Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grace for Cain

So for the last week or so I have been working on my new project: The Whole Dang Thing. It is a crazy attempt to read through the whole Bible via manuscript study. Well, I have managed thus far to get all the way to Genesis 4!

4 down, 1185 to go! So if I did one per day I would be done in just over 5 years. Dang.

So last night I read through the story of Cain and Abel, though it is really a story about Cain. Abel doesn't really do anything except offer a sheep and get killed.

But I was struck by the contrast between Cain and God.

At every turn and at every place Cain does something stupid or terrible, God is right there trying to help him. After rejecting Cain's offering, God seems to think that Cain should have known better. And then he gives him instructions on how to avoid a life with an unfortunate trajectory.

"Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."

I expect God to tell him that is he does not to well that he will NOT be accepted. But that isn't what God says. God seems to be saying that if he doesn't do well, sin will begin taking over. Cain will become more and more mastered by it.

And he is. He doesn't listen. He kills his brother.

Even then, God doesn't seem to be angry with him. He asks questions and acts shocked, maybe horrified. But not angry. He then tells Cain that the thing he loves to do (tilling the ground) won't work anymore since the ground has cursed him. As a result, Cain will be a nomad.

This doesn't seem like a punishment. This seems like a statement of natural consequences. But Cain interprets it differently.

"My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth"

When did God say he would be hidden from his face? Why does Cain think that?

Is it possible that when God lets the natural consequences of our actions happen, we think he is totally rejecting us? We jump to the worst when God might actually be trying to help us.

Cain's problem had something to do with tilling the ground and his offering to God. Perhaps God is trying to break him of that kind of idolatry. Perhaps the time of wandering Cain will be in will be a purification. He will see more clearly who this God is and what he is about.

But Cain doesn't listen. He doesn't wander. He leaves God and settles somewhere else. He marries. He has a family. He builds a city. This doesn't sound like "fugitive and wanderer."

Is Cain addicted to settling? When you till the ground you have to stay there for a long time. When you build a city, you are committing to being in one place and are helping others commit to one place.

And I think it is totally possible that God was trying to break him of it and heal him.

Do I do the same thing? Do I get so tied to a way or a program or a style or a place or a system that I will violently defend it if it is threatened? Might there be things in my life that seem like unbearable punishments but are actually God's grace on me?

Gad has Cain's back through this whole thing. I think that might mean he has mine. And I think that might mean he has yours. And he wants the best for us even if we don't know how to receive it.

Seriously, come with me on this journey through the whole dang thing. It is going to be a blast.

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