On a great number of children

In describing Job’s great blessings in the form of children, Joseph Caryl waxes eloquent on the blessings of children:

“To have many children is a great blessing, and the more children the greater the blessing. Some think themselves blessed, if they may have one or two children; one to inherit their estates, one or two to delight themselves in, to play with, or to bear their name; but if they come to a number, to a great number, then they think themselves exceedingly burdened, they they are troubles. When God casts up the estate of a blessed man in outward things, he saith not only that he hath a child, that he is not barren, but that he hath many children, that he hath his quiver full of such arrows, as the expression is, Psalm 127:5 and that is made the blessedness of a man there, ‘Happy is the man (saith he) that hath his quiver full of them,’ that hath many arrows, such are children of the youth, Verse 4. There are some rich and covetous men, that are in this point beyond others rich in folly. You shall hear them pride themselves, that they have no children, or but few; this they conceive sets them off in the opinion of the world for the richer men, whereas one child is more riches than all the things that are in the world. And we know it is an ordinary thing (though indeed it is a very sinful thing) to say, ’tis true such an one is a rich man, he hath a fair estate, but he hath a great charge, a great many children,’ as if that did take-off from his riches, or make him less happy: as if he were the poorer, because he hath a larger share of that ancient first blessing upon man, ‘Be Fruitful and multiply, and replenish the Earth.'” This is from Volume 1, pp 34-35 of his Job commentary.

Election, “All” in Scripture, and Evangelism

Most Reformed theologians, while emphasizing that God is indeed at work in sanctification, also note that man is active. Both sides are necessary to stress in order to preserve the balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. The best book is Stephen Marshall’s book called _The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification_. He was a Puritan, and understood the Gospel as few today do.

The Reformed faith believes that all are headed to hell unless God does something. So it is not as if humanity is grouped in between heaven and hell, and God splits some off that group to go one way, and the rest He diverts from their original course of neutrality to go to hell. That is not a correct picture. Predestination is not symmetrical. Those whom God has not chosen are passed by, in order to receive justice from God, while those that God chooses receive God’s mercy. God is not some kind of homocidal maniac. Read Romans 9 very carefully (the passage that Arminians always skip), and read Ephesians 1.

With regard the words “any” and “all” in Scripture, we have to remind ourselves of the most important factor in biblical interpretation: context. Supposing I had a group of kids surrounding me, hounding me for a piece of candy. One particularly selfish boy asks me if I would only give candy to him. I say, “No, I am giving candy to all.” The word “all” there is in a context: I am not giving candy to the entire world. Rather, I am giving candy to all of the group. The context determines what the “all” refers to. We cannot let our predetermined ideas about God obliterate the context in which the word “all” occurs.

So, in 1 Tim 2, when Paul says that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, we have to look back and see what the “all” is to whom Paul is referring. Are there any clues? Yes, there is verse 1, which uses the phrase “all people,” and then describes who the all people are. That is, they are kings, and people in high positions. In other words, God’s grace is not limited to any social class. But Paul is not making a head count of the world.

Similarly, in 1 John 2:2, where John says that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ous only but also for the sins of the whole world, we have to understand here the historical context. The above example examined the literary context, whereas this one revolves around the historical context. John’s readers were dealing with Gnosticism, a sect that believed in exclusivity with regard to knowledge: if you belonged to their clique, then you would have access to specialized knowledge. You weren’t really “saved,” as it were, unless you were initiated into their special group. This is much like the Masonic tradition today. So John is saying that salvation is not limited to a small group, but is for every tongue, language and nation. Therefore, John cannot be made to say that Jesus Christ was the propitation for every single person head for head.

The other reason we know that this is the correct interpretation, by the way, is that Jesus’ propitation actually accomplishes the salvation of His people (“It is finished”). If it actually accomplished the salvation of every single person in the world, then all people would actually be saved. But we know that not every person in the world is saved. Therefore, Christ did not die for the sins of every single person in the world.

B.B. Warfield once put it this way: the Atonement of Christ is like butter, and people are like bread. Now, if the bread over which this butter is to be spread includes everyone in the world, then the butter would not completely cover the bread: our sins would not be forgiven. However, if the bread is smaller, then the butter would cover it completely. We must balance this analogy by saying that Christ’s death has infinite value, and could cover everyone’s sins. However, what we are trying to do is to understand why it is that not everyone is saved. Now, how does this fit it with the free offer of the Gospel? For that is the next question usually asked. The answer is that God not only ordains the result, but He also ordains the means by which the results are reached. In other words, I as a Reformed person cannot just sit back and say, “Oh, God is going to do it all, therefore I don’t have to do anything.” The reason is that God has ordained that I be an instrument through which He accomplishes His purposes. It is really amazing to think how God can use fallen me to accomplish His eternal purpose.

But then you might ask, “But is the offer of the Gospel sincere or not?” It is sincere. All who repent and turn away from their sins will be saved. The place of the doctrine of election is not in evangelism (“Some of you are elect, and some aren’t. all you have to do is discover which on it is for you”). That is a caricature of the Reformed faith. The real truth is that the doctrine of election exists to comfort doubting believers. Imagine salvation as a door. On the front side is an inscription, “All who will may enter.” You walk through the door. On the back side of the door is this inscription, “Elect from all eternity.” The point is, you can’t know whether or not you are elect, unless you walk through the door, and even then it might take you awhile to be able to read that door correctly.

Actually, the doctrine of election not only requires evangelism, but undergirds and strengthens it. This has always been recognized in truly Reformed circles. It is the reason why Reformed churches have sent more missionaries into the field head for head than any other form of Christianity. What do I mean by election requiring evangelism? what I said above about God electing the means by which His people come to faith. The means is us! the doctrine of election also frees evangelism from the “anxious bench” syndrome common with Finney-style evangelism, where the salvation of the person depends on the eloquence of the speaker. I can share the Gospel in plain, unadorned speech, knowing that God will use it to bring His elect to salvation regardless of my eloquence. Furthermore, I know that no amount of eloquence will persuade someone who is not elect. All I have to do, then, is simple sharing of the Gospel.

Great Quotation

In my Genesis studies, I came across this great quotation from Bruce Waltke’s commentary on Genesis (page 396): “By gapping (separating) reward from virtue, God allows the saint to develop spiritual graces such as faith, perseverance, character, and hope.”

The Last Word

Genesis 5
“The basic fact about human experience is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.” Now that statement may be a bit of an exaggeration. However, there is a kernel of truth there. We get up in the morning, cook breakfast, eat breakfast, work, drive the kids to school, work, drive the kids home from school, work, cook supper, eat supper, put the kids to bed, go to sleep, and do the whole thing all over again the next day. Life seems like an unending cycle that cannot be broken. The cycle is monotonous and boring. There are yearly cycles too, especially in farming. They can get monotonous as well. Do you ever feel like screaming out at God that you want to get out of life? Life feels like this genealogy. So-and-so is born, lives until a certain age, has a son, lives another length of time, has other sons and daughters, and then dies. Sounds rather boring, rather like an unending cycle that never changes. There is nothing new under the sun. Underlying all of this boredom is the thought of death itself. That is what makes the cycle unbearable: after all this work and toil, the only thing that happens at the end is death. How boring. Does death have the last word? Is that the end of all our striving? Is all our striving losing?

It would seem that death reigned from Adam onward, as Paul says. Death reigned because of sin. The text starts out by a contrast between God’s creation and man’s creation. God creates mankind in His own image, in the image of God. Adam, though, has a son in his own image. That tells us that the Fall is going to perpetuate itself in the following generations. Seth is in the image of God. However, it is an image that is filtered by the distorted image of Adam. It is not a direct image of God. That is the point of the first five verses. That starts this seemingly unending cycle of birth and death.

But we notice one thing right away. These first human beings lived a very long time. This has caused some scholars to be exceedingly skeptical about whether these numbers are to be taken literally or not. They surprise us because the numbers are so large. However, once we consider that human beings were created to live forever, and that the life-span gradually gets shorter and shorter after the Flood, then we should not have any difficulty in taking Moses at his word. We need to notice two things about these long lives. First of all, we need to see that the ages of Cain’s descendents are not recorded for us. That is because all of Cain’s descendents will perish in the Flood. The other thing we need to know is that these numbers are actually small. The Babylonian tradition about the kings who existed before the Flood records some very interesting numbers indeed. There is a document called the Sumerian King List, which gives us the name of ten kings who reigned before the Flood. They reigned anywhere from 18,600 years to 43,200 years. Eight kings ruled for a total of 241,000 years. Beside these numbers, the Genesis account records very modest and small numbers. The point of the Genesis narrative is that no ancestor ever lived longer than 1000 years. Not even Methuselah lived that long. 1000 years is symbolic of eternity, or of a perfect period of time. The Bible says that 1000 years are like one day to God. Man never lives even as long as one of God’s days. This should give new meaning to Revelation 20, which says that Jesus Christ reigns for 1000 years. More on that later.

However long these men lived, there is the depressingly monotonous refrain at the end of every account, “and he died.” However, there is one example that is different from all the others. Enoch does not die. Enoch lives to be 365 years old, the number of days in a year. Have you ever noticed that? Notice also that twice in these brief verses, it says that Enoch walked wit God. What does “walking with God” mean? It means to have close fellowship with God. The Bible tells us that two cannot walk together unless they be reconciled. Methuselah then was saved. He believed in the promise of the Messiah, the one who would crush Satan’s head. Long life (which is what Enoch does not have) is not the most sacred and honorable blessing that can come from God. Enoch had something better. As Matthew Henry says, “As he did not live like others, so also he did not die like others.” Walking with God is the reason for the great reward that Enoch receives. Enoch does not die. In the place of that phrase that we would normally expect to see, there is this marvelous statement: “and he was not, for God took him.” From Hebrews 11 we learn that Enoch walked by faith such that God allowed him not to taste death. A little girl once told this story in a wonderful way: “Enoch and God used to take long walks together. And one day they walked further than usual; and God said, ‘Enoch, you must be tired; come into my house and rest.’” If there is faith, hope and love, these three, Enoch’s faith is what God turned to sight, and Enoch’s hope God turned to fulfillment.

What happened to Enoch would have been a tremendous boost of hope to all those living. Of all his ancestors, only Adam had died, and of his descendants, only Noah was yet to be born. It took place about half-way from creation to the flood. Death does not have the last word! Now remember that what Enoch went through is not the same as a resurrection from the dead. Hebrews makes it plain that Enoch did not taste death.

Enoch’s son is the longest living person in the Bible. He lives 969 years and dies in the year of the flood. The shortest lived ancestor is the father of the longest-lived ancestor. Enoch, though, did not provide complete freedom from death. Methuselah, though the son of Enoch still died. Another solution would be needed. Notice that Methuselah is the father of Lamech.

Now Lamech lives 777 years. Remember that Cain’s descendant Lamech was the seventh from Adam, and boasted of having a 77-fold revenge. Now the descendant of Seth lives 777 years. This is probably not coincidence. What Moses wants to do here is to compare the two Lamechs. There is no comparison. Lamech descended from Seth is a prophet, while the Lamech descended from Cain was a false prophet. What does Lamech say? He says that Noah will acquire relief from the work. Notice that it says “out of the ground.” The NIV gives us the impression that the ground is the cause of the painful toil. He ESV is better here when it says that Noah came out of the ground. In other words, from ground that the Lord had cursed, the Lord would also bring someone to relieve the curse of the ground. The next several chapters of Genesis will tell us whether Noah did in fact get a hold of that rest that Lamech was talking about.

Verse 32 is rather curious. Noah waited 500 years to have his three sons. This is quite remarkable. None of the other ancestors waited this long to have children. The only reason I can think of for this delay is that God providentially kept Noah from raising a family until Methuselah and Lamech were old enough such that they would die before the Flood. This goes to show us that God preserved the promised line of Seth such that not one of Seth’s line died in the Flood.

So how do we see Christ portrayed in these obscure verses from the Old Testament? Well, first of all we have to see that Enoch was just like Elijah, who was just like John the Baptist. Elijah was the second person that God took away without seeing death. Death has been cheated twice; once for Enoch, and once for Elijah. Enoch is another kind of John the Baptist. He precedes Noah, who is the type of Jesus Christ. The word “type” here means a person or a thing or an idea that is a shadow of the reality. A “type” points to something to come later on. A “type” corresponds in at least one recognizable way with that reality. Enoch corresponds to John the Baptist, because Enoch is a herald of Noah. He is the one who comes before. This means that Noah is the “type” of Jesus Christ. Just as all the world would be descended from Noah, so also all Christians would be descended from Christ. There would be one world family in Noah, and so there will be one world of Christians in Jesus Christ. Noah underwent a baptism in the ark, and Jesus underwent the baptism of his death and resurrection. The only way anyone could be saved in Noah’s day was by being inside the ark. The only way anyone can be saved now (normally) is by belonging to Christ’s body, the church. There is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside the true church of Jesus Christ. We will explore those connections in the weeks to come as we look at Noah.

So do we walk with God? Again, what does that mean? We have seen that it means an intimate relationship with God. That can only happen through Jesus Christ, who walked with man, and walked with His Father. Christ bridged the gap between God an man. Man had sinned. The result was death. Jesus came into that death situation in such a way that life was the result. Now, anyone can come into a relationship with God. One only needs to believe in Jesus Christ, that He took our sins on Himself, and gave us His righteousness. We can now stand before God clothed in Christ’s righteousness. We can now walk with God by walking in the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us what walking with God now looks like. Read Galatians 5:16-26. I believe that it is not too difficult to understand what the fruit of the Spirit is. The problem is doing them. As G. K Chesterton wrote, “Christianity is not a religion that has been tried and found wanting; it rather has been found difficult and never tried.” Certainly, we want to say that we cannot walk with God without the Holy Spirit to direct our steps. However, if we are Christians, then we are to walk. We have been reconciled, just like Enoch has been. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us now. How do we walk? We make use of the means of grace: we come to hear the Word of God, we partake of the Sacraments (and if you are not a member of a church such that you can partake, I would urge you to consider joining a church, or becoming a communing member, especially if you are a youth who has not joined yet), we pray, we read out Bibles, we have fellowship with other believers. We should not neglect any of these things. We should rather take every opportunity we have to do these things. That is part of what it means to walk with God. Walking with God also means that we are walking with our fellow believers. It is most definitely NOT true that we can just have a relationship with God, and not have one with the church. Christianity is never supposed to be this “God, the Bible, and me” sort of thing. Paul tells us not to neglect the gathering of the saints. I read Paul as saying that whenever the church meets we should try to be there, knowing of course that emergencies come up, and that we cannot be there every single time. But we should try to attend as much as possible. All of these things we do are not part of our becoming a Christian. They are the result of becoming a Christian.

When we walk with God, then God has promised that if we live until the time when Christ returns, then we will meet Jesus Christ in the air, and we will always be with Him. Enoch’s story promises that for us. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Enoch was tired, as the little girl said. So he went to Jesus, and Jesus gave him rest. He will do the same for you. Rest in Him.

The Living Word

John 20:1-29
Once upon a time, a Muslim converted to Christianity. Some of his friends asked him why he had become a Christian. He replied, “Well, it’s like this. Suppose you were going down a road that suddenly forked in two directions. You didn’t know which way to go, but there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and the other alive. Which man would you ask about which way to go?” Mohammed is dead, but Christ is alive.

At the beginning of our text, all the disciples are depressed. The disciples were afraid of the Jews. They had locked themselves away in order to avoid the Jews. They thought it was all over. They thought they were next on the Jews’ hit list. In that state of mind they simply huddle together in a room with the door locked.

On Sunday morning Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She saw something that made her rather upset. She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. In those days, grave-robbers were everywhere. Grave-robbing had become so common a crime that the Roman emperor of the time imposed capital punishment on any who robbed graves. Mary was afraid that Jesus’ tomb had been robbed of the expensive linen and spices that had been used to anoint Jesus’ body for burial.

No sooner had she seen that the stone was rolled away, than she ran to tell Peter and John what had happened. (“The disciple whom Jesus loved” is another way of saying the apostle John.) This news startled the two disciples into a race to see who could get to the tomb first. John won. Notice that John got to the tomb first, but he did not go in first. Peter went into the tomb first.

It is interesting to think about why John did not go in. The reason has to do with how John views the tomb. He is thinking of the tomb as a new Most Holy Place. You will remember that in the old tabernacle and in the later temple, there was a most holy place, where only the high priest was allowed to enter, and even then only once a year. John views the tomb as a new Most Holy Place. How do we know this? From verse 12. Mary comes and stands weeping outside the tomb. Then she sees two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the foot. Have you ever wondered why John included that small detail? Why does John mention that there were two angels, one at the head, and one at the foot of where Jesus’ body lay? The answer lies in he Old Testament description of the Most Holy Place. See Exodus 25:10-22. In the ark of the testimony, the two angels were the two cherubim, one at one end, and one at the other end. So also in the tomb with Jesus. What was in the ark of the covenant? A copy of the Ten Commandments! A copy of God’s Word. John is saying to us that Jesus is the Living Word. Not only is He the Word of God, which we learn from John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” but he is also the Living Word, resurrected from the dead. You remember the story of the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus says that whoever drinks of the water that Jesus will give him will never die but have everlasting life, and that that water will become a well of water welling up into eternal life. Here in the resurrection story is where Jesus proves that to us.

Jesus proves that in Him, we all have access to the Most Holy Place. Mary can come in to that place. Women were not allowed into the Most Holy Place of the old temple. But in this new temple, all have access to the Most Holy Place. Remember that Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John adds a note that Jesus was speaking about the temple of His own body. Jesus was also saying that His body was the new temple. That is why the curtain of the temple was torn in two at Christ’s death. The ultimate sacrifice ha been made. No longer would the sacrifices of the Old Testament be required. Christ offered up Himself. It is really amazing that Christ is the great high priest, and He is also the sacrifice, and He is also the temple in which the sacrifice is offered. The entire Old Testament sacrificial system points to Jesus Christ. He is all we need.

Do you believe? John believed rather easily. All John had to see was that the grave-clothes were still there, and neatly folded, and put aside. That would not be the case if the grave had been robbed. If the grave had been robbed, then the grave-clothes would have been taken, or at the very least, left in a very untidy manner. Rather, the grave-clothes are neatly put aside as by someone who had no more use for them. Jesus Christ’s body had gone right through the grave-clothes. Christ now has a resurrection glorified body. John saw this and believed. It took a little longer for Peter to believe. And it took a lot longer for Thomas to believe. Thomas actually had to touch Jesus’ physical body in order to believe that Jesus had come back from the dead. Jesus says a remarkable thing at the end of that episode: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The question in front of us this morning is, “Do we believe?” We cannot see Jesus in person. We may see Him when we look at Jesus’ followers who do good in this world. But we cannot see Jesus resurrected and ascended to God in heaven.

What does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means to believe that Jesus is the Living Word, who is prophet, priest and king. It means to believe that Jesus, acting as prophet, has revealed God the Father to us. It means that Jesus as priest has offered up himself on our behalf. This is very important. You see, we sinned. We fell short of the glory of God. We decided that we wanted to play God. And so we took from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all. That is why we have death in the world. We all deserve the penalty of going to hell. That is justice. God is just, and could have sent us all there, and no-one could have called God a homicidal maniac. But God is also merciful. God had already decided that He would not leave mankind to utterly perish. Instead, He would provide a way of escape through his own Son, Jesus Christ. That meant that Jesus was fully obedient to the law. Jesus fulfilled the active demands of the law, doing everything the law required. Not only that, but Jesus also suffered the passive demands of the law, taking on our punishment, that we would not have to pay if we only believe in Him. Believing in Christ also means believing that Jesus Christ is king, that He has been resurrected from the dead, conquering sin and death in the process. It means believing that even now Christ reigns on our behalf.

All of this believing in Christ would mean nothing without the Resurrection. Without the resurrection, Christ is still conquered by sin and death. Without the resurrection, Christ is dead. But now, Christ has risen from the dead. That is where our hope lies.

Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ have only one resurrection on the final day of judgment, and two deaths, one spiritual, and one physical. The spiritual death happens at the final day of judgment, and the physical death happens at the end of life here. Believers have only death and two resurrections. They have one physical death, but their spirit is resurrected, when they believe in Jesus Christ. That is why it is called new birth, passing from death to life. The physical resurrection occurs at the final day of judgment, when the believer’s body is reunited with the soul, and is like Christ’s glorious body. That is our hope. Our only hope of seeing God, and incidentally of seeing our loved ones again, is to believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Which man will you believe? The old man, the world, who tells you that there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead, who say that “dead men rise up never”? Or will you believe the man who is alive, Jesus Christ? Will you believe that His way is the only way? Will you believe that dead Christians rise up ever?

Obadiah, Jonah, Micah

Obadiah:
First-rate: Wolff, Marbury, Raabe, Renkema, Ben-Zvi

Amazingly enough, there are no second-rate individual commentaries on Obadiah.

Jonah:
First-rate: Wolff, Estelle, Martin, Sasson, Lacocque, Nixon, Simon, Fretheim

Ditto here.

Micah: Anderson/Freedman, Ben-Zvi, Wolff, Hillers, Waltke

Conservative: Marbury, Renkema, Estelle, Martin, Nixon

Moderate: Raabe, Sasson, Fretheim

Liberal: Wolff, Ben-Zvi, Lacocque, Simon

The Consequences of Cain’s Killing

Genesis 4:17-26
William Bennett published an alarming book called The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators. He writes this: “In the past thirty years violent crime has increased 560 percent; illegitimate births 400 percent. There has been a tripling of the percentage of children living in a single-parent home. Teenage suicide increased more than 200 percent. Also there has been a drop in SAT scores of almost 80 percent.” Does culture alarm us as to where it is going? Does the quality of TV programs alarm us? Many people are under the impression that higher culture will prevent violence and other problems of society. Our passage in Genesis tells us that that is not the case.
There are two questions that this passage answers: does the mark put on Cain work? And, which line will be the line of the promised seed? The first question takes us through verse 24. The second question is answered in the last two verses.

The first question is “Does the mark which God put on Cain work? God had put a mark on Cain that was put there to make sure that no one would take vengeance on Cain for Cain’s murder of Abel. This was for his protection. The text tells us that after Cain had his first son, he built a city and named it after his son. So, instead of trusting in the protection that God had provided, Cain decided to put his trust in man. We saw after 9/11 how well that idea works. In whom does Cain put his trust? In man! Cities were built in those times for purposes of protection. But, given the fact of that mark on Cain, there would have been no need for that kind of protection. Cain displays his lack of faith here.

Then we see the following generations. We see that Cain does have progeny, even though he killed Abel. An unbelieving family is still a family. Lamech is the seventh generation from Adam. Seven has a symbolic value all over the Bible. We see it most prominently in the idea of Sabbath, the seventh day. The expectation would then be that the seventh generation from Adam would be perfect. Well, in verse 19, we start to see that Lamech is not the perfect generation of Adam, unless we think of him as being perfect in sin and depravity. First, Lamech distorts God’s picture for marriage. The Bible condemns polygamy, the practice of having more than one wife. Even in Genesis, all the polygamous relationships mentioned have lots of trouble attached to them. Think of Abraham with Sarah and Hagar, think of Jacob with Rachel and Leah and Bilhah and Zilpah, and think of Esau and his several wives. On the other hand, think of Isaac and Rebekah, who do not have the same kind of marital difficulties that arise from polygamy. They have their own problems. But their problems are not due to polygamy. The Chinese have a great way of saying this. The symbol of peace and contentment in their language is a house with a wife inside. Their symbol for strife and discontentment is a house with two wives in it. So Lamech has departed from the example of creation. Notice also the meaning of the names of these people. “Adah” means “pretty,” and Zillah” means “sweet-voiced.” Lamech was concerned with the outward appearance, just like his ancestor Cain with his offering.

Lamech has four children. The names are all related to the name Cain in some way: Jabal the herdsman takes care of livestock. The word for livestock here sounds like the name “Cain.” The profession of Jubal was music, and the name for the lament is the “qinah,” which also sounds like the name Cain. And, of course, Tubal-Cain is named after Cain. Notice what Lamech thinks of his children, however. All three of these names “Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal” are all coming from one root, meaning “joy.” Moses is telling us there that Lamech thought to reverse the curse by means of these cultural advancements. He thought that he could re-enter the garden by these means.

The first means was live-stock. We might wonder why it is that Jabal is called the father of those who take care of livestock. What about Abel? Didn’t Abel take care of livestock? Well, of course, Abel had no children, first of all. Second of all, the word “livestock” here means every kind of animal that you take care of in that way, whereas Abel only took care of one or two kinds of livestock. As a cultural thing, then, Jabal was the first cowboy. He also invented a great way of taking care of himself while he was taking care of livestock. Why not have a moveable house? You can move with the livestock, instead of being tied down to any one location. So, he invented the tent. He was real man’s man! Not only was he a cowboy, but he also enjoyed “roughing it!” His brother Jubal was a bit more refined in his tastes. Jubal invented the lyre and the “pipe,” or “flute.” The lyre is like a harp, only much smaller. The “pipe” is a flute. Often, the flute had two connected pipes, such that the performer could play two notes at the same time. The third son was Tubal-Cain. He was a blacksmith. Most likely, he also made weapons of iron and bronze. Finally, the sister was named “Naamah,” which means “beautiful.”

What follows is often called the “Song of the Sword.” Quite possible Lamech is singing this to his two wives while brandishing a sword that his son has just made. Lamech thinks that he is the chosen seed. He says that violence is the way to get what you want, and that no one can stop him. The language of “wounding” and “striking” ought to remind us of the promise made to Eve in 3:15: Lamech think of himself as the promised seed. The problem is that he thinks of himself as the deliverer, not of God as the deliverer.

Furthermore, he boasts in his violence. At least Cain was ashamed enough of what he did to try to hide it. Lamech boasts openly of having taken God’s place as the executor of justice: instead of God taking vengeance, Lamech takes vengeance. And he takes too much vengeance. This is what happens often in human affairs: someone slights us, or steals a paltry something from us, and we lash out. We think that justice will be served only if we make them hurt worse than they have hurt us. The saying “an eye for and eye, and a tooth for a tooth” in the OT is meant to limit the justice taken. It is saying that that is the maximum penalty that we can take out on someone else, and even then, it must be through the proper channels. The classic story in this regard is the novel by Alexander Dumas, “The Count of Monte Cristo.” The Count is a man who was imprisoned for fourteen years for a crime that he did not commit. While he was in prison, he learns from a more educated man than himself that the men who conspired against him was not acting out of honorable motives. The count then burns with anger and revenge. When he finally escapes the dungeon, he comes into a fortune of gold and gems. With this money he sets out to take revenge on the people who have hurt him. But near the end of the story, when he exacts his revenge, he finds out that he has gone too far. He has to beg for God’s forgiveness. There is redemption in the end. But I’ll let you read the story to see how it happens. The point is that we like to take God’s place as the administrator of justice. When we do that, we feel like we are gods. We then take too much revenge. That is exactly what Lamech does. He boasts that the revenge of Cain is nothing to his own revenge, which he himself will exact of his enemies.

The question is, “Was Lamech what he said he was?” To answer that question, I will only quote two stories. The first is a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley called Ozymandias: I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said – “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert…near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal, these words appear: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away. The second story is a cartoon from Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin is standing at night under the stars looking at them. Then he says, “I am significant!” Two panels later after watching the stars, he says, “Screamed the dust speck.” Lamech simply disappears from the story. Moses cleverly gives us his verdict on Lamech with the genealogy of Adam in chapter 5. The line of Seth is the promised seed, not the line of Cain. Verse 26 says it all: while Lamech was busy killing people, and while his sons were busy with “high culture,” the sons of Seth began to call on the name of the Lord. This means worship. Cain’s sons were pioneers in making tents, in being cattle-men, in being musicians, and in the smithy, but Seth’s sons were pioneers in the worship of God. Note that Seth’s son is named “Enosh.” Enosh is another name for “mankind.” Enosh is another Adam. It is through Seth’s line that mankind will find its promise, not through Cain’s line. Eve is quite clear about this, when she names her son “Seth,” which means “appointed.” Eve uses the word “seed,” just like in 3:15. She says that God has appointed her another seed in place of the son Cain killed.

How do we see Christ here? Christ is the promised seed, who was “appointed” by God to be the bearer of the world’s sin. The way of Christ is not the way of Cain, which results in seventy-seven-fold revenge. The way of Christ is seventy-seven-fold forgiveness. Peter asks Christ in Matthew 18, “How many times should I forgive my brother?” Christ says, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Plainly, it does not matter how many times our brother has offended us, we should be willing to forgive yet again. Why? Because Christ has forgiven us all our sins if we believe in Jesus Christ as the promised seed. Truly, instead of killing those who wounded him, Christ was killed by those who wounded Him. That is the opposite of the way of Cain as it culminates in Lamech. The way of Cain backfires on itself, though. “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” The way of Christ is forgiveness.

Paragraph for Hope Church: Maybe some of us did not like the previous pastor, and maybe some of us did like the previous pastor. Maybe some of us did not like the way his dismissal was handled. Maybe those who did not like Stewart need to forgive him for some things. Maybe those who did not like the way Stewart was dismissed need to forgive the other part of the church. Our church needs to become whole again. To withhold forgiveness is to go the way of Cain and Lamech. To forgive is to go the way of Christ. But what does forgiveness in this context mean? Maybe it means inviting people over to your house with whom you had the strongest disagreements. It means re-instituting table fellowship. It means sitting alongside those with whom we disagreed. Maybe we didn’t listen to the other side very well. Just recently, at a dinner, I noticed that people who liked Stewart sat on one side of the table, and those who did not like Stewart sat on the other side of the table. I sat in-between. Is this forgiveness? I don’t think so. Forgiveness means going to the person you disagreed with the most and reconciling. It does not mean that you forgive the marginal people who went along with the flow. Forgiveness means forgiving the one who hurt you the most. It means letting go of the grudge that you hold against that person. It means not becoming bitter against people “of the other side.” It means loving one another, instead of killing that person in your heart. Will we wound seventy-seven times, or will we forgive seventy-seven times?

Next, we need to see that culture is ambiguous. Culture is not automatically evil. We should know this without being told. Obviously, it is not wrong to live in tents, have livestock, play the lyre (at least here I fervently hope not!) or the flute, or to weld metal. None of these things are wrong. They are part of the cultural mandate to subdue the earth, and to rule over the animals, and to work he ground. However, we should not be blinded by culture, either. Just because we have culture does not mean that we are civilized. Just because we have Bach and Beethoven does not mean that we love other each other. Culture is not salvation. Culture is not the reverse of the curse. Culture is something that God gives to all. Non-believers have it as well as believers. As such, it is subject to the Fall. Culture is something that needs to be redeemed by Christ, and by Christians. All of these things that Cain’s sons invented need to be done by Christians for God’s glory. It is quite evident that Cain’s sons did not do these things for God’s glory, but rather for their own glory. Always, our ultimate goal in life in all that we do and say and think is to glorify God. That is why we were created. We were created to call on the name of the Lord.

This brings us to another important point. The most important thing that we do in life is to worship God. Nothing compares with it. Indeed, not only is our worship the most important thing we do in life, but also everything we do is to be done in a worshipful manner. This has serious implications for our worship. Is worship something we just do because it is what we do on a Sunday morning? Do we think of worship as being our highest calling? As the best thing we can do in life? If we thought of worship in that way, then would we stay home Sunday night and watch TV, or would we want to go to where God’s people are worshipping? Maybe we think that worship on Sunday night is not convenient. Maybe we think we are too tired. You know, naps are really good on a Sunday afternoon. But is worship supposed to be convenient? Is that the highest goal of worship, to be convenient for us? By that argument, we should definitely not come on Sunday morning, because that is not convenient either. No, the point of worship is that there we meet God. I dare say it was not convenient or comfortable for the priests to offer all those sacrifices on the altar. It was not convenient or comfortable for God’s people to meet while being persecuted for their faith. They put their lives on the line in order to worship God, and we will not turn off our TV to go to worship. I wonder if we have not made an idol out of comfort and convenience. Let us rather worship God. Let us call on the name of the Lord. Let us not follow the way of Cain, or the way of Lamech. Let us follow the line of Seth, as it goes down through the ages, and culminates in Jesus Christ. Then culture will go up-hill. Murder and violence will go down, teen pregnancy will go down, single-parent homes will diminish in number, teen suicide will diminish, and SAT scores will go up, to God alone be the glory.

Brotherly Love

Genesis 4:1-16
The veteran of Pearl Harbor watched with hate in his heart. He was standing near the port-side grave where his battleship had gone down that fateful day, December 7, 1941. This was a place of respect and honor for him, but there were two Japanese girls there. Japanese girls! Didn’t they have more respect than to come to America and gloat over that victory they had, which had killed so many of his friends? He was so angry that he could hurt them. But then, a marvelous thing happened. The two Japanese girls brought two wreaths of flowers and cast them on to the watery grave over the place where the ship had gone down. As the flowers gently sank down to where the ship lay The man could feel fifty years of scarred hate and bitterness slipping away from him.

Man has hated his brother for many years. Wars are nothing new; murder is nothing new; hate is nothing new. It all started with Adam and Eve. The question in our text is: will sin continue into the next generation, or will Cain and Abel be able to start fresh?

The text starts out with the fulfillment of Gods promise that offspring would come. The word “know” here means marital intercourse. But it also refers back to the tree of knowledge. One of the questions of this chapter is, “Does man know anything or not?” It says that Adam knew his wife. The question will be, “Does Cain know Abel? If so, Does Cain know where Abel is?” Eve conceived and bore Cain. The name Cain sounds like the word “acquired.” There are many people who think that Eve named Cain thinking that she had acquired that seed of the woman which would crush Satan’s head. As we will see, Cain actually becomes the seed of the serpent, and is conquered by the serpent, rather than being the promised seed. Eve recognizes that this birth could only have happened because God had helped her. Then she bears Abel, Cain’s brother. Some scholars think that Cain and Abel were twins. This is possible, since Abel’s birth does not seem to be separated from Cain’s birth: there is no mention of Adam knowing Eve with regard to Abel’s birth, not is there any mention of conception with regard to Abel’s birth. It is possible, but let us not force the text to say that. Abel’s name means “breath” or “vapor.” From Ecclesiastes, you might recognize that this name “Abel” is the same word as the word “meaningless” or “elusive” that is the key word of Ecclesiastes. Plainly, Eve thought that Cain would do all the serpent-crushing, and that therefore, there would be no work left for Abel to do. So Abel’s life would be just a “breath.” It is ironic that Abel’s name fits his fate perfectly: just as life is but a breath; breathe on it and it is gone, so also Abel’s life is precarious, and he does not live long.

We should not read into their profession something about shepherds being better than farmers. That is not the point of the story. God told Adam to work the ground. Therefore, Cain’s occupation was just as honorable as Abel’s. So we cannot find the difference in the two sacrifices from the fact that a blood sacrifice was better than a non-blood sacrifice. The Bible gives us other indications as to why Abel’s sacrifice was better. From our text here, we see that Cain was indifferent to his religious duties. He merely brought some of the fruit of the land. He doesn’t take care that he brings the best, like Abel does. Cain’s sacrifice comes from a different heart than does Abel’s. Cain wants to do his religious duty, and then get on with life. Cain wants his sacrifice to be his ticket to God’s favor. Cain wants to manipulate God by merely offering something because it was “that time of year.” The beginning of verse three says, “In the course of time.” Probably at the end of each year was the time of sacrifice in this sense. The phrase indicates a rather lengthy period of time. Since it was “that time of year,” they both get ready their sacrifices. Cain merely brings some of the fruit of the land, while Abel is much more picky about what he chooses to bring to God. Abel hand-picks his offering. He brings from the first-born of the flock, always a good sign in the OT. Furthermore, he offers the fattest portions of the flock on the altar. This is the part that would smell the best. We must take notice here that it is not merely because of the quality of the outward sacrifice that Abel is accepted while Cain is not. It is quite clear that the heart of the person is the issue. That is why in verse 4, God regards Abel first before He regards the sacrifice. The person comes before the sacrifice. This is extremely important. It helps to explain why Cain was upset. Cain expected his outward service to be acceptable to God. Surely the fruit of the ground that he offered was not bad-looking. I’m sure it was a very attractive offering. However, Cain’s heart was not right. Hypocrites are usually angry when they are found out. Cain is found out. The text does not tell us how Cain knew that his offering was not accepted. Perhaps God shot out flames of fire to consume Abel’s offering, while Cain’s offering just sat there to rot. Perhaps, though that also goes beyond what the text says. But somehow, Cain knew that he was rejected. Cain felt personally rejected. God did not have regard for Cain, and because God did not have regard for Cain, He also did not have regard for Cain’s offering. Again, the person comes before the offering. Ultimately, we find out the real reason in Hebrews 11:4: which says this: “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.” The faith of Abel was the key ingredient that set his offering apart from Cain’s. So that is why Cain is angry. Cain did not have faith, but he expected to fool God by bringing an offering that was not accompanied by faith. 1 John 3:12 says that we should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him, the text says? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

The Lord then warns Cain. Notice that the Lord is gracious to Cain. The Lord gives Cain a chance to do well. The Lord tells Cain that there is redemption. “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.” This is phrased in terms of the covenant of works. You remember that God made a covenant with Adam, telling him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam broke that covenant. God is now telling Cain that if Cain is righteous, then he will be accepted. This is what God’s law tells us: if we are perfect, then we will be accepted. But Cain shows us that it cannot be done. Cain cannot obey God’s law, because sin has the mastery over him. Sin is like some kind of wild animal, crouching near the door of Cain’s heart, waiting for a chance to overpower Cain. Sin is like a serpent slithering its way into Eve’s heart. Here it is a lion, waiting for a chance to pounce on its prey.

Sin has its way with Cain. Cain lured Abel into the field on some pretext, possibly to work together. Many manuscripts add a little phrase that is in the NIV, and which makes much sense, “Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Come, let us go out into the field.’” Probably Cain said something very much like it. Cain was angry, and so he rose up and killed his brother. Notice though that Cain is really angry at God. He takes it out on Abel, but he is really angry at God for accepting Abel, but rejecting him. So he attacks God’s image, his own brother Abel, and thereby attacks God. Notice that the word “brother” is used seven times in this passage. Moses emphasizes that all murder is the killing of a brother or sister.

The Lord knows immediately what happened. The Lord immediately starts the law-suit against Cain for murder. The Lord does not need to search, find out clues, or do any detective work. The Lord knows. Cain thought that he could fool everyone by taking Abel out to the field where no one was around to see. He thought that even God would not see. Obviously, Cain thought he had succeeded when Abel was actually dead. Cain thought that if God was the protector of Abel, then God would have come to Abel’s rescue. If Abel was God’s favorite, then let God deliver him, if He delight in him. God saw. God always sees.

So the Lord asks Cain a gracious question. God allows Cain the opportunity to confess his sin. By saying “your brother,” God indicates that Cain should and does know where Abel is. That is why Cain’s response is so hideously rebellious. Cain was supposed to be his brother’s keeper. Abel was a keeper of sheep. So Cain is really saying, “Am I the keeper’s keeper?” The Lord indicates that Cain is Abel’s keeper.

The sixth commandment is a command that protects and honors life. It is not merely that we should not kill, or even hate, as Jesus tells us. We are also to protect and honor life, and watch out for the lives of those around us. We are our brother’s keeper. Cain’s question indicates that he has completely repudiated his brother, and therefore God. He says he does not know. There is an outright lie. He charges God with carelessness: “You should have been the one to guard Abel’s life. If anything has happened to Abel, it’s your fault.” Haven’t we hear something like that before? Didn’t Adam shift the blame on to God by saying that it was God’s fault for placing that woman there to tempt him. In fact, the Cain and Abel story is a second Adam and Eve story.

Moses’ point is that sin did not diminish when it came to the next generation; rather, sin increased. Adam confessed his sin; whereas Cain never does. That is why the Lord curses Cain himself. This curse sounds a lot like the curse put on Satan in the previous chapter. In fact, the Lord is saying that Cain is of the seed of the serpent. Since Cain shed his brother’s blood, it will be as if the ground has been rendered sterile by Abel’s blood. It will yield so little food that Cain will have to wander to get enough food. It ironic that Cain eventually settles in the land of “Nod,” which means “wandering.” Cain settles in “Wandering.”

In verse 13, Cain complains about his punishment. Notice that even here Cain does not repent of his sin. Never once does he mention his sin. He complains that his punishment makes him a target for revenge. Cain realizes that since Abel was the son of Adam, then every man he ever meets will be one of Abel’s relatives, and thus able to exact revenge for Abel’s murder. Cain at least has the sense to realize that justice might be seen in that way by Adam’s descendents. The other part of the punishment is that Cain is excommunicated. He is driven out from the presence of the Lord; “from your face I shall be hidden.” This is an act of grace on God’s part. Cain is going to be given an opportunity to repent in this life. If God had exacted justice at that point in time, then it would have been all over for Cain. But the Lord reserves the right of justice for Himself alone. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay.” The Lord sets a mark on Cain. There is no indication of what this mark is. That kind of speculation is unhelpful. The important thing is that it was a sign that kept people from exacting revenge.

It must have been very sad for Adam and Eve to see the seed of the serpent taking such a strong hold in Cain. They lost a total of three children in this affair. Abel was killed, Cain was excommunicated, and one of their daughters was married to Cain, and she had to go live in exile with Cain. Adam and Eve’s children are all divided into two groups: the seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman. Abel was of the seed of the woman. Abel’s blood cries out for justice to be done. Abel was a sacrifice of sorts. As such, Abel shows us Jesus Christ, the true seed of the woman. Hebrews 12:24 tells us that “Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant, and that there is sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Abel’s blood cried out for justice: Christ’s blood cries out for mercy and justice. If Abel knew that blood needed to be spilled for the forgiveness of sins, what he didn’t know was that the blood that would cleanse our sins needed to be human blood, the blood of a perfect man, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the mediator of a new covenant of works for himself and grace to us. Jesus was righteous. And the seed of the serpent murdered him just like he murdered Cain, hoping to subvert that promise that God had made to Eve. However, the seed of the woman always has the last word. Just as the ground opened up to receive Abel’s blood, so it also opened up to receive Jesus Christ. But Jesus Christ came back from the dead. Because He has conquered sin and death, the seed of the serpent will always lose now. We see his ultimate loss in Revelation 12:1-17.

The question for us is, “Whose seed are we?” We must believe in Jesus Christ, the true seed of the woman, who came to earth to conquer the serpent Satan. We must believe that Jesus Christ was righteous for us. And that except for Jesus Christ, we would all go the way of Cain. We have all hated our brother in our heart. We have all murdered. But it is Cain whom we must put to death. It is our old man. It is our sinful nature that must be put to death. That is ultimate vengeance and justice on Cain. We might identify ourselves with Abel, but it is Cain that more often describes who we are. But the Greater Abel, Jesus Christ has suffered death for us. His blood cries out to God for mercy on us who believe in Him. When we do believe in Jesus Christ, then a new principle of life comes into us, and gives that Cain within us a mortal blow.

But we are also to put Cain to death. We do that by following the way of Jesus Christ. Jude 11 warns us against the way of Cain. Cain hated his brother. 1 John 3 tells us that we should not be surprised if the world hates us. The world is full of Cains. We are now the Abels of this world if we believe in Jesus Christ. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Ultimately, this passage in Genesis is telling us to love our brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death, John tells us. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. It is said that John, in old age, went about saying nothing but, “Love one another.” What we need to realize is that loving one another, because Jesus first loved us, is the way we are the seed of the woman, and it is the way we execute justice on the seed of Cain and the serpent. The way of love is more powerful than the way of hate. If you want your relatives and friends to get along with you, the way of love is more powerful. If you want a more harmonious house, the way of love is more powerful.

Just take the instance of discipline. Discipline is needed in a house to preserve order. Children need discipline, otherwise they will not know where the boundaries are. However, if discipline is not built on a foundation of love, then the discipline will be seen by the child as a form of hate. God disciplines those He loves. The child needs to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the parent loves him. He needs to be told and shown that the love is there. We can show that love in a variety of ways: we can tell them we are proud of them: that works especially well for boys. We can tell them they are beautiful. That works very well for girls. We can tell them we love them. It is remarkable to me how many parents find it difficult to tell their children that they love them. Maybe their parents never told them that, so they have trouble telling their children. The way of love that Christ brings can break that pattern of lack of love. God has told us many, many times that He loves us. It should not be difficult then to turn around and tell our children that we love them. I challenge us this week to find one meaningful way to say to our children that we love them. Try to find one way each day to tell them. “But pastor, you don’t know how difficult my children are. They deserve no such praise.” Maybe our children are a lot like us. Maybe we don’t deserve God’s favor. But God gives it to us. It is called grace. Perhaps the reason our children are so difficult is that they don’t really know if you love them or not. Maybe they are just trying to find out whether or not you love them. By loving them, we show that we are not following the way of Cain, but rather the way of Jesus Christ.

This works the other way, too. Children can tell their parents that they love them. Children don’t often realize how starved for affection their parents can be. They worked so hard to bring us up, and precious little thanks they get most of the time. Do you want your parents to tell you that they love you? Why don’t you tell them that you love them? Why not show it by being obedient? If you want them to be proud of you, why not behave in a way which will make them proud?

Maybe there is a people group that we hate. They haven’t done us any favors. Maybe we have tried to be nice to them, and they have rejected us. The temptation is to be like Cain and lash out at them, or at least not try the way of love again, since it has obviously not worked at all. Will we give up on them? Which is stronger? The hate of Satan, or the love of God? If we give up, are we not saying that Satan is the stronger, and that Jesus cannot change those people? Maybe it is your neighbor, maybe it is your brother. Maybe it is the Native American. Whoever it is, can we not pray for them? Can we not seek to serve them in love? Which is stronger? Hate or Love? Cain or Christ?

The way of Cain is to hate and murder. It would tempt us to kill two Japanese girls for something they had not done. They had not killed American soldiers. But yet, we might hate them anyway. What we need to see is that Jesus Christ has cast down His life in love for us. He cast His life into the depths of the earth, enduring hell itself for us. When we see that, we will see that years of hate and bitterness can melt away. Then we will truly abide in love, for faith, hope and love abide, and the greatest of them is love.

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