A Biblical Worldview: Relationship Breakdown
David gave this talk at Woodside Church (Bedford) in 2010, as part of their "A Biblical Worldview" series. Click here to download it.
We're currently in a series on Biblical worldview, and will be looking at Genesis to establish a Biblical worldview on issues including:
- Blessings and Curses
- Marriage and Family
- Individual and Community
- Honour Guilt Shame Anxiety etc
Worldview is the deepest level of culture, it's our deepest beliefs about life. If you haven't already, do listen and catch up with the first part in the series, A Biblical Worldview: Culture & Worldview.
Today, we're going to look at some of the consequences of sin coming into the world and Adam and Eve being banished from the garden.
“Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
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 master it."
Now 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.
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"
"I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."
Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."
But the LORD said to him, "Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." 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.” Genesis 4:1-16
Eve had heard God say that her pain in childbirth would be increased so it was with even more trepidation that she awaited her first birth. We do not know when her child had been conceived but the birth was approaching. Eve however trusted God to bring her through and as she gave birth and saw her new son she exclaimed a word, “I have gained, got, acquired”, which sounds similar to the name Cain. “With God’s help” – acknowledging God is seeing her through and now there is another man born in the world.
Later she gave birth again to son called Abel. Not given the reason why he got called that but it means “breath” or “temporary” or even similar to “meaningless” – as in Ecclesiastes. Names often expressed either the emotion of the parent naming (mother or father) or a prophetic statement of the person’s life. Later the two grew up and Cain became a farmer of crops (like Adam), Abel a shepherd. Both brought an offering to God. Abel a 1st born sheep, Cain some of his crops.
God looked with favour on Abel , but not on Cain. Why? We are not told. Both animal offerings and grain offerings were acceptable to God (see later, Leviticus), maybe one was first fruits, one was not but that was not necessarily wrong. The Bible doesn’t tell us – we need to read the lines not between them. What we do know is that God looks on the heart as we see later in the Bible.
“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Heb 11:4).
“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.” (1 John 3:12).
Cain got very angry – not just angry, “very angry” is a term often used as a predecessor to murder in scripture. God spoke to him. He was not writing him off. He was giving him an opportunity. Why are you angry? Why are you depressed looking? You can change. You can do what is right, you can repent. However if you don’t sin like a demon is crouching at your door. The demonic power of murder could get you or you could overcome it. No room for “I couldn’t help it” “I just saw a red mist!” I got so angry, I just hit out. Crouching was a word used in Babylonian culture for a demon outside the door, to threaten the people inside.
Cain and Abel went into the field showing that what's about to happen was deliberate, premeditated (see later under the law concerning murder). They went where nobody could see. Cain attacked Abel (maybe as his name suggests – Abel a bit wimpy), and killed him.
God said “Where is your brother” – again not because he didn’t know! Famous answer “Am I my brother’s keeper” – or am I the shepherd’s shepherd. Blood cries out – strong word – used elsewhere of crying out because of starvation or the cry of a woman being raped. It is the cry for justice (also later in the Bible) and for vengeance.
Explain blood vengeance. This was the norm in Old Testament times in the nations around Israel, in Eastern cultures and was restricted under the law given to Moses e.g. “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. There was not then a developed judiciary. Blood vengeance still applies today in many places.
Cain sent further out – Adam and Eve banished from garden, Cain banished from even working the earth to be a wanderer in the land of wandering (Nod). No peace, no home, everyone against him, threatened by people who would take revenge.
We need to ask who are all these other people? One of two explanations seems likely:
- Adam and Eve’s family multiplied many times by now – so all would have been blood relatives seeking revenge
- God had created (by whatever means) a number of people for whom Adam was still regarded as the federal head or prototype .
I prefer the first explanation but the Bible doesn’t satisfy our curiosity.
Helmut Theilicke comments on these verses:
“When the world becomes fatherless, it becomes a weird and homeless place, and I am driven into unending flight. Every tree, every milestone becomes a threat. So I try to charm away the weirdness with a talisman that dangles in my car. Or I consult the stars for some dodge by which to escape being caught in my run of bad luck. Or I procure lucky numbers to increase my chances and find out the dates and the times when I must be careful because they are unlucky times. This is the law of life in the land of Nod – when the security of home is gone.”
What happens when offence comes?
It will come. Here Cain was offended by God - not because God did anything wrong but because God was in various ways pointing out Cain’s sin. We can be offended:
- By other people who seem to do better than us, or be more popular than us, or more prosperous, more fruitful, more godly (as here).
- Circumstances – “It’s not fair”, “Chip on the shoulder”.
- Those we look down upon, such as crop farmers to pasture farmers as possibly here, and as the Egyptians to Hebrew shepherds later in the book. Can be homeless people, other races, underclass, “scroungers” today.
- Also people who hurt us – though that was not the case here.
How will we react? With mercy or like Cain? We may not kill them but Jesus said:
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Matt 5:21-22
Families and communities (even churches) can be split apart and banished to the land of wandering if we don’t handle offence well.
A better covenant
We can draw near to God because of blood that was spilt. The book of Hebrews contrast the old covenant which could not forgive sin, where the justice of an eye for an eye was permitted to the new covenant which we enjoy.
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Heb 12:22-24.
Abel’s blood cried out for justice and retribution. Jesus’ blood spoke forgiveness and reconciliation, healed relationships between:
- God and man – through repentance, forgiveness, brought close (reconciled).
- People – “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”. Colossians 3:13.
- People groups – solidarity not just individual. In Paul’s writing in Colossians, the corporate comes before the individual: “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Colossians 3:10-11.
- Offended people: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21.
God is putting the world right. Eden – a temple – reflects the future separation in the temple. Adam and Eve are put in the outer court. Cain put right outside the camp – wandering in the desert. In Christ, separation was abolished as the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. We can now go into God’s presence. There is even good news for those in the land of Nod. So lepers were cleansed, Samaritans, the woman caught in adultery and more.
“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Eph. 2:12-13.
“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Eph. 2:17-18
So whether we're close or distant, it's the same good news.