fact pre-flood genealogies especially in the Ancient East and Mesoptaman text like the Sumerian King List records lists of monarchs that ruled the land before the Great Flood and some of these texts attest / confirm the Bible texts of genealogies.

Alongside the names of Cain’s descendants are listed their achievements. This short summary of Lamech’s family shows us the variety of talent and ability God gives humans.

Urbanization also came from Cain’s line as it was Cain who began to build cities.  This however started concentrating sinners and sin in one place and following these verses, we see where it leads as we continue back along the line of sin which seems to be presenting itself in the line of Cain …

GEN 4: 23… Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words.  I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.  If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

When left to their own devices, people tend to get worse instead of better.  For some reason at this point my mind drifts to the high school set work book ‘The Lord of the Flies’ wherein there is a total degeneration of behaviour when boys are left to fend for themselves on an island.

Anyway, getting back to the Bible, there is another killing presumably in self-defence and Lamech makes it that anyone who took revenge on Lamech would suffer 77 times worse punishment than Cain’s murderer would have suffered if they had sought revenge at the time. We are unsure of the reason for this perhaps because it was self-defence or perhaps there was more reason and opportunity for Lamech to be killed compared to when Cain committed the murder. But what is interesting is that Lamech states this and not God.  It seems as if God has stopped talking to Cain’s family…

GEN 4:25-26a… Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”  Seth also had a son and he named him Enosh. 

Seth took Abel’s place as the leader of God’s faithful people.  Through Seth, came the generation of Adam that continues the Bible story.

GEN 4:26b… At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.

They began to seek God in (public) worship.  Details are not given but the implication is that this calling began in Seth’s own family circle.

Two distinct groups are appearing:

1.    Those who show indifference to sin and evil (i.e. like Cain’s descendants)
2.    Those who call on the name of the Lord and are repentant of sin (i.e. like Seth’s descendants)

Though we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, you can still choose which group you belong to and what kind of life you with to live.

To end off, I thought I’d let all of you know that I have started a Facebook group so make interaction and discussions easier.  You can find it at the following link:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Fall of Man - Genesis 3 vs. 1 - 24

Wow, it’s been long. Hope this finds you all well.  I have been really busy of late with my very own flat that God has blessed me with so I’ve only really had time for quiet time and helping my church build a home for someone. Using power tools is so much fun. 

Anyway, before we move on to Genesis 3, I do want to touch on something briefly so that we can keep the right heart in this adventure.

Knowledge about God is fantastic and knowing His purpose for us in wonderful (i.e. the Bible, theology, devotionals) but there is no substitute for knowing God personally (i.e. to know God not know about Him).  So while we study God’s word we must not forget that personal knowledge such as prayer and spending time with God will change our lives.

One more thing I want to discuss before we begin is the devil / the serpent and his plan against us and God.  At one time satan had been a glorious angel but in his pride he rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven.  The devils plan can be summarised into the following 5 d’s:

          Doubt – Make you question God’s word and His goodness
          Discouragement – Makes you look at your problems rather than at God
Diversion – Makes wrong things seem attractive so that you will want them more than the good things
Defeat – Makes you feel like a failure so that you don’t even try
Delay – Makes you put off doing something so that it never gets done

However, as satan was created by God, he has definite limitations and God is much more powerful than satan is.  Also I am not saying you not allowed having doubts or any of the above feelings – looking at the Psalms of lament which express some of the above.  All I am saying it that don’t let the devil win.  Don’t let it lead to sin.

Also before we begin I would like you to keep in mind that Adam and Even were naked and unashamed, thus symbolizing the innocence of Eden and their pure relationship with God.

GEN 3: 1 – 6…  Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, or you will die’.”  “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.

Here we see satan’s strategy.  First he encourages wrong thinking by misinterpreting God’s word.  Next he entices us to desire evil in our hearts.  Lastly he makes the circumstances right for us to disobey God with our wills.

Disguised as a serpent, satan came to tempt Eve by getting her to doubt God’s goodness.  He implied that God was strict, stingy and selfish for not wanting humankind to share His knowledge of good and evil.  Satan made Eve forget all that God had given her and instead focus on what God had forbidden.  If she had focused on what she had and thanked God, then her doubts wouldn’t have led to sin.

Satan is still active in the world today, getting people to sin.  He even tempted Jesus but Jesus did not sin.  This brings us to a point I really want to emphasize again – being tempted is not a sin. We have not sinned until we give into temptation.

So how can we resist? Well first, and this should always be first in any situation, first is to pray. Second we should run and by this I mean figuratively but sometimes literally too. Lastly say “no” when confronted with what we know is wrong.  This is often easier said than done and that is why Christ has died for us but we should still try to the best of our imperfect abilities.

It is interesting to note that the Bible does not explain why fruit of the knowledge of good and evil should be forbidden to man.  Perhaps it simply expressed God’s mastery over His creation and man’s duty to obey Him.  However, next I want to discuss the fruit itself. As mentioned in my first blog, I have read the books at my disposal and there are many concepts about the fruit.  There are even some bible experts, especially in past centuries, that have speculated that the world first sin changed mankind’s DNA. But if it was a physical change then wouldn’t scientists one day be able to cure sin and then whose sins would Jesus have died for?  This doesn’t tie in with the New Testament which teaches that Jesus died to save us. In my opinion I don’t think the fruit changed the genetic make-up of man but by disobeying God and doing evil, they gained the intimate knowledge of both good and evil and it opened their eyes to other forms of evil doing. Sin already existed but through their first sin they became aware of it and their eyes were opened to other possibilities and so sin spread.

Freedom is not doing anything we want but it comes from obedience and knowing what not to do.  To become like God is not a sin – we are often told to be more Christ-like and Jesus came to set an example for us to follow.  But when you decide what is best for you, you run the risk of becoming you own God and not ‘more like God’.  There is a difference and satan misled Eve to believe it was the same thing.  In sinning she became her own God because she decided what was best for her life.  While we strive to become more like God we must remember this lesson.  Becoming like God is to reflect characteristics and to recognise that He has authority over your life. 

It’s no good having a worthy goal (i.e. Eve wanting to reflect more of God’s characteristics) if you are going to achieve it the wrong way (i.e. disobeying God and taking it your own way). Equally, there is a possibility of goals not being worthy but being masked that way (i.e. the fruit was pleasing to the eye).  Temptation often begins at seeing something we want and our sins often do not appear ugly to us but pleasant sins are the most difficult to avoid.  If you find yourself in a tempting situation, do what Jesus did by pouring scripture out.  If that doesn’t work for you then do as Paul said to do and run from those things that produce evil thoughts.

The last thing we should touch on in this verse is the point that Eve got Adam involved in her sin.  Sin is dangerous and can often spread.  It’s a way we sometimes eliminate feeling guilty.  Therefore, when you sin recognize it and confess your sin to God before you are tempted to pollute those around you.

GEN 3: 7 – 10 … Then they eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard You in the garden, an I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

LOL. Hide from an all-seeing and all-knowing God? Well yes they tried it.
After sinning Adam and Eve felt guilty of their sin and embarrassed for their nakedness and it made them want to hide.  We should learn from this – don’t try to eliminate the guilty feelings and not the cause, be glad God gave us this warning signal when we’ve done something wrong  because they make you aware of your sin so you can ask God’s forgiveness and then correct your wrong doing.  Have the courage to share all you do and think with Him.  God’s love is unconditional.

This verse also shows God’s desire to have a close relationship with us but sin broke their close relationship just as its broken our relationship with God.  However, through honesty and Christ, we can repair the relationship and renew our friendship with Him.  But we must understand that God loves us regardless of our faults.  If we don’t realise this we will feel undeserving all the time and while we are undeserving, we must try to remove dread which prevents the close relationship and makes us try to hide from God.

GEN 3: 11-13… And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I at it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So first Eve involves Adam to make herself feel better that it was not only her that disobeyed, then they hid from God and now they blame the next person or God and don’t take any responsibility on themselves – see how sin works? 

Adam was right there while satan was talking to Eve and Adam knew exactly what God had said but he kept silent when he should have spoken up.  Keeping quite is sometimes just as bad as committing the sin itself but Adam tried to shift blame. Adam had ceased to fulfil his role as a man by denying his responsibility to look after his wife.  Adam even tried to make God part of it by saying, “the woman YOU put here with me.”  They tried to shift the blame but God knows the truth and holds each of us responsible and accountable for what we do.

When we do wrong we should confess our sins, face the consequences or repercussions of our actions and correct or learn from the wrong doing.

GEN 3: 14-19…  So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on you bellow and you will eat dust all the days of your life.  And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase you pain in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.”  To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it’

Here we see this side of God for the first time.  God hates sin.  God is holy and good and can’t let sin take place without passing judgement. Yes, there are consequences! So a question some of you who don’t know the Bible might be asking is … Man and woman ate from the tree and did not die, so … was the serpent right?  Just remember that sometimes temptation is subtle and has a hint of truth. So think of it this way, Genesis does hint at the fact that mankind was meant to live forever but God could not allow sin to be eternal so this act of disobedience made man become mortal. They didn’t die instantly but they eventually would. Additionally, in the figurative sense, they died spiritually.

Adam and Eve’s sin also set in motion the whole human race’s tendency to disobey God and so they were banished from Eden, from God’s presence and the possibility of eating from the tree of life.  Disobedience is sin and it breaks our relationship with God but fortunately when we disobey God is willing to forgive us and restore the relationship. 

The verse “he will crush your head and you will strike his heel” is interesting though and this refers to satan’s repeated attempts to defeat Christ and in my opinion this verse already refers to the coming of Jesus the Messiah and although satan is trying to tempt everyone away from God, he will not be the final victor. God promised that satan would be crushed by the woman’s offspring and Jesus did that by dying for our sins.

GEN 3: 20-23… Adam named his wife Eve, (probably means living) because she would become the mother of all the living.  The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.”  So the Lord God basined them from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 

Paradise lost ... eternity with God lost … imagine how they must have felt, torn from the presence of God.  But after disobeying they no longer deserved paradise.  3 consequences arose for humankind.  Birth is painful, life is hard and death is certain.

Adam and Eve were created to live forever, animals were vegetarians living in peace with each other and crops grew in the wild but 1 act changed this all. Adam and Eve eventually die and humanity will only survive through painful childbirth.  Adam would continue as tiller of the soil but suddenly their survival will also depend on Adam’s hard work battling weeds, weather and critters to grow enough food to survive.  This single act of disobedience somehow changed life on this planet – for the worse.  The rest of the Bible is the story of God working to correct the damage and defeat sin. 

So in summary, Adam and Eve broke their relationship with God by becoming convinced their way was better, then by becoming self-conscious and trying to hide from God and then trying to defend themselves. 

So what can we learn? Drop our excuses and self-defences, stop trying to hide from God and understand that God’s way is better than our own.

GEN 3: 24 … After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side, of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Would you like to meet a cherub? They sound very cute and cuddly? Like a baby or small angel? It’s what modernism has done by using a cute, cuddly angel for advertisement.  But the biblical description of cherubim is nothing like this; rather it is much more frightening.

Some people call all heavenly beings a form of angel but God distinguishes between them.  There are the Angels of the Lord, archangels, cherubim and seraphim, morning stars, demons and satan.  Yes satan is a heavenly being that was cast out of heaven.

We’ll talk about some of the others at a later stage in our adventure but right now let’s talk about what the Bible tells us about cherubim.  Specifically Ezekiel 1 and 10 speaks about cherubim at length. This is therefore a description of the creature guarding the entrance to Eden:

·         Each Cherub has four faces – of an ox, a human, a lion and an eagle
·         Each has four wings and what looks like human hands under its wings. 
·         The moving wings of the cherubim sound like the roar of waves crashing against a shore or like the voice of the Lord God Almighty. When they stop they lower their wings.
·         The four wings are 2 pairs of wings. One pair of wings stretches out to touch the wings of other cherubim and the other pair covers their body.
·         They can move forward in any of the four directions they face and they go straight in the direction to which their heads are turned, without having to turn
·         They are covered with eyes all over their bodies, including their hands, backs and wings
·         Their legs are straight like human legs but their feet are split like calves feet and shine like polished bronze.
·         They look like bright coals of fire or brilliant torches as though lightning is flashing back and forth among them.
·         The dart back and forth among each other like flashes of lightning.

I think I’ve covered everything now but I leave you with some hope … Jesus Christ through whom we can have a restored relationship with God and be part of His eternal paradise and the new earth He is creating.  Remember satan cannot steal your soul; he can only have it if you give it to him.  Jesus will no steal your soul; He will have it only if you give it to Him.