Monday, October 17, 2016

Outcasts: east of Eden (Genesis 4:16)


Up until now we spoke about the garden of Eden. We said that God created heaven and earth, He filled the heaven with lights and the earth he filled with different forms of life. Then he created the people as a crown of the creation and welcomed them in the circle of the Holy Trinity. God also created the institution of marriage in order to drive away loneliness and populate the earth through many families, consisting of a one woman and a one man. Then last time Mike spoke about the Lost Heaven – how as a result of the original sin Adam and Eve, together with us, lost our mortality and righteousness.

But Jesus was deconstructed on the cross so that we could be constructed. He was crucified naked, so that he could bear our shame so that we can dress up with a clothing of righteousness. Our ancestors ate of the fruit that broght death but Jesus welcomes us to take the fruit that gives life.

Today’s story of Moses talks about people who can be described by the adjective  “outcast” like the immigrants in the Bulgarian novel with the same title by Ivan Vazov.

Today a lot of Bulgarians continue to wonder feeling outcast even in their own country. During communism we joked by saying that we live east of Eden. By “EDEN” we understood the west.

Today’s passage from Genesis also describes events that happened east of Eden. The action  from chapter 4 starts from the end of the 3rd chapter – outside of the garden of Eden – east from heaven. This is a story of two brothers, a story about to ways of living, a story of two types of worship, a story about life and death.
In the beginning we learn that Adam slept with Eve and she gave birth to the first baby in human history. Being grateful, Eve says: “"I have gotten a male child with the help of the LORD." Here we can see a pun because the word “gotten” in Hebrew means “ Cain” According to Martin Luther the right translation is: “ I have gotten a human – Lord.” It is possible for Luther to be right and for Eve to have taught that she had given birth to the promised Seed in chapter 3 verse 15 decadent. Thus she called him with the covenantal name of the Lord – Yahweh, which is translated in our Bible as “Lord”.

At least one thing is obvious: Eve looks at that child as a gift of God. When one man and one woman leave their parents, cleave to each other and become one flesh, God blesses them with children. And the children are the result of the blessing: “be fruitful and multiply “ this is why we must perceive them as a precious gift.

But today we look at marriage with neglect. We make it as easy as possible for couples to divorce each other. We approve the murder of unborn children in the womb of the mother. In the last 60 years in Bulgaria there have been 6 million aborted children. Since 1980 up till now in the whole world 1.3 billion of  unborn babies have been murdered.

I came across a discussion in facebook about abortion, in which discussion one woman wrote that abortion is a self-defensive reaction of the woman and as such an action it is justified…
Jeremiah chapter 17 verse 9 says: 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? Without Jesus Christ people are servants of sin. They hate the real God and bow in front of the god of themselves, materialism and lust. With what are we better from the ancient pagans, who sacrificed their children to Moloch?

Eve said: “I have gotten a man child with the help of the LORD." Afterward she gave birth to one more son – Abel. And the name Abel means: “Breath, vapor, vanity” Eve could had named the boy Abel because she was sad and lonely because of the absence of Adam who was working hard to make their living. Or because of her disappointment of the hard to parent Cain. Whatever the reason these words became a prophesy about the short life of Abel. The two boys grew up under the care of their parents and like all boys loved messing everything up. Adam decided to teach his first – born one a craft thus Cain became a farmer. But someone had to look after the animals – and this responsibility was given to Abel. Both professions a farmer and a shepherd are in tune with God’s commandment for the people to rule over the rest of the creation.
We read in Genesis 4: 3 and 4 : 3So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.”

Cain and Abel are both blessed by God. Cain with big harvest and Abel with a growing herd. After the harvest Cain and Abel sacrificed an offering to God but God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice and wasn’t pleased with Cain’s. Why was that so?

The reason for that is not that Cain sacrificed a bloodless sacrifice. In the Old Testament there are examples of both sacrifices of animals and harvest ones. So the answer we find in John one chapter 3 Verse 12 : Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.

Hebrews 11:4 says: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.

We see that the New Testament proves that Cain’s sacrifice was fake while Abel’s faith played a decisive role in the receiving of his own gift.

You must also take into account that Abel also sacrifices a sacrifice from the first-born animals of his herd but Cain just from the fruits of the harvest. Abel chooses the best for the Lord but Cain just collects something. Everything depends on the motivation and the attitude.
Today all of us can ask ourselves: what is my motivation for coming to church? Why do I give one tenth to the Lord? Do I do this with faith and gratefulness? Or do I do this just cause I have to? Do I do this cause I am striving to give the best to God or do I do that just to be noticed and praised by God and be given a reservation for the Heavenly hotel? Do  I do this because of love or I do this just for it to seem done.

This raises the question what do I believe in? Do I believe in the salvation by grace through faith or in the salvation through deeds
Cain tried to impress God with a quick and careless collection of granary as a sacrifice. God looked the sacrifice and Cain’s heart and did not receive the sacrifice. Thus Cain got cross with God.
Isn’t this reaction to God the same as many other people today? We often say: If there is a God why doesn’t He care about me. Isn’t it interesting that those who are least interested in God and don’t believe in Him are cross with Him?

In the book “ East from Eden” which was inspired by our passage, Steinbeck describes a conversation between his son Caleb and his father Adam: "Son, I'd be happy if you'd give me something like your brother's given me. Something honest and human and good. Don't be angry, Son. If you want to give me a present, give me a good life.
That's something I could value."

God tells Cain,  “Why are you so angry?” “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Here God stresses two alternatives in front of Cain. If Cain turns towards God with his whole heart and repents about his attitude, God is going to receive his sacrifice and His face is going to beam.
If not something irrevocable will take place. Cain is going to be ruled by sin. The sin is described as a lying in front of the door.
In Hebrew the word “lying” means the same as the ancient  Babylonian word which means a mean demon that is lying in front of a building’s door in order to scare the people inside the building. In the same way the sin is waiting for a good moment to jump into Cain and rule him

It is also possible that Cain had already thought about the murder of his brother. Because he goes to his brother and tells him: “ Let’s go to the field” If it is so then the murder was planned carefully.
The first murder was done east from Eden. It was a terrible crime – done against a brother and a good person. This is a striking illustration of the terrible consequence of the sin.
Genesis 4:9 says:  Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? And this exact question comes as an echo of the question Adam was asked by God “ where are you” , the question God asks all of us today: “Where are you. Why are you hiding from me?”

When I was a kid day while I was running at home I knocked down the TV. It fell on the floor. And because of the big noise the falling of the TV made I got hurt as if the TV had fallen on me. Both my granny and I lifted the TV up and then very worried I turned it on but alas there was no sound coming from it, no picture on the screen was showing up so when my dad came back home from work I hid in my room and stood in complete darkness. I did not want to come out of the room cause I was afraid, knowing I was in trouble.

“Where are you?” God asks Adam and Cain. “Where are you?”, asks God each and every one of you today. This morning I want to ask you “ Where are you? Are you in God’s presence in the company of light or are you hiding from God in the kingdom of darkness? This question is rhetorical. But God asks it to make you come back to Him again.

Even after the murder God gave Cain an opportunity to repent and go back to the Lord. Cain’s answer though was aggressive. He said: “I don’t know, Am I my brother’s guardian?”

There was a huge difference in Adam’s answer which was: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid,  because I was naked, and I hid myself.” The disappointment of the father is replaced by the son’s obscenity.

“Am I my brother’s guardian?” Abel was a shepherd, a guardian of sheep. With other words Cain ironically asked God: Am I a guardian of the guardian?

Of course every one of us is supposed to be looking after himself on his own but the Cain’s irony was not put in the right place. God wants us to be interested in the faith of others because we are all brothers and sisters, children of Adam and Eve. Not only did Cain not have love toward his neighbor but he also killed his own brother.
“ Am I a guardian of my brother?” Haven’t you caught yourself thinking like that about someone? If we haven’t murdered with a gun haven’t we murdered someone with words!

Jesus says to the people nowadays saying: “You have heard that it was said to those of old,  ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother3 will be liable to judgment; whoever insults4 his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5 :21,22) And this is a warning for all of us as well!
There are various types of murders. According to Jesus we kill with negativism, sarcasm, rage, rudeness, rumors.

One man was speaking badly of one of his acquaintances. Soon he felt remorses and went to see his acquaintance. He said he was sorry  and asked the man whether he could redeem himself for having spoken badly about him. The other man gave him a pillow and asked his friend to go and climb up a windy and high hill, tear the pillow and shed the plumage. The other man was surprised by what he asked him to do but agreed anyhow and fulfilled his acquaintance’s wish. And when he returned from his mission the other man told him: One more thing now I want you to go back to the windy hill and collect the plumage. The other man said: Are you crazy, this is impossible. How am I supposed to do that? Then the other man answered: Well then how am I supposed to repair all the damage you made by speaking badly about me?

We read in Genesis 4:10 : “But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” Nobody can hide away his sins from God. Abel’s blood spoke about his faith even after his own death. In a way we can say that Abel became a prophet.

After the flood God was going to give Noah a promise to never again: Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man..  But her God asks Cain a question in order to give him one more chance to repent for his sin.
Cain, literally speaking, is still with blood on his hands. God curses him so then it should be logical for Cain to repent.

Genesis 4:11, 12 says: Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” Homeless and a wanderer. An outcast.

Cain does not repent though. He does not say: “You are right I deserve to be punished!” No. The man who does not believe in God  continues to think only for himself, because he is his own god. Outside Eden, outcast from God’s kingdom, east from heaven. The man thinks he is enough up until he sees that a danger is chasing him.
Standing in front of a dangerous situation, a danger of him being killed, he starts moaning: "My punishment is too great to bear!

He is afraid that he is going to be wandering all his life being an outcast.
But God shows him mercy one more time: verse 15 So the LORD said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. As if God is telling Cain: “ Revenge is mine”. Cain deserves death but he does not receive it. And this is mercy to receive something you do not deserve.

In this life both who are righteous and sinful receive undeserving blessings from God. He is the one who makes the Sun to rise above the evil and  the good, he sends rain over to the righteous and the sinful.

But the day when Jesus is going to come from heaven in order to judge both the death and the living is coming soon. And this is going to be a terrible revenge for everyone who walk alongside Cain. Those who as Cain make themselves a god thus the will be outcast east from heaven in the kingdom of the everlasting darkness and the gnashing of teeth.
But everyone like Abel, those who have gave themselves to the mercy of our loving God, that day is going to be a glorious and blessed one.
God put a mark on Cain.

Genesis 3:16 says: So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. The word “Nod” means “wandering”. And as Adam and Eve were outcast from Eden, Cain was also made to go away from God’s presence and become an immigrant and a wanderer in the land of wander. An outcast, east from Eden.
It’s the same with life outside of Eden. Life outside heaven. Today most of the people are wandering being outcasts, looking for happiness but looking for it in the wrong place. Just like Cain.

Up until now we talked more about Cain rather than Abel.

Abel was a shepherd. He gave the best sacrifice to God and God received it thus Abel was labeled for righteous.  Abel was hated by his brother without having done anything to him. His blood was spilled because of envy. His blood was spilled on the earth and from there it was calling for God.

Abel is like Jesus. Jesus was the best shepherd. He gave his best – his own life. His sacrifice was received because he was holy and righteous. He was hated by his Hebrew brothers without a reason. His blood was shed on Golgotha because of the envy of the Hebrew Pharisees.
But Abel and Jesus are also different in many ways. The sinless Jesus was perfect in obedience and holiness.
Abel’s life was taken away by force. Jesus’ life was given voluntarily.
Abel’s blood was stained with Cain’s mark of sin and guilt. But Jesus’ blood cleanses every sin.

Abel sacrificed the first born of his herd. Christ sacrificed Himself the one and only God’s son.

Hebrews 12:24 says that Jesus’ spilled blood speaks better than Abel’s one. Abel’s blood was shouting to God  wanting justice and punishment for the sin. Jesus’ blood said that justice was already served and that the punishment for the sin was completely paid.
Have you already came to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Are you sprinkled with his precious blood? Are you baptized in the death of Christ and are you resurrected from the dead in order to live life with Him?

Today you can find yourself being east of Eden. You may find yourself walking on the path on which Cain walked, you may be carrying his curse. You may be feeling as if you are wandering being an outcast, always waiting to find danger on his way.

But Jesus wants you to come back to Him again. He wants you to go to the cross He wants you to stop wandering like an outcast. He wants you not to be like Cain.
Lets  pray.

Translation from Bulgarian: Monika Trifonova
New Life Church Varna
October 16, 2016