In a court of law, conviction comes right before sentencing. But, it seems, in God’s courtroom conviction comes before the crossroad of commitment. “Sentencing,” if we want to call it that, seems to be sourced in the individual, not in God. And all this was terribly important, evidently, to Enoch.
We might say, from Cain’s life, that he certainly believed God existed, he believed God was God. He surely understood the story of creation, the stories his parents had told him of Eden. He had assuredly seen with his own eyes the seraphim with their flaming swords, guarding the gates of paradise. He had even made, albeit half-hearted, sacrifices to God. There was nothing missing in Cain’s belief system. So, what made Cain different than Seth?
When a crisis or a tragedy rolls down like a flash flood in a wadi, and comes in pounding waves over my own family, tumbling us into heartache, trauma, and intense grief, I am so thankful the first thing we do is hold hands and start praying. God is with us, and His heart is no less broken than ours.
The ancient Hebrews did not always intend their genealogies to be used as a chronology. Often, names were left out of a genealogy in order to produce symmetry, a neat and clean pattern. The primary purpose of the genealogy was to establish a person’s family identity, a person’s roots.
In my mind’s eye, Adam stares with numb shock and sorrow as God’s mark appears on Cain. Perhaps automatically he lifts his arm to draw Eve close, and she shudders with horror as the reality sinks farther in. Her firstborn, brought forth into their harsh world with cries of agony and wonder, with such eager hope, was now leaving them forever. And her other frail, beautiful son, lost forever to the ground they had come from, “…for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Genesis chapter 4 is kind of a depressing chapter, really. It begins with murder and it ends with murder. In between is a lot of living that, at first glance, seems pretty impressive. But on second glance reveals a growing trend towards debasement and debauchery. What can the church gain from this dark chapter?
What does a civilization without God look like? Activity, growth, progress, technological advancement, wealth, sophistication, an appreciation for towering intellect, and powerful art. All stem from God’s grace to humankind, yet without God, civilization degenerates.
As each new generation forged ahead with brilliance, and accomplishments, all away from the “presence of God” which Cain had left far behind him, the sense of God waned until finally, a generation was born into a time where even the thought of God was gone.
The penalty for sin is far reaching. Sin can rupture every relationship, becoming the source of untold harm both to ourselves and to others, between ourselves and God, with the power to wrench every good thing within us into ruin.
Our God-given capacity to feel, emotions that enhance our knowledge and experience of Him and each other, cover the whole spectrum of life, from ecstasy to horror, from rapture to envy, from sorrow to elation, grief to bliss, serenity to rage. Cain’s smoldering resentment, anger, hurt pride, jealousy, and envy, which he brooded over and nurtured, covered a dark spectrum that drained away his joy and delight.