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Posts Tagged ‘Abel’

And what was the curse on Cain: the very ground from which he had labored all of his life would no longer yield to him, would no longer produce, would no longer be his safety. He wandered because he found no rest in the land (Nod means “wandering”). He became the first nomad.

Genesis 4:11, 15-16
Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. . . Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod,east of Eden.

And why the mark? And what was the mark? Most commentators don’t really know. Cain received the mark after complaining that he would be killed as a wanderer, that he would be outside of the clan (I’m guessing) and seen as a stranger and therefore suspect. And, perhaps a nomadic life was not the norm in that time.

What I find interesting is that everyone refers to the mark as protection. I believe the mark was equally part of the curse. Cain was destined to suffer and possibly, in the norm of that time, forever or nearly forever. After all, Adam and Eve, if counted just by generations and who was alive when, lived over 800 years. I assume this came as a result of their tastings of the Tree of Life (Creator stopped that practice when he cast them out of the garden of the two trees).

But death would have been release for Cain and I’m guessing, like Groundhog Day, when life is a drudgery, when hope is snatched away, then death seems like the best route out. The mark of Cain prevented him from dying.

What is the application for me, however? In general, I would say that I should not make assumptions about the intent of God who is ultimately sovereign. Based on subsequent laws that came down through Moses, death deserved death. But God did not destroy Cain. He had another purpose that was higher. I cannot judge why some live and some die. I cannot judge why some suffer and some do not. I cannot know who carries the Mark of Cain, for this is not a mark I can see, only God.

 

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Master Your Anger

Sin is crouching at the door . . . and that door is anger. I know this to be true. I have seen the destructive power of angry explosions. I have seen them both against me and through me. Anger is a storm with no boundaries. Anger is unproductive. Anger is an invitation to mistakes; mistakes than cannot be easily corrected. Anger writes in indelible ink.

Genesis 4:6-7
 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Anger is a reaction to circumstances and shows the lenses through which a person experiences that moment. Anger usually indicates that there were different expectations. We choose whether we hold on to this anger, this beast, or allow it to be tamed.

My bi-polar mother could not control her anger nor could she it as out of proportion to the actions. It made life very difficult and quite honestly, I found myself lying a great deal to avoid the explosions. I tuned in to the body language of a simmering storm. I became an adept.

But why then, when it was me that exploded toward my children, could I not see it as clearly. How did I recreate that monster?

Some say that anger can be good, that it clears the emotional storage bin. But I don’t have that kind of confidence in anger’s potential for good. It has brought no such cleansing.

My cleaner is tears. They wash my soul. And I am grateful for a God who collects them (Psalm 56:8).

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Painting by Titian, 16 Cent.

I’m pretty sure everything started out fairly normal for the brothers, Cain and Abel. Raised by the same parents, they got the same instruction, the same opportunities, the same attention; much like most siblings of today. So, what went wrong? And why is it a warning for me?

Jude 1:10-11a
Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain . . .

Things must have started going downhill long before the big moment in Genesis 4:3-5, when both boys brought an offering to God, Cain (the eldest) from his farm produce and Abel from his herds. The produce offering was rejected while the animal offering was accepted. Cain thought his offering was fine, the way to go. Maybe it didn’t occur to him to find out what would be better, or that something “could” be better. Maybe Abel just lucked out when he brought a blood sacrifice. We’ll never know.

But what we do know is that the Cain/Abel dynamic was already in place and Cain, instead of changing up to another offering or trying another way, resented his brother’s good fortune. I doubt he took any time at all to analyze his situation or consider some alternatives. He “went with his gut” and confronted his brother. Sometimes, I think people assume that Abel was Mr. Goody-2-Shoes and had the inside track on offering styles of the day. But, what if Abel was doing a little victory dance in the end zone? I’m just sayin.’

But here’s the point. I must be more cautionary in my actions, more circumspect. I may “think” I know what is going on, but then again, I may not. How easy it is to over-react. The “Way of Cain” is thoughtless, emotional, and brash. Cain’s way burns bridges and changes lives forever. Even if there is forgiveness for Cain, the damage is done.

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Most of Hebrews 11 is a cursory overview of some of the great men and women of faith who acted with determination and courage. Their faith was their talisman for relationship with God. And for me?

Hebrews 11:4, 5a, 6a
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. . . . By faith Enoch . . . And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists. . .

Abel’s stories is one of the first. It’s so interesting that Adam and Eve are bypassed here, more than likely because their faith was wanting. Out of their union, two men were born whose stories have survived through the ages. One son was driven by a pure motive of faith in God and possibly driven by a desire to return their lives to the original purpose and intent of “Eden.” The other son, Cain, seemed to live on the other side of that coin: being more self-sufficient and clearly, my the story’s end, self-absorbed because he couldn’t bear to have his brother’s offering accepted while his was not. I have always believed that motive drove their differences.

In the second story of this chapter, we are given only the second reference to Enoch (now, I am not speaking of the controversial Book of Enoch – which I would like to read one day soon), first in Genesis 5:24 and then again, here in Hebrews 11. And although much is not said of Enoch, there seems to have been knowledge of this one as a prophet, some seven generations before Abraham. The first key for me, based solely on these brief references, is trust. Enoch believed and trusted that God was God and, as a result, anything was possible. Apparently, he transcended the norm, by disappearing without a trace. Although modern times may find this easily explained, there was no need back then for the FBI, pictures on milk cartons, or APB’s. People knew each other and their whereabouts. It was still a small world. His disappearance was supernatural and it occurred out of his faith.

So, what do these stories tell me today? Faith begins out of a decision to believe in the face of all circumstances. Faith begins each day. Faith is rewarded in order to build more faith. Faith is available.

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