Tag Archives: Abel

Judgment

Meditations on the Psalms

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. (Psalm 1:4 ESV)

God is still speaking in the first person but those about whom He is speaking has changed from one blessed Man to everyone who rebel against Him. Some people, declared righteous by God, continue to exhibit rebellious characteristics. Others, steeped in rebellion, continue to hate God and do all in their power and strength to fight against Him. Those who obey God are covered by the blood of Christ, having obeyed the command to eat from the living tree of life. Those who disobey God deliberately rebel against His specific command to eat from the tree of life.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, all people fight God. Man’s rebellion grew with our first parents first children. Cain killed His brother Abel because God accepted the sacrifice of Abel.

And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 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 contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:4-7 ESV).

God spoke to Cain. “Sin is crouching at the door.” His conversation with Cain was personal and intimate. His words were not just a warning but counsel on how to overcome and control the motivation to ungodliness which plagues everyone. Desire means to long for or crave. The word contrary is assumed in the translation. Literally, “it’s desire toward you” is how the words should read. This makes no sense to us unless we grasp the meaning of the word desire. Sin obsesses over total control, almost as if sin has a personality. Sin must have everything contrary to God. Sin’s desire is so absolute Cain would have killed God if he could have. Instead, he killed his brother, a man created in the image of God. In this passage we shown the image of God in Cain is still strong and able to control his rebellious desires.

Cain’s countenance at God’s rejection reveals the wickedness in his heart. He did not want to control sin but to release himself to the control of sin. Cain lost himself in wickedness and ungodliness. From Cain to Noah the wickedness of men grew to the place where everyone, except Noah (and then even he rebelled against God in many ways), actively hated their Creator.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7 ESV)

God, the Creator of all, has the authority to bring His creation to a space-time end. He controls creation, sustaining creation by His will. He made creation for Himself, giving man His image so people might intimately know Him. When people consciously decide to not know Him it is His prerogative to bring their lives to an end. This does not mean they cease to exist but their physical lives cease, and with the cessation of their lives comes the end to their active rebellion.

God uses a metaphor in Psalm 1 for the lives of the wicked. Their lives and accomplishments are chaff, which is the dried husks of grain. Inside the husk is the seed, which is edible. People remove the husk from the grain in a process called winnowing. They toss the grain and husk into the air. Lighter in weight, the wind blows the husks away while the heavier grain falls back to the ground. Thus, the grain is separated from the husk so that what is left is usable. The works of then wicked have no value because of their identity with sin, and are separated for eternity from those whose works do have value because of their identity with Christ.

Speaking about Jesus, John the Baptizer uses almost the same metaphor. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12 ESV)

Advertisements

Godly Motivation and Mystery

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults 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 ESV]

Abel did nothing to deserve death. He offered God an acceptable sacrifice. His sacrifice is evidence the thinking of his heart was in line with what God wanted from him. He knew to bring a sacrifice from the correct motivation. God accepted his sacrifice because of his motivation. Abel’s sacrifice was not given with the expectation of receiving anything in return. He sacrificed as a show of his love and affection for God.

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. [Genesis 4:3-5 ESV]

Cain murdered his brother Abel though he had committed no crime worthy of capital punishment. In fact, there were no written or spoken laws. There was only one prohibition given which did carry a spiritual and ultimately physical death penalty. That prohibition was given to Adam about not eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All indications are Cain, their first child, was born after his parents were driven from the garden. All he knew was what his parents told him and the evidence suggests they didn’t tell him accurately what happened, if at all.

God did not protect Abel from his brother Cain. He did tell Cain he was in danger of allowing sin control of his life. He did not stop Cain nor protect Abel from his brother’s murderous intent. “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” [Genesis 4:3-8 ESV].

Though we may hate what happens to us this is how God works. It is the corrupt thinking of our hearts which leads us to believe that which is not true, either about God or about us. There are times when God does protect from the effects of sin.  However, He is not unjust when He allows us to be affected by sin, especially the sin of others. It is not we deserve what happens, though all who sin deserve eternal punishment, but His eternal decrees, His knowledge and will see and know what occurs will ultimately bring Him glory. We do not know how sin, especially the vial sin of people, brings Him glory but we are told it will.

We must see what He does through the clear lens of His truth, not allowing ourselves the permission to color His truth with our misconceptions.  He allows sin full reign in a person so they might see and know and understand the full extent and consequences of sin. He does this so those He wishes to teach might see the complete degradation sin brings upon every iota of human existence.  He points to the consequences of sin in His Word, His laws, the prophecies and teachings, and in His love for each person.  Sinless Jesus died because of sin. This is the most effective evidence for the reality of sin and His love for those He created. He did not protect His Son, Jesus, from the full effect of the sin of the world.

Does this mean He does not love those who are victims of the abhorrent sin of those around them?  It would seem He does not love them. If this were true those who have endured the most violent, degrading, and vile acts against their person would never be covered by the blood of Christ, who endured the most violent, degrading and vile act against His person. His blood shed to cover those who are God’s is the eternal evidence of God’s love for them.

Cain could not hide his murder from God even though he tried. Nothing which happens to anyone is hidden from God. Perhaps this is why we believe He could have prevented sin, especially against ourselves. He could have kept Adam from sinning. He could have prevented Cain from murdering. He could have rescued Abel from his brother’s murderous intent. He did not. He could have kept His Son from dying. He did not. His full reasons are mysterious, seem callus and unloving, but we know, by the resurrection of His Son, they are just and righteous and void of sin.

We also know the intent of the thinking of our hearts is our responsibility, for which we will be held accountable.

Who is in Control?

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults 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 ESV]

From where does murderous intent come? Does not such intent begin with the imagining of unreasonable expectations which becomes a demand, a law the person requires of others? In the Hebrew Scripture the first sin recorded was not murder. In fact, God does not list all of the sins Adam and Eve committed before Cain was born. God never give a litany of a person’s sins. He reveals some but mostly He documents that they sinned.

After Cain, the first born, and Abel offer their sacrifice God comes to Cain and speaks with him and warns him about the battle raging within his heart. Cain wanted to worship God the way Cain wanted to worship, not the way God wanted. It was not the actual act of worship God spoke to Cain about but the intent of his heart. “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” [Genesis 4:6 ESV]. Cain was angry. God had not met his expectations. This is because, even without knowing Cain’s exact expectations, we can suggest they were unreasonable.

Cain carried his emotion in an obvious way. However, no one else saw Cain’s struggle but God and He see everything. Perhaps, Cain had not yet learned to hide his emotions from himself. Before this would happen Cain had to train himself to allow his anger to control his expectations. He excused his sinful thoughts and unrealistic emotions which were contrary to what God had originally designed. He was made in the image of God but carried the bent to sin. God gave him his image. His parents gave him, and all who follow him, the bent toward sin. Sin is an unnatural inheritance. We all have this bent but we all struggle against it because of the natural godly image within our being. God wants control. So does sin. “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” [Genesis 4:7 ESV].

Cain chose to allow sin to control his life. Could he have chosen differently?

Here is a conundrum faced by all Christians. God holds us responsible for our sins even though we can identify sin as an unnatural inheritance, a controlling force in our lives, coming down from Adam and Eve to everyone who has ever lived. Except Christ. We have been taught we have no choice but to sin. We have been taught everything we do is sin. We have also been told Christ covered our sin with His righteousness so we are no longer under God’s judgment for sin. But we still sin while we have been taught God expects holiness and righteousness from us. It is impossible for us to reconcile the two positions. They are in conflict.

God told Cain he must control sin by ruling over it so it would not control him. Does He not tell us the same thing? Sin wants us. We must recognize the assault of sin and steadfastly fight to not allow sin control over us. We do not belong to sin but to God. Sin owned us but He bought us back with the eternal price of Christ’s blood. Our fight begins, not with sin but within ourselves. God never lost His fight with sin. We must be willing to allow God to show us what is truly happening within ourselves. We must honestly confront ourselves and the sin which assaults us, recognizing it as sin and not excusing it as natural and expected.

Sin began outside of us, has become an integral though unnatural part of us, and God has given us the tools, strength and grace to combat it. But first we must recognize our own powerlessness and His power in us. James addresses our conundrum.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for ought when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. [James 1:12-15 ESV]

The Object of Persecution

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  [Matthew 5:10-11 ESV]

Persecution for righteousness’ sake is always undeserved suffering which means it is not deserved. Christ’s death was undeserved. This does not mean all violence against a Christian is because of God’s imputed righteousness. Christians are covered with the blood of Christ, the sentence for their sin placed upon His shoulders. But, Christians still sin. We still say things we should not. Do what we should not. Do not do what we should. Suffering which comes as a consequence of personal sin is not suffering for righteousness’ sake.

Suffering for righteousness’ sake does not come because of the Christian but because of Whom the Christian represents.

Living according to the righteous leading of the Spirit is the evidence of God’s blessing upon the Christian. Yet, God does not force the Christian to live according to the leading of the Spirit. Christians have wills. It is possible to grieve the Spirit of God by our rebellion. We must still obey as His servants would obey but often do only the bare minimum and sometimes not even that.

He tests those who are His. These tests are internal and external. How do we struggle against temptation and sin? Where is our resolve and our love for Him who redeemed us? Are we truly servants of the only God? Relinquishing control is internal, an act of the intelligence and the moral/emotional self shown through obedience which is shown in what we do daily. This daily living for Christ draws people to us, questioning our actions, forging opinion about why we do what we do. Our internal life is a preparation for eternity. Our external life is a witness for God who calls people to Himself.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” [1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV]

We are holy because of the God who created us, recreated us, and claims us for His own. If there is one thing Scripture teaches it is God’s holiness, His demand for holiness, and the complete rebellion of the world against Him.

Genesis 4 suggests there are only four people alive. They are Adam and Eve and their first two children, Cain and Abel. Abel offered a righteous sacrifice, according to the intimately known moral standards of God. Cain’s sacrifice was not righteous because Cain was not righteous. Cain killed Abel because God judged Abel’s sacrifice righteous, not because his brother was righteous. God’s work in us, in fitting us for eternity with Him, takes the murderous unrighteousness of Cain, found in everyone, and purges it through continuous testing and refining. We become obedient, leaving behind all acts of unrighteousness, embracing His holiness.

Yet, the world hates God’s holiness and His righteousness and all those who obediently follow Him. Being loved by God automatically means being hated by the world. Those who have rejected Him will reject anything which belongs to Him. The evidence of Christ’s life and sacrifice is neither meager or compromised but substantial and solid. We should never be surprised by the evidence of the world’s hatred for God. We should be concerned when the world does not “revile” and “utter all kinds of evil against you” because of obedience to Christ.

The object of persecution is not the Christian, even though it is Christians who receive the brunt of the physical, emotional, and intellectual violence. All persecution is directed toward God. Whether we admit it or not, everything begins with Him, revolves around Him, and ends with Him. We should not view ourselves but the God whom we serve as the object of persecution.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. [1Peter 4:1-5 ESV]

Loving Sacrifice

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 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.” [Genesis 4:3-7 ESV]

Probably the best indicator of love for another is the willingness to give because of the pleasure of love without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Once an expectation enters the gift is no longer a gift but a bribe. There is no love in a bribe but control and manipulation. Love, unfettered by the irrational and unreasonable expectations of a self-centered nature actually thrives on giving.

Before the fall God gave no command to offer Him sacrifices. Because He created Adam and Eve in His image it was their natural predisposition to love Him and His to love them. Their lives were a giving themselves to God, to each other and to the world in which they lived. And they received God’s love, not in return but because it His nature to love. Their love carried no sacrifice for they lost nothing to show their love.

After the fall it was centuries, even millennia, before God required those who were His to offer a sacrifice. Sacrifice became a requirement of the law. Can love be legislated? Law cannot force anyone to love but it can force them to act in a loving way toward God and others. For determining the motivation of the mind and heart sacrifice is the most consistent indicator.

If there was no compunction to offer a sacrifice why did Cain and Abel offer sacrifices? God did not rebuke either of them for offering a sacrifice to Him. There is no spoken demand for sacrifice from Adam’s family. What we can know is God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s.

Let’s look at some of the pertinent evidence. First, after the fall God continued to converse with man. Somehow, their relationship with God was active enough they knew, intimately, a sacrifice was a good thing. Second, God talked to Cain in a way he could understand. Third, both knew whose sacrifice was accepted and whose was not. The question is not how do we know why Abel’s was accepted but what the evidence is for God not accepting Cain’s.

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions” Genesis 4:3 ESV]. A description of the offerings is given. What is significant is the lack of a description of Cain’s sacrifice. Abel brought a sacrifice from the “firstborn” of his flock. Cain’s sacrifice was from the “fruit of the ground.” The text does not imply the condition of either sacrifice. Did Cain offer slightly bruised fruit or Abel a lame animal? Perhaps Cain only offered a handful of what he had grown. God does not say the amount or condition of either sacrifice. What He does say is Abel gave Him the “firstborn” from his flock. The implication of this description is Cain did not give the “first fruits” from his labor. We know God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but rejected Cain’s. We do not know what God’s acceptance or rejection looks like nor do we have the right to make an assumption about its appearance.

No matter the condition of the sacrifice God spoke to Cain. He did not ignore Cain. What He told Cain is integral to understanding sin and love for God. Cain was angry because God rejected His sacrifice. His expectation was God would accept his sacrifice, his “love” offering, given in his way. We do not get to dictate how we love God. He is not One to accept bribes or allow anyone to manipulate Him. Cain was angry because God did not meet his criteria for a loving sacrifice. This tells us God had His own criteria, His own law and expectations of what is a loving sacrifice for Him. Knowing His expectations are based upon His eternal personality and character tells us His expectations are rational and reasonable and incorruptible.

God spoke to Cain and told him the motivation of his heart was toward evil. There are two elements to God’s examination. First is the obvious evil motivation boiling up in Cain’s heart before he offered his sacrifice. How do we know this? He is Adam’s son and was bent by sin. His anger toward God for rejecting his sacrifice is ready to bubble over into action. He’s angry enough to kill or hurt, to lose control and lash out. Secondly, there is something like a wild beast lurking near his heart ready to devour him, to consume and own him. Perhaps, God is trying to remind Cain about the deception of the serpent who wished to control his parents through deception. Here, sin wishes to control through uncontrolled emotions exacerbated by unmet, unreasonable expectations.

Here is God’s warning and command, not a tip or suggestion. “You must rule over it.” God is telling Cain to fight and control the temptation not overcome sin. He is to recognize the truth of sin in himself and war against it. He must master the sin which is trying to control him. Once sin has control it is the master and he becomes its slave. Once sin has enslaved the possibility of truly loving God becomes impossible. Yet, what is impossible for us is very possible for God.

Being pure in heart does not mean never sinning. Though we are a new creation and filled with His Spirit we still carry with us the old man, the old self corrupted and controlled by sin.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. [Romans 6:5-12 ESV]

Part of being pure in heart is offering ourselves to God in love without the unreasonable and irrational expectations He will love us at all or more because of our sacrifice. He loves us because it is His nature to love us. We do not need to buy His love and trying to bribe Him into giving us anything only shows our lack of understanding or denial of His nature. Another part of being pure in heart is the tooth and claw fighting against the temptation to sin so that sin does not control. Sin is rebellion not love and as long as we succumb to temptations and sin we are not loving Him. Both of these ways are processes, a working out of our salvation where the probability of failure exists but always enhances the Spirit given successes. We can love Him because He has given us the tools and means to do so.