Monday, June 9, 2008

God Knows How We Are!

Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Genesis 4:9-16

God is now calling Cain to account for the murder of his brother. What is Cain's reaction when God asks the question of Abel's whereabouts? Cain denies any knowledge or responsibility for knowing where his brother is! I really have a difficult time understanding how it is that Cain believes this answer will do. Doesn't he understand that God really knows all about it anyway? Maybe he doesn't, and just believes if he denies his sin, he will somehow get by with it. I look at this attitude with astonishment...until I realize I do much the same thing.

I struggle with sin, sometimes particular sins, on a daily basis. However, there are those times when I ignore my sin in the vain hope that it will simply go away. Or I fail in my struggle at some point in a day, and I tell myself that the failure is 'natural', and because I am a 'sinner' it is 'understandable.' Thus I try to justify or 'get by' with my sin in the presence of a holy God. This is even more foolish than Cain, for I have knowledge of God that Cain did not, the knowledge of a grace-filled and forgiving God who also asks for purity. Out of nothing more than sheer love and gratefulness I should never fall into Cain's trap of denial. Yet it does happen, though I hope more seldom than in the past.

Lord, help me to live face-front and open to You.

Your Joyfully Loquacious Expositor,

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Murder Most Foul"

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD."  And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.   In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground,  and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.  The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?   If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."  Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
Genesis 4:1-8

I've have had difficulty with parts of this passage.  The trouble hasn't been with the understanding.  I grasp the plain meaning well enough.  One of the aspects of this passage that has concerned me in the past was the fact that God had favor upon Abel's offering but rejected Cain's offering.  After all, there were no rules or standards in place for the proper presentation of offerings.  Why should Abel's offering be considered better than Cain's?  It was not in the fact that one was animal and the other plant life.  Later in Scripture, when standards and laws for proper offerings to God were set, both types of offerings were allowed for.  What, then, was the problem?  We find that Cain's offering was given without his heart behind it, while Abel gave his with his heartfelt love for God.  We can see that because of the fact that Abel gave of the FIRST and BEST that he had, while Cain did not.

Cain's anger was bourne of jealousy.  Why he was jealous is somewhat confusing because Cain did not seem to hold the same fervor of love for God as Abel.  Why should he care if his offering was accepted or not?  Probably because Cain also knew this meant that he would not have God's favor if his offering was not accepted.  Cain must have believed that this showed that God "liked" Abel better than himself, and also that some blessings or benefits from God would be denied him as a result.

I find verses 6 and 7 very interesting as well.  God is warning Cain about his unjust anger and cautions him about this becoming a vehicle for sin to enter.  We should note that God takes note of our emotions, both joyful and angry, both for good or ill.  He is concerned about Cain and wants Cain to understand that anger and jealousy are not only wrong, but they are unnecessary. If you do "well" for the Lord, you are accepted in fellowship with Him.  If one falls short of that, then sin is "at the door."  

The nature of sin is to desire a hold on the sinful person.  "It's desire is for you," God warns Cain. God's counsel, "you must rule over it."  The emphasis in this phrase to me is the word MUST. God is not giving one of many options here.  He is telling Cain the only way out is to master the sin at the door.  Sin had to be handled BEFORE it got into the "door" of the heart. How was he to do that? Cain had to somehow get to the place where he, like Abel, "did well" for the Lord.  That meant at least that repentance, a total change of life direction, was involved.

Today the case is the same for us.  Sin in our lives approaches in much the same way, through circumstances that we handle in a bad way.  We may feel bad emotions such as anger without just cause.  I say without just cause because there is a type of righteous anger which is biblically correct, i.e. anger at sin and evil.  Far more often our anger is of a personal sort that is targeting another person, and will lead to grave sin if we do not turn around to the right way of the Lord.  If we do not repent, and turn to God in our heart, we can fall as easily as Cain.

It was this step which Cain was unwilling to take.  Instead, he committed the first murder, and that of his own brother!  This was indeed "murder most foul".  God's punishment for this seemed milder than I would have expected.  However, that is a topic for next time.

Your joyfully loquacious believer,