Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunday Leftovers - More Thoughts on Genesis 4

For every Sunday’s sermon, I usually have about twice as much material as I have time to use. So, a lot of it ends up on the cutting room floor. Obviously, the stuff I delete are things that I do not believe are essential to the point of my sermon. My main point is that Abel was living by faith while Cain was living by works. Grace leads to joy. Works leads to bitterness. Joyless, self-righteous, angry, religious people show by their emotions a lack of confidence in the gospel. To understand why I believe this is what Genesis 4 is teaching, you can listen to the sermon here. Still, there are usually some interesting tidbits that I don’t have time to mention. Below are some quick hits on the leftovers.
  1. Notice the parallels between Genesis 3 and Genesis 4. You have the sin, God’s inquiry, and then the pronouncement of judgment. One of the great differences is in how Cain responds to God’s inquiry. Adam shifts the blame. Cain is still downright defiant—even being sarcastic with God—“Am I the shepherd’s shepherd?” Sin has become harder and more brazen.
  2. The curses of Genesis 3 become worse in Genesis 4. Since Cain rejected family by killing his brother, he will live in alienation from family. Since he spilled his brother’s blood onto the ground, he will live in alienation from the ground. The earth will no longer yield to his strength. Since he chose to alienate himself from God by killing one made in God’s image, he will be driven from the presence of God. Notice the food theme going on as well. Adam eats of the fruit. Then, in pronouncing the effects of the fall to Adam in Genesis 3, eating is mentioned five times. Adam sinned by eating. Now eating is going to require pain and toil. Then, in Genesis 4, Cain works the ground. Now, the ground will not produce food for him. Man is getting more and more alienated from the earth. Man was supposed to rule the earth, but now the earth will not yield to man’s strength.
  3. In judgment, God gives you what you want. Here is part of the deceptiveness of sin. It lures you in, promises you freedom. As judgment, God lets you have it. Cain despises his family, so God drives him out from his family. Cain rejects God’s Word and promise. So, Cain is driven from God’s presence.
  4. We see the shocking degradation of sin in Cain’s response. Even after God had confronted him, even after God has pronounced his judgment, Cain shows no repentance and no remorse. Instead of falling on his knees, pleading with God for mercy, he still clings to his self-righteousness by claiming God is unjust. He says, 13 Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. He is complaining that God is treating him unjustly and still seems clueless as to how he treated his brother unjustly. It is all about Cain. His blindness is astounding, as it is with our sin.
  5. Because Cain has rebelled against God, he is driven to restlessness. There is a whole sermon in this point. If I had time, I would love to explore the theme of Sabbath rest on the seventh day of creation and man’s restlessness apart from God.
  6. This restlessness is rooted in our separation from God. As Augustine said, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Calvin said, ““There is no peace for men, unless they acquiesce in the providence of God, and are persuaded that their lives are the objects of his care… they can only quietly enjoy any of God’s benefits so long as they regard themselves as placed in the world, on this condition, that they pas their lives under his government.”
  7. God shows remarkable mercy on fallen mankind. Genesis 4 is not just a story of sin and saving grace, but also a story of sin and common grace. Cain and his posterity go on to build cities, develop marvelous technology, create art, and other cultural developments. Even the line of Cain makes beautiful culture. As Christians, we can celebrate this with our fellow man. We enjoy the technological developments of fallen mankind. As Steve Brown often says, he doesn’t care if the pilot is a Christian or not. All he wants to know is, can he fly this airplane? This is also why we can enjoy the beautiful creations of people who were not necessarily Christians. Both Beethoven and the Beatles produced great music. Neither Beethoven or any of the Beatles had what we would call an orthodox faith. Yet, we can celebrate the beauty of their work.
  8. God also showed his mercy in the mark of Cain. The mark of Cain was not a sign of judgment, but of protection.

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