A chip off the old block
We started in the beginning with this statement:
We are created for representation & relationship
But as we were reminded last week, sin broke this. Jesus restores it.
But I want to go back and continue the story, so we can continue to see how this theme plays out. What happens after the sin in the garden? This is called “the original sin”. Why? It was the first and obviously not the last.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. When you hear that, what comes to mind?
We most often use this phrase to talk about the fact that kids resemble their parents not only in appearance, but also with mannerisms and actions.
“Like father like son”, “Like mother like daughter”, “A chip off the old block” all have a very similar meaning. We get it. I mean, we really get it!
The Bible has a theological application of this.
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. // Romans 5:12 NLT
The sin of Adam, the first man, was NOT quarantined to just him. It infected and affected every person that came after. Chapter 4 of Genesis we see the continued downward spiral of mankind because of sin. Eve gives birth to two boys, Cain & Abel.
The man was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the Lord’s help.” 2 She also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of flocks, but Cain worked the ground. // Genesis 4:1–2 CSB
Cain likes to work in the fields. Abel likes to work with the animals.
ASK: How many of you have a brother or sister? You are just like them, right? NOT! Isn’t it amazing how you can have 2 siblings from the same parents, in the same environment that are almost totally different?
In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. // Genesis 4:3–5 CSB
Cain does NOT honor God with his offering. Abel does. Abel offers the best of his herd as an offering. There has been no formal system of sacrifices and offerings established that we know of. So, what would possess Abel to give this gift? As appreciation for God and what he has done. We give gifts to others as a way of expressing thanks, love, appreciation. There is a big difference between the white elephant gift you get for the office party and the one you get for your best friend – or at least there should be!
Abel gives his best. This is the type of giving that comes from a close relationship with God. It is not a burden but a blessing to give and honor God when you love him and appreciate all that he has done for you. This attitude of appreciation is evident in his mom, “I have had a man by the help of God”.
Cain, on the other hand, simple gives something to God. He gave “some of is crops”. We find out that the issue is probably not the amount that was given.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith. // Hebrews 11:4 CSB
Abel was righteous – in other words, he was in a right standing with God. Cain was not. This is not an issue of doing but being. It is not about the sacrifice, but the heart.
What we believe impacts what we do.
If I believe that God is good, loving, just and that he sustains me, provides for me and cares for me, then my actions towards him and conversations with him will reflect that. I can give my best to God because I want to, know He is worth it and that he gave it to me so it was nothing I really earned or deserved anyway.
If I believe that I am the provider for my family and that my success comes from my actions, commitment and hard work, then I will cling to what I own and disregard God with my possessions.
What we believe impacts what we do.
God accepts Abel and not Cain. Cain is upset.
What we do has consequences
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? 7 If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” // Genesis 4:6–7 CSB
- God talks to Cain and tells him what is true and how to gain acceptance
- God warns Cain about the consequences of ignoring God
Basically, God spells out that Cain has a choice. What he does will determine the consequences.
Not all consequences are bad, are they? Eat all your dinner and you can have ice cream. GOOD consequence. Fail to do your homework or your chores or talk back to mom or dad and get grounded. BAD consequences. It is not so much a question of your parents love, it is a question of what YOU CHOOSE and the consequences that you bring upon yourself.
This conversation between God and Cain is glorious. It demonstrates that God is not just a big thug waiting for us to mess up, so he can thump us. God approaches Cain, talks with him, encourages him to do what is right and reminds him of what can happen if he does NOT do what is right.
This passage shows us the heart of God. He is a protector and good Father who wants to do the things that will be best for his children.
13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. // 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT
God WANTS us to choose what will bring us the most joy. He wants us to make decisions that will help us experience the fullness of what we were created for: relationship with Him, with others and to reflect Him. But at the end of the day, He lets us choose.
Our actions reflect our heart
This is super evident in the offerings of Cain & Abel. We see their actions, and their actions speak of their heart and thus their beliefs. God is MOST concerned with the heart. Obedience apart from relationship is meaningless.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. // Psalm 51:16–17 NLT
So, what does Cain do?
8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. // Genesis 4:8 CSB
Cain IGNORES GOD’S WARNING (like Eve) and the first murder takes place. This is an even worse sin because it is premeditated murder. Cain lures his brother into the field and kills him.
EVE sinned by being deceived. Adam by simply ignoring God. Both passed the buck on the source of their sin but admitted to doing wrong.
There are 2 sins that take place before Cain even says a word or commits the murder.
- He is jealous of his brother
- He is so angry that it changes his expression. Who is he angry at? His brother, but ultimately, God for not accepting his sacrifice. This is seen in the actions Cain takes.
We can see from these reactions that Cain’s relationships with God and with his family have been affected by the fall. We were created for RELATIONSHIP and that is not only broken but destroyed by Cain.
Then, he takes time to stew on this (unforgiveness and unrepentance) and eventually chooses to commit his next sin:
- He murders his brother.
We see from the first offspring of the fallen humanity that when we choose to ignore the very purpose of our creation and the very mission of God we end up with a lot of pain, heartache and turmoil.
14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. // James 1:14–15 CSB
We see this played out in the most literal sense in these verses.
Cain premeditates murder. He is warned by God to repent of his evil thoughts. But he does not. We were also made for representation and Cain takes a life where God created life. I do not think we could fall farther from what we were created for.
11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. // 1 John 3:11–12 CSB
Cain’s heart was not right. His thoughts and deeds were evil. Our choices reflect our heart.
God’s actions reflect God’s heart
Notice what God does:
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” 10 Then he said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 So now you are cursed, alienated from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood you have shed. 12 If you work the ground, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” 13 But Cain answered the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Since you are banishing me today from the face of the earth, and I must hide from your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord replied to him, “In that case, whoever kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” And he placed a mark on Cain so that whoever found him would not kill him. 16 Then Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. // Genesis 4:9–16 CSB
God pursues Cain
Just like God sought after Adam and Eve in the garden after they sinned. God pursued Cain after his sin. God’s heart is one of compassion and mercy. He pursues sinners like you and me because he desires for us to remain in his presence and experience his blessing.
God gives Cain a chance to confess
Again, just as God gave Adam and Eve each a chance to confess, Cain is given opportunity.
Cain avoids the question and his guilt. God asks Cain where Able is and Cain has 2 responses:
- He lies. This is certainly a progression from his parents. “Where is your brother?” and his reply is “I do not know” He DID know, he killed him.
- He talks back (seemingly sarcastically) “Am I my brother’s keeper” he asks? Now there is outright rebellion and arrogance against God. There is no fear of God, nor love for God.
God punishes, but does NOT take Cain’s life
Cain is punished by God. What is the punishment?
- You will work the ground and it will not produce for you. This was what Cain loved. He apparently loved it more than God.
- You will wander the earth (nomad). This is much more than just not having a home. He was banished from the presence of God. “Then Cain went out from the Lord’s presence” vs 16
Cain feels the weight of his punishment and feels the shame “I must hide from you” (like Adam & Eve) and fears (like Adam and Eve) that others will want to kill him. He does NOT fear God, he fears what others will do.
God protects him. Cain is punished but still protected by God. Why would God protect a murderer? Because God is still proving that he is merciful and patient. This is a battle cry that the Israelites will rally to over and over and over again.
The spiral continues with Cain’s descendants: Cain’s great-great-great-grandson Lamech is a real gem.
- Lamech ignores God’s design for marriage (one man one woman) and takes a second wife.
- THEN Lamech brags/boasts about the fact that he has taken the life of another just like his great-great-great grandfather.
That apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, eh?
Depressing, isn’t it? Why is this in here? To show what happens when mankind chooses to ignore the divine mission of God or representation and relationship.
As we look at the pattern of sin in Cain, we are reminded that our pleasure must not lead to our destruction. We can love what we do and enjoy the things we have, but we must also be careful not to allow them to wreck us by becoming more important than God.
I think these stories are also in here to show off God, the hero of the story.
For us to see his patience, desire to do good but requirements to provide justice. For us to see what he really wants for us so that we can learn from the bad and embrace his design. For us to understand what his desire has always been – to be close to us, to bless us and to allow us to reflect Him to all of creation.
In Chapter 4 there is a transition. Seth is born. Chapter 5 takes us back to the beginning, and then into the lineage of Seth to remind us of the promise of restoration:
1 This is the document containing the family records of Adam. On the day that God created man, he made him in the likeness of God; 2 he created them male and female. When they were created, he blessed them and called them mankind. 3 Adam was 130 years old when he fathered a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. // Genesis 5:1–3 CSB
So notice with me:
- God made mankind in his likeness.
- Adam fathered a son in his likeness, according to his image.
We are taken back to the Creation narrative to be reminded that we were made in the image of God to represent him. Then, in chapter 5 we are reminded that what we create represents us.
God gives us these little glimmers of hope along the way:
- People start worshipping God corporately
- Enoch walks with God and is taken to heaven (never dies)
- They still looked for the promise of the listing of the curse:
28 Lamech was 182 years old when he fathered a son. 29 And he named him Noah, saying, “This one will bring us relief from the agonizing labor of our hands, caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” // Genesis 5:28–29 CSB
Is there hope? Can the curse be reversed? Can mankind ever get to the point where we embrace God’s design and stop trying to be gods?
As we end this chapter, we have a reminder that the wickedness of mankind: murder, lies, arrogance, violence, pride are not created by God, but allowed by God. Punished by God and not tolerated. Yet God is merciful in not wiping out mankind. YET.
Adam, Eve, Seth, Enoch and the second Lamech all had something in common. They acknowledged that all of life exists to declare the supremacy of God.
- Eve had a son with the Lord’s help
- Seth and his family called on the Lord (worshipped)
- Enoch walked with God
- Lamech trusted that God’s promises could be kept
Cain and his descendants chose to represent themselves. They found their identity in who they were, what they did, what they owned and what they achieved (killing, building, hording).
You and I are a chip off the old block.
18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ // Numbers 14:18 NLT
Where does that verse come from? From the beginning. From Genesis originally. Just as Adam passed sin along to his offspring, we are Adam’s offspring and are born into sin. As we think about these characters in the Bible we should also reflect on our own lives:
- Who do you represent – yourself or God? (how)
- What do you believe about God? (how do you demonstrate it?)
- When you look at your actions this past week what do they reveal about your heart?
God does forgive, when we are repentant like Adam and Eve. God does also punish, and our sins affect us and our children. This is true in the first family tree and it is true in ours.
Let’s embrace the truth that it is not a question of whether or not we will sin. We all have sinned (Romans 3:23) . The question is, “How will we respond when God find us and confronts us?”
- We can be like Adam & Eve and admit it and receive the covering and restoration of our relationship with God.
- We can be like Cain and oppose God, making ourselves to be god, and be isolated from His presence and left to our own devices.
If I am a chip off the old block… which block will I represent? My sinful, earthly father, Adam; or my righteous, heavenly Father, God.