The latest news out of Iraq is that things might have turned a corner. At least that’s what an expert from the US said. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking. But wouldn’t it be lovely if it was true?
There’s been less news coming out of there recently because there’s been less . Less . Less Iraqis blowing each other up.
And Kevin Rudd’s just been elected after promising a controlled withdrawal of Australia’s troops. Maybe it’s a sign that a stable government, and a reasonably peaceful country may not be too far away.
But then again, we’ve had those hopes BEFORE haven’t we? And things just seem to kick off again, with another round of , and ly skirmishes.
After all, there’s still all the factions. And the centuries of hostility that can’t be forgotten overnight. And there’s a long way to go in terms of new constitution, and police force, and army, and a just and open judicial system and government.
But things seem to be looking up.
And things are pretty much the same – as we come to Gen 4. There’s the same SENSE OF HOPE. Yes – Adam and Eve sinned. And yes, they’ve been banished from the garden. And yes, there’s lots of negative consequences for life in the wide world. But God’s still blessed them with life, and family, and a job to do.
And he’s also given them a PROMISE. There in Ch 3 v15. That one of Eve’s offspring will crush the head of the serpent. Will destroy the poisonous influence that’s ruined their paradise.
And so, when we find out in Ch 4 v1 that Eve’s PREGNANT, we can’t help wondering – is THIS the one? The one to fix things up. Will things turn out alright because of him?
ARE THINGS LOOKING UP?
And so Cain is born. And before long, his brother Abel.
From Bad to Worse
But our hopes are dashed almost as soon as they’re raised. The past problems bubble to the surface again. Just like Iraq. Because not only are things NOT looking up, but they’re about to go FROM BAD TO WORSE.
And there’s not even anyone else to blame. This time, it’s not SATAN who’s the cause of the problem. It’s humans themselves. In particular, their evil desires.
IN Ch 4, sin comes just as ly as in Ch 3. And the attitudes and consequences are just getting worse and worse. Like cancer that’s got into the lymph system and is just taking hold all over the body. ing and growing and destroying as it does.
It’s the next generation on from Adam and Eve. We have no real idea how many years have passed. And Cain and Abel are trying to build a life outside the garden. Struggling against the unresponsive ground.
They’re farmers. Abel looked after the animals. Cain’s thing was crops. Both of them recognize God’s care, and want to give him thanks. And so, v3
3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.
Two different offerings. Both brought what they had. But for some reason we’re not told, look at what happens next.
The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
One offering he ACCEPTED, the other he DIDN’T.
Why? People come up with all sorts of reasons. It might have been because Abel offered the BEST of his crops, while Cain just offered the first thing that came to hand. It might have been because Cain’s heart wasn’t right with God.
But for WHATEVER reason, God chose one, and rejected the other. More specifically, God chose THE YOUNGER, and rejected the OLDER. Something he continually does all the way through the Bible.
I think the best answer is that WE JUST DON’T KNOW. God is completely free to choose whoever he wants. His election ALWAYS works like that.
Don’t forget both Cain and Abel are offering their sacrifices OUTSIDE THE GARDEN. Out of fellowship with God. Neither DESERVED God’s acceptance of their sacrifice.
Yet, in his MERCY, God chooses to accept ONE. That’s the REAL puzzle – why would God choose EITHER of them?
Why has God chosen YOU, but not someone else close to you? GRACE!
Why is it you can offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God – even though you’re sinful and are always messing it up – yet God still reckons they’re HOLY AND PLEASING TO HIM? GRACE!
I can’t understand it. But I praise God for it anyway!
And Cain can’t get his head around it, either. Abel’s the younger brother. But God choose HIM. And so, Cain spits the dummy. Throws a tanty! And so God warns him, he’s skating on thin ice. V6.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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.”
The choice is there. Choose good, or choose evil. You can’t blame SATAN. You can’t blame the world. Circumstances. The decision rests on YOUR SHOULDERS.
You can’t influence what life BRINGS you. All you can do is choose how you RESPOND to it.
God puts it like this. Sin is crouching like a lion at your door. Just waiting for you to open it a , so it can force its way in. But it’s up to you to master it.
You can’t give in A LITTLE BIT to sin. Savouring it. Contemplating it. There’s no dabbling. It desires to HAVE you – control you – dominate you.
Keep the door well-shut. Master sin. Resist temptation.
But Cain’s not interested in God’s warnings. He lures Abel out in to a field. And, out of jealousy and rage, kills him.
Things have gone from bad to worse.
- It was BAD in the garden. Eve sinned. But it’s WORSE here. There’s no snake to lead Cain astray. He’s got an independent streak. He thinks “I can mess things up perfectly well on his own thank-you very much! I don’t need anyone to help.”
- After the act, Adam and Eve HIDE from God, but Cain stays out in the open for God to find him. He’s BRAZEN.
- Adam and Eve OWN UP straight away. But Cain LIES. And even ANSWERS GOD BACK. V9. “I don’t know where he is. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
- Even the PUNISHMENT seems to be worse. In Ch 3, just the snake and the ground are cursed. But now CAIN HIMSELF is cursed.
- And speaking of the ground. Look at v11. God declares that the ground won’t yield ANY crops. It opened its mouth to receive Abel’s . And now the ground itself goes on strike.
- And when God declares his curse on Cain, rather than humbly accepting it like Adam and Eve, he COMPLAINS. V13. “It’s more than I can bear.” Destined to be a restless wanderer, with people trying to kill him.
One generation on from the first sin, and things are so much worse. They couldn’t possibly get worse.. could they?
Oh yes, they could!
From Worse to Worst
Because verses 17-24 describe Cain’s line. Enoch and so on. Down to Lamech. In lots of ways, Lamech’s family has it all going for them. Farmers, musicians, metal-workers. Building and growing human culture. Subduing and creating like God intended.
But civilization doesn’t mean they’re more civilized. More moral. Look at what Lamech does. V23. A boy wounds him. And so, Lamech kills him. Punishment MUCH worse than the crime.
His SIN may not be worse than Cain’s. But his ATTITUDE is. He BOASTS about it. Rejoices in it. Writes a song about it. His ancestor Cain was a bad man. But not HALF as bad as LAMECH!
A pitiful picture of humanity made in God’s image. On the one hand, achieving success in lots of ways. But deeply wicked and corrupt as well.
Sounds a lot like Western culture doesn’t it. So clever when it comes to technology. Every day we invent new ways to harm each other, and fill our minds with rubbish and wickedness. Clever new weapons. Clever new morning after abortion pills. Clever new ways of stealing information and money. We use our God-given mandate to create and subdue/ to find new ways of DOING EVIL.
Cain’s line has gone from Worse to Worst. How much longer can God put up with it? We’ll find out soon enough!
The beginnings of a rescue plan
But in the midst of all these black clouds, there’s also A SILVER LINING. There’s GRACE in the midst of judgment. The beginnings of a rescue plan.
It began back with Adam and Eve. God had pronounced his guilty verdict on them. They were about to be kicked out of the Garden. But look what God does – flip back to Ch 3 v21.
21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Like a parent who sends his child to their room for misbehaving, then brings their dinner up to them. Grace in the midst of judgment. The LORD God sacrifices an animal, to meet the needs of his people. He makes clothes for them – warm animal skins – much better than leaves. Because he’s merciful.
And then again, over in Ch 4. God’s just pronounced judgment on Cain. And when Cain complains about the severity of the punishment, God responds with GRACE and PROTECTION. V15
15 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.
We don’t know what sort of mark it was. But it was there to PROTECT Cain. Yes, he was living under God’s curse. But God was still showing the compassion to care for him.
But we see grace of A DIFFERENT SORT there at the end of Ch 4. Eve had given birth to Cain and Abel. One brought an ACCEPTABLE offering and one an UNACCEPTABLE one. But Abel was gone. And so God provides Eve with A REPLACEMENT. ANOTHER son (v25) called SETH. Who’s very name means GRANTED, or GIFT.
And it seems like HE TOO will be acceptable to God. Because the chapter concludes (v26)
At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.
One genealogy of Cain. Showing the CURSED line. Then, as we move into Ch 5, we learn about the BLESSED line. The line of Seth, Abel’s replacement.
As we follow it down, we read about long life – in other words, God’s blessing. We read of FRUITFULNESS – of many sons and daughters. We even read of Enoch, down in v24, who WALKED WITH GOD. The way mankind was designed. And so, because of that, he didn’t die, God took him away.
And as we keep scanning down the page, we finally come to a familiar name. V29. Noah. Which means something like COMFORT. Because his father said
“He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.”
Perhaps NOAH will be the one to crush the serpent’s head. The Saviour. The one to rid the world of the influence of evil.
Are things finally looking up?
Two family lines. Sinfulness/ and grace. Judgment/ and mercy. Cain’s line ends in Lamech. The very WORST sort of sinner.
While Seth’s line ends in Noah. Perhaps the one to bring COMFORT. But more on that next time.
Where Sin Increased, Grace Super-Increased!
So where does that leave us?
The pattern seems clear/ that the effects of sin are INCREASING as we go down the family tree. From father to son. Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples wider and wider. In ever increasing circles. One generation outdoing the other in terms of their attitude to sin. Their brazen-ness and pride. Their deceitfulness and trickery.
And so/ it’s valid to ask/ What sort of messages are we sending OUR children by the way we do things? The things we say. The attitudes we hold. Our priorities. Our actions. The things we DON’T do.
Your children are WATCHING you. Learning. Soaking it all up like sponges.
What would they think about SIN from watching you? What would they value by looking at how you spend your money and time? What would they think about the importance of praying, or reading the Bible together? What would they think about the value of MARRIAGE from listening in on the things you say?
And what about CHURCH? What do you children learn from you about the importance of meeting together? Is it something you’re committed to? Or is it something that gets pushed out of your Sunday at the first opportunity?
Your kids grow up to live out those same attitudes. Is that what you want?
Will YOUR children live up to this pattern of going from bad to worse? Or will you heed God’s warning? Sin is crouching at your door. It desire to have you. But you must master it. And your family is DEPENDING on you!
It’s ONE of the reasons we got our children BAPTISED. Because following Jesus is the most important thing for Caron and me. And we wanted the kids to grow up KNOWING that. That’s what we want for them above ANYTHING ELSE.
I’ve heard people say that they want to leave it until the kids are older so they can decide for themselves. But I wonder what sort of message that sends. “Do mum and dad think this stuff is important, or not? Is it any more significant than whether I choose ballet or footy? Long pants or shorts?” They’re the sorts of things they let me choose. Is THAT how important it is?
Doug grew up in a Christian family. And they had regular family devotions. For a while, as a ager, he’d rather be doing anything else. And so the kids would muck up. But his parents would KEEP PERSEVERING. Because their relationship with God was the most important thing in his life. And they wanted to pass that on to their kids.
And, by God’s grace, they HAVE! Praise God!
As a ager, I loved going on Christian holiday camps. Bushwalking or surfing. It didn’t matter much. But every holidays I’d be off somewhere. And Dad would never say NO. It’s only recently I’ve realized that it must have stretched the budget pretty severely to pay for it. But Dad’s priority was for me to know Jesus. And he’d do whatever he could for me to follow the family line.
What family line will YOU follow? Cain’s or Seth’s? The line of blessing and obedience? Or the line of curse and disobedience?
But there’s something else I think we can learn from this passage.
Perhaps you’re recognizing more of CAIN in yourself than you’d like. Perhaps your attitude and response to temptation has been to ignore God. To be jealous. To get angry. To get even. Perhaps even to boast.
And it seems like you’re living with consequences that are too much for you to bear. Your life is painted with colours every bit as black as that of Cain’s.
Perhaps YOUR FAMILY is even showing the signs of the stain of sin. Or maybe, you’re at the END of a family-line that’s living out the curses of disobedience.
Then let me encourage you. No picture is too black. No sin is too big for God. No sinner has traveled too far from God for him to show grace to.
You might think you’re the EXPERT at sinning. That Cain and Lamech have NOTHING on you. But God’s the expert on showing MERCY. On forgiving.
No matter how big the sin. No matter how rotten the life. How deep the hole. God can bring forgiveness and healing and restoration.
An animal sacrificed to warm and comfort Adam and Eve.
A mark of protection on the wanderer Cain.
And for you, he’s provided ANOTHER sacrifice to cover YOU. To protect you from his wrath. Jesus, the perfect Lamb. Offered in our place. He satisfies God’s JUSTICE, so that God can show us MERCY.
The end of Romans 5 talks about SIN INCREASING. The more law was added, the bigger the law-breaking became. But, in v20, it says this. A principle for life.
But where sin increased, GRACE INCREASED ALL THE MORE, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in , so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sin might be huge. But grace is ALWAYS big enough to cover it. Whenever sin ABOUNDED. Grace increased to SUPER-ABOUND.
Through Jesus, God offers us righteousness and eternal life. Grace that reigns. That turns bad to good. Not bad to worse.