Dec 7, 2003

Genesis 4:1-26 (for Nov. 5 class)

The story of mankind's fascination with sin, which started in Genesis 3, continues in Genesis 4. What Adam and Eve introduced, their progeny continue, creating pattern that is emulated in some form throughout the Old Testament. It is a pattern of a lack of proper worship, of not acknowledging His sovereignty, and trying to put Him out of the picture. In spite of this, God is good. In judgement he shows both justice and grace. In this chapter, there are two significant narratives, that of Cain, and that of his descendant Lamech. Cain's story is told with a level of detail, while Lamech's is mentioned in passing, a shadow of the first story.

Cain's story is one of anger, jealousy and murder. While we might not readily identify with murder, anger and jealousy are emotions that most people deal with. For Cain, his anger came as a result of his inability to accept God and his favor for Abel. Perhaps Cain felt that he had worked harder than his brother. After all, as described in the previous chapter, Genesis 3:18-19, farming was strenuous. Clearly Cain disagreed with God about the value of his offering. He refused to acknowledge his own fault in presenting an unacceptable offering. Instead of heeding God's word and ominous warning in verses 6 and 7, Cain acts on his own and does the opposite. He knew that sin was crouching at his door, yet in his anger he still succumbed to it.

God gives Cain the same judgement as was given Adam, but magnified. Where Adam once had free food, it was taken away and he was forced to work the ground for his sustenance. Where Cain once had to work the ground for his food, even that was taken away. Where Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden, Cain was driven from the presence of the Lord. Where Adam was to be punished by death, he was spared his life for a while. Where Cain could also have been punished by death, he was not only spared but protected by God's decree.

Sin often comes in this fashion, telling people that they deserve more than what God has allotted for them. Like Cain, many people feel neglected while they see others blessed. Other people may have an inflated sense of self worth, and want more than what they already have. In both cases these feelings and the focus on their own hurt and and anger, and the refusal to turn from doing wrong to doing right, draw people away from what lies beyond the pain - a close relationship with God.

Cain actually had a speaking relationship with God, yet this was something he did not treasure. While God counselled him in his frustration, Cain ignored God's voice. Instead of worshipping God with a a true offering, he focuses on Abel as the cause of his displeasure. Only later does he realize what he's lost when he cries out in woe "from Your face I will be hidden" (Gen 4:14).

The narrative in Genesis 4 continues through Cain's lineage to his descendant Lamech. In some senses, this was a fruitful lineage, since through it came about music and metal craft. Yet in it is a sense of despondency because God is not there. While God’s voice counselled Cain in that narrative, it is absent in Cain’s lineage and Lamech’s story. Although Cain's lineage did well for itself for a while, we still see a society in turmoil without God. Lamech becomes a murderer, punishing injury with death twice. far exceeding the eye for an eye limitation later deemed just in Exodus. Where God demonstrated his grace in declaring vengeance to protect Cain and end the potential cycle of violence, Lamech called to his wives for his own protection, potentially opening a cycle of revenge. The narrative for Cain’s descendents ends here. Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, and from his line it says “men began to call upon the name of the Lord”.

There is a shadow of this in the history of Israel. Every so often there are a few generations who operate without God. For a time, they may have a period of success. Eventually however, their life apart from God does not succeed. Israel and Judah were both eventually swept away from God into exile until God restored a remanent. The rest, like Cain and his lineage, faded away.

This can be applicable in our lives as well. There are many ways in which we can live without God. The narrative of the lineage of Cain and Lamech shows one possible scenario where sin drives Cain into a apart from God. Living apart from God becomes somewhat of a norm for some generations, but in the end Lamech finds himself in a sad and empty place. We can also distance ourselves from God through sin. That distance doesn’t preclude us from successes; in fact people often get far and become successful while ignoring God and refusing to acknowledge their own sins. The worldview in secular (and often times Christian) America encourages individuals to be self sufficient and ambitious, to be judged by their own merits and nothing else. It is a culture that encourages distance from God and discourages any reliance upon Him. In the end, however, a life without God ends up in despair, emptimess, and ever deeper sin. Like Lamech, people often find themselves in unexpected situations, where their own strength might not be sufficient and with no one to turn to. The only true solution is to call upon the name of the Lord.

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