BSF Genesis: Week 5, Lecture

Life is hard.  Ever since Adam and Eve choose sin, it has tried to jump out and harm us and attack us and draw us away from God over and over and over again.

The bible doesn’t teach us that if we follow God everything is smooth sailing.  Just the opposite.  God tells us to hold on.  But God allows us to choose what we hold on to.

In our lesson tonight we learn about Cain.  Cain decided to hold on to himself.  As we read the verses you can almost see him standing there, pouting with his arms crossed tightly across his chest.  Shut off, defiant, clinging only to himself.

What a dumb thing to hold onto when things get tough.  God says that he is our rock and foundation.  God invites us to let go and cling to him.  God says he never loses a member of his flock.

But let’s look at Cain and what he clings to and how that works for him.

In our first section we are introduced to Cain and Abel.  Cain was a farmer and Abel was a rancher or shepherd.  They were brothers and Cain was the first born son of Adam and Eve.  We don’t know how old they were when our story picks up, but we know people lived for a long time in those days, hundreds of years, but we are brought into the story at a critical point – a point where Cain and Abel brought an offering to the Lord.

We see that both brought a portion of the product of their labor.  But it is also clear that the manner in which they brought it and the nature of the offering were different.  Cain brought “some”.  Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.

A key difference is in what they were willing to give up or sacrifice to God.  When Abel brought the best of what he had, first, he had to recognize that it was the best.  Second, he had to be willing to sacrifice it, to give it up.  In so doing, he opened the door for God to give him something even greater than what he had produced that had been his best.  And we see that God poured out his favor on Abel AND on his offering.

But that isn’t what happened with Cain.  Cain gave.  He may have given more than Abel, we don’t know.  His offering may have been worth more on the grain market, but there isn’t any indication that he gave the best.  It says he gave “Some”, but it does not say that he gave the best of what he produced.  Meaning, he held onto to that.  He kept what he considered to be best on his own little trophy case, rather than clearing room for the type of trophy God wanted him to have.

What happened?  Cain became very angry and downcast.  Pay attention to that last part.  If you are downcast, where is your focus?  Is it up and to God?  Is it forward and positive?  Remember what happened when Eve filled her vision with the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Look at where Cain has his eyes.

God doesn’t need our stuff.  We need to let go.  God teaches us how to do this in his word and by his example.  What did He give?  In addition to everything that exists in the physical universe, He also gave His only Son.  Jesus is the only acceptable sacrifice.

  • What are you doing in “half-hearted faith”?
  • Where do you need to give 100% of your heart?
  • What have you earned or achieved that you are having a hard time removing from your life because “it is so great”?

In our next section, we see that Cain’s actions soon follow his eyes.  But, it is important to realize it did not have to be this way.  God loved Cain so much that he sat down and talked to him, one-on-one (maybe three on one with the whole trinity thing, but you get the point).  God offers him a do-over.  God warns him about the door he is so focused on, the one that follows his downcast gaze, i.e., the door that leads further down.  God tells him, sin is crouching at that door.  You have the power to rule over it, don’t let it pounce on you.  Now, if something is crouching right outside your door waiting to pounce, how are you going to keep it from pouncing on you?  Duh! Use a different door.  God is holding open the door back to him, but…

Soon, Cain commits premeditated murder.  He lures his brother out into a field and whacks him (in the literal sense).  It’s done.  The first recorded death of a human and it is committed by another human.

So God immediately rains down condemnation on Cain, right?  Actually, no.  God’s first action is to offer Cain an opportunity to confess and repent.  “Where is your brother, Abel?”

But Cain doesn’t confess or repent.  He doesn’t fall down and cry out to God.  He keeps going right through that door.  He follows murder with lies and denial and condescension.  “I don’t know.”  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God cries out to him to listen and see what he has done.  To recognize his action and change; to see the consequences and curse that he has brought onto himself from the very land that he relies on for a living as a farmer.

But, Cain chooses to close the door.  In verse 14 Cain says to God.  I will be hidden from your presence. Click.

  • What more could God have done to bring Cain back to him?  All he had to do was repent.  But lying and denying are like going the wrong way down the one way street that is supposed to lead back to God.  Should it be any wonder to us if we get hit by a bus?
  • What are you lying about or denying?
  • What are you trying to keep hidden in your life from God?  How is that working out?
  • Where do you complain that what you face is “too much” or “too hard” while at the same time contributing to making it even more, harder and worse?

Our third section gives us insight into the life of Cain.  Clearly, God still saw him, even if he chose not to see God (it is written down in the bible, right).

We see God continued to provide.  He gave gifts of music and carpentry and architecture and craftsmanship and arts.  And what did Cain’s children do?  They denied God.

Look at verses 17-24.  What’s not mentioned?  God.  I looked back starting in Genesis 1:1 and would encourage you to as well.  This is the longest number of verses so far with no mention of God.  In Genesis 1 it is hard to go a single verse without God.  But here, we go multiple generations.  What is the focus?  On accomplishments, on talents, on celebrity and commerce.  Add in a best dressed list and this could be daytime TV.

Not only is there no mention of God, but they quickly take the things that come from God and twist them and misuse them.  Think about it?  How did Cain get married?  Not just where did he find a wife, but actually, who married them?  How did they enter into a holy covenant without God?  Is it any wonder then that a few generations down that sacrament gets stretched further?  Why not marry 2 wives?  Why not kill someone and claim 11 times the protection for it that God offered to Cain?  Why not sing about it?  Wives… I’ve killed a man….

But what will all of this bring them?  All of these accomplishments without faith?  I don’t want to jump ahead, but come back and you learn about how they end up “all wet.”

  • What accomplishment are you holding onto as being yours instead of God’s?
  • Where do you focus on the performer or celebrity instead of the divine who gave the talent?
  • Are you spending your time reading People or reading God?

BSF Genesis: Week 5, Day 5

Today’s Scriptures

Questions:

12.
There are 2 parts to this challenge:
Where did the woman come from? Gen 5:4 says Adam had other sons and daughters
How did she become his wife? Gen 2:24 man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife

13.
a. Cain was then building a city named after Enoch
b. Jabal was father of those who live in tents and raise livestock
c. Tubal-Cain forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron
d. Jubal was father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes
e. Lamech’s prose/poetry in his address to his wives

14.
a.
God said Cain would be a restless wanderer on the earth, he built a city

b.
Lamach married 2 women and killed a man for wounding him

15.
a.
No mention of God only of accomplishments resulting from God-given gifts and knowledge. Architecture, music, culture, craftsmanship, commerce and the arts are from God, but if we leave him out then we begin to worship the gift instead of the giver

b.
I do it each time I take credit for my own gain and/or gifts.  None of that belongs to me, it is from God.

My Daily Journal:

The question about Cain getting a wife made me ponder that fact.  I think most people will focus on where did the woman come from in their answer, but I think the bigger question is how did they get married and become husband and wife.  God ordained marriage when he made Eve for Adam as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.  God not only setup the idea of marriage, but he was a part of the first marriage ceremony.  This was His design.  In most Christian marriages, the commitment made is a 3-way promise between the husband, the wife, and God.  But Cain had decided to “be hidden from God’s presence”.  So how did he get married?  Who performed the ceremony if there was one?  Did they exchange vows with each other or did he just whack her over the head too, ala caveman style?  I ponder this because I think it shows a pattern from the very earliest days of man that, in our sinful nature, we try to pick and choose from the buffet of the things God has provided.

Love my brother, repent, sacrifice… I’ll pass on those.  But I want a big church wedding, just leave all the God stuff out of it.  Consult God about who I’m supposed to marry?  Nah, I can do that without His help.

We do this with marriages, we do it with holidays, we do it with days of rest, we do it with any of the other sacraments and stations and gifts of God and the church. We pick and choose.  In the process, we lose out.  By trying to keep the structure without the creator, we end up with a 2 legged stool or a handful of silk flowers.  It doesn’t work, they may be nice to look at, but they are still fake and not the real deal.

I am appreciative to have God as a partner in our marriage and our family and I wish that for all couples.  You can “get married” without God, but it is not the real deal (because God was part of the deal).

Finally, I loved how Lamech tried to be the Freddie Mercury of his generation:  Wives, I’ve killed a man…

BSF Genesis: Week 5, Day 4

Today’s Scriptures

Questions:

9.
a.
The sarcasm and condescension in his tone (often a defense mechanism): “Am I my brother’s keeper?” My punishment is more than I can bear: driving from land, hidden from presence, restless wanderer, others will kill me. No “I’m sorry”, no desire to change, just concern for self

b.
God is just but does not seek harm. His goal is rehabilitation not punishment as retribution.  He protects us even though we don’t deserve it.

10.
a.
David acknowledge that he had sinned against God and sought mercy. He recognized God’s right and justice and sought to be cleansed not protected. He wanted to get out of sin not out of punishment.

b.
It is hard, but I should be grateful to have those in my life who care enough to tell me.  While it is more gentle to hear from a brother/sister that I love and serve with, it also cuts deeper to the bone.  I pray that I can be better at turning immediately to God rather than trying to stand up on my own and that I set my focus on returning to right and not fixate on the problem.

11.
a.
God is light, no darkness: purified by blood of Jesus. If confess He is faithful, forgives, purifies

b.
Confess and be purified through the cleansing of the blood of Christ (saying “I did it” is not enough, but we must also seek to be purified)

 

My Daily Journal:

Verse 14 was a pivotal verse in my understanding of the relationship between God and Cain.

God has come to Cain and offered him an opportunity to confess and to repent.  But, Cain’s reply is lies.  God admonishes him to look at the mess he has made: the curse that he has brought upon himself from the very soil that he relies on as a farmer.

But, to see the heart of the matter, look at verse 14 piece-by-piece:

  1. Today you are driving me from the land – this is true and is what God said.
  2. and I will be hidden from your presence – God  never said this nor implied it.  God is not limited to a piece of real estate.  If anyone is choosing to be hidden from the others presence it is Cain choosing to be hidden from the presence of God (and we already saw how well that worked for his mom and dad with the fig leaves)
  3. I will be a restless wanderer on the earth – this is true and is what God said.
  4. and whoever finds me will kill me – God  never said this nor implied it.  In regard to this last line it is as if God says, fine, if that is really what you are worried about, someone killing you, then we’ll get that off the table, but, son, you’ve got a lot bigger problems than that made up worry.

Cain chose to hide from God’s presence.  Cain chose the exit door.  Obviously, as we continue to read the rest of the chapter, God knows all about Cain and his family ongoing.  The issue isn’t in God not knowing Cain, but in Cain not knowing God.

When I face consequences of my sin and I adding to them by trying to hide?  Do I invent worries as part of a pity-party or do I turn over my worries to God.

BSF Genesis: Week 5, Day 3

Today’s Scriptures

Questions:

7.
a.
If you do what is right will you not be accepted? Sin is crouching at your door but you must rule over it

b.
God talked with him one-on-one. He doesn’t lower standards but offers him a second chance and confirms Cain has the power to rule over sin

8.
a.
Repent and try again (instead of being sad, make it right). Warning: if you don’t, then you will carry this as darkness in you and it (sin) will take you over – if you shut out the path of light, you will be swallowed by darkness – rule over it, fight it, go the other way.

b.
Any one who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor anyone who does not love brother/sister. Anyone who loves passes from death to life. Anyone who hates is a murderer. Jesus laid down his life for us, we should lay down our lives for our brothers/sisters.

 

My Daily Journal:

I was struck by the visual of sin crouching at the door.  It brought to mind the game show, The Price is Right.

Host: Well, Cain, I can see you have your mind set on door number 2.  But before you choose that door, let me tell you a little bit about what’s behind it.  You see, sin is crouching just behind that door.

Cain: (continues to stare at door number 2)

Host: You know you can choose door number 1, right?

Cain: (continues to stare at door number 2)

Host: You cannot even imagine the prize package We have assembled if you choose door number 1?

Cain: (continues to stare at door number 2)

Host: You know we offer free do-overs, right?  You can just go back and start the whole sacrifice/offering thing all over again.  What do you say?

Interesting that the bible notes that Cain’s face was downcast.  We learned in the garden that our actions follow our eyes.  Cain’s eyes are cast downward and the only door He can see is the door downward, going the wrong way on the one way street that is supposed to lead to God.  He isn’t opening a prize door, he is staring at the exit.

When I face struggles, do I stop and look to God for a better door or do I see only one way out?  When sin is crouching at the door to my heart do I try to fight it on my own or do I enlist as a soldier in God’s army?

BSF Genesis: Week 5, Day 2

Today’s Scriptures

Questions:

3.
a.
Cain gave some of the fruit, Abel brought fat portion of firstborn.  I don’t think it was the what, but the how and why.

b.
God doesn’t need our offering, but wants our faith and trust. He wants us to be willing to give up what we consider “best” so He can give us something even better.

4.
Yes. I think she learned through the fall that God’s word was truth (and she had just gone through childbirth reminding her of all aspects of that discussion).  God made a promise and now He was beginning to fulfill that promise.

5.
a.
Cain worked the soil, Cain was very angry, his face was downcast

b.
He wanted full recognition and reward. He didn’t want it pointed out that he wasn’t doing his best.

c.
Same. I don’t enjoy being shown that I’m not doing my best

6.
A sacrifice of praise and to do good and to share with others / Through daily prayer and meditation, teaching and writing

My Daily Journal

The part of today’s lesson that really stuck me was God’s attribute as a teacher wanting to help me grow.  God requires a sacrifice, an offering, from me.  Not because He needs something that I have.  God created all of it and owns all of it.  He has put me in place as a steward, but I am only on a temporary work assignment here, where God is eternally in charge and in control.  Instead, the sacrifice and offering is a check on the condition of my heart and head.

God wants me to sacrifice that which I deem to be the best that I have acquired.  If I cannot let go of what I consider to be best out of the things that my labor has produced, then I am blocking God from giving me something better than that out of the work of His labor (which produced everything that exists in 6 days).  If I have already place something on the pedestal of “best” and am not willing to remove it, then how can God give me something better?

With that understanding, it is absurd not to joyfully give up whatever it is that I achieve or acquire with my work because what God can give instead is so much greater.  It isn’t a negotiation, it is an exchange of gifts, given in joy and love.

But that begins with the view of God as a giver.  I think that is at the heart of the difference between Cain and Abel.

Cain may have largely seen God as a God who takes away.  In Cain’s eyes, God took away Cain’s inheritance of the Garden of Eden; He took away the ability to garden without sweat and thorns and thistles, He took away constant peace without constant vigilance and fear.  If Eve saw the fulfillment of the prophecy as immediate, Cain may have been raised as a fighter, as one who uses force to work the ground and as one who is prepared, with force, to crush the serpent’s head.

On the other hand, Abel may have largely seen God as a God who gives.  Abel practiced husbandry of livestock, he cared for animals, he shepherded his flocks and he saw the pain that must have been present in the first animal sacrifice that God had performed with His own hands.  He saw what death looked like and may have recognized God’s grace.

What is my attitude in approaching God and His church?  Do I gladly sacrifice the best that I have acquired perceiving that God gives far better gifts?  Do I see the church and pledge drives and capital campaigns as giving or taking?  Am I willing to contribute some or joyfully give the best that I have acquired?