Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cain, Abel, Seth, and Noah part 1

Day 2 of the Bible in one year.  Today's reading is Genesis 4-6 and 1 Chronicles 1:1-4

There's not much uplifting in today's reading.  Cain kills Abel, Lamech kills a man.  The 'sons of God' take the 'daughters of men' and giants are born.  By chapter 6, humanity is so depraved God decides to wipe out the whole lot of them and start over. 

But there are bright spots.  There's Enoch, who was so close to God that God took him bodily to heaven.  And there's Noah, who God spares from the flood because Noah is the only one who on all the earth is righteous.

I always wonder - just what was it about Cain's offering that made it unacceptable to God?  Maybe it's hinted at in verse 3 and 4:  Cain brought 'some of his crops' but Abel brought 'the best of the firstborn lambs."  Did Cain give God the leftovers, while Abel gave God the first and the best? 

So Cain gets angry and God tells him to straighten up and do what it right - then his offering would be acceptable.  It makes me wonder if there is more going on than just left over grain presented at the altar.  I mean, God says "do right" and Cain's response is to kill his brother.  Really?  Did Cain really think that if he got Abel out of the way, God would like him better?

So there was something standing in the way of Cain and his relationship with God.  I suspect that this something, this attitude, is why Cain brought leftovers in the first place - but hey, that's just me.  What ever it was, the "something" affected everything about Cain:  the way he thought, the motivations for his actions.  It tainted everything he touched.  And God called him on it.

What if Cain had listened to God and said, "Wow, you're right.  I have not been doing what is right.  Please help me to do better."  Ok - I know it sounds like a storybook ending.  But really, don't we do the same thing?  We all have things we do that we know are not right, things that strain our relationship with God and drive wedges in our relationship with others.  God calls us on these things, (or someone else does) and we get all huffy and walk away.  Or we try to hide it.  We cling to it, regardless of the cost.

It would be so much easier if we could just listen and say "Wow, God, you're right.  (blank) is hurting my relationship with you.  Please help me  to do better."  But we don't.

Any maybe, just maybe, that's why there are stories like Cain and Abel, like Lamech bragging about killing a man, about humans being so wicked that God decides to bring a flood and start over.  Maybe we need to hear that we aren't the worst of sinners, that God really has heard it all.  Maybe we need to know that God cares when there's something coming between us and God - cares enough to call us on it.  And maybe we need to hear that if we continue to hold on to those 'somethings' that separate us from God, well, we will miss out on God's best for our lives.

And maybe we need to hear that there's always the option to listen to God, and to walk in close fellowship like Enoch and Noah.

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