Christine

Daughters of Promise

WHAT DID IT GET THEM IN THE END?

Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  Cain knew his wife, and she conceived…. Genesis 4:16-17

         Cain was ambitious and after the murder of his brother, went on to accomplish some noteworthy things.  His achievements looked impressive, I’m sure, to those who lived in his times.  Cain never turned back to God.  He settled in Nod and built his own city.  That earned him fame among his people.  Ironically, we don’t remember Cain for his city but for his sin.

         Sin does not always appear sleazy.  Cain’s descendants were civilized.  They were craftsmen, even musicians.  But despite the skills, they were spiritually like their father.  They were restless and no amount of achievement could appease it.

         Eventually, their line of descendants included Lamech.  He became the first bigamist.  He dominated his wives, even with poetry.  He told them, in verse form, that they should live in fear of him because he was a murderer. He used his murderous reputation as a means of subjugating them.

         He also mocked God.  God had said that anyone who shed the blood of Cain would be avenged seven times.  Lamech boasted that he did not need God’s protection.  He would take revenge, not just seven times, but seventy seven times.

         We live in a world that celebrates great achievers.  Inventors, entrepreneurs, intellectuals.  We wrongly believe that education counteracts the rise of evil.  But was any civilization more educated than WWII Germany? Andrew DelBanco, a Columbia University professor, wrote a book called The Death of Satan.  He responds to our modern culture that seeks to find an explanation for atrocities like the Columbine Massacre.  “A gulf has opened in our culture between the visibility of evil and the intellectual resources to cope with it.”

         In the end, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, black or white, the only thing that matters is what we do with Jesus.  What will it profit a man if he changes the world with his invention but ends up in hell!  Cain speaks to us from beyond the grave.

Of whom do I fear?  Of whom would I feel inferior?  I fear only You and have made my peace with God through Your great love and mercy.  Oh Lord, let my faith live beyond my life – in the lives of my descendants!  Amen

SEAL, MARKING OR TATOO

“If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.”  And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.”  Genesis 4:15

         And orphan is one who must see to his own needs.  He is not under the care and protection of anyone.  As a child of God, I often live like, and feel like, an orphan.  I forget that God’s seal has been put on me for all eternity; a mark of ownership.  God has placed Himself in a position to meet all of my needs.

         Cain murdered his brother, Abel.  Now, God banishes him from his land and sends him away.  He fears retribution from the rest of his family and expresses his fear to God.  In the midst of judgment, God shows mercy to Cain and puts a mark on him that will prevent anyone from attacking him.  Theologians suggest that it is a tattoo of some kind.

         This is what a king does.  He decrees, wills, and seals it with a stamp of authenticity.  In the ancient world, a seal could be found on a ring, or it hung from someone’s neck on a string.  The seal was covered with ink and used like a present-day stamp.  A document might be sealed, or a seal might be put on the door of a house or tomb to show that it had been secured and visited by someone of authority.

         King Darius even put his seal on the stone that trapped Daniel in the den of lions.  It showed all who passed by that his purposes for Daniel’s execution couldn’t be changed.

         Lest I feel alone today, uncared for in any way, I need only remember that I am marked in a way that the whole spiritual world can see.  I’ve been stamped, imprinted with a seal that no one can revoke.  God has made sure that all my enemies know that I am His property and nothing can change my status.  Even though I sin, God is not tempted in any way to banish me.  I am not Cain!  Jesus paid the price for all my sins and gave me His Spirit as proof of my adoption.  I may often feel like an orphan but I am not!

         Does this change my emotional response to sin?  Oh yes!  Paul said, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  Eph. 4:30   Why would I want to injure my relationship with the Spirit of God when His seal upon me is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever received!

The enemy can’t kill me, because I’m your property.  When He comes to accuse me and stir up hopelessness, I’ll remind him to take a good look at my mark of redemption!  Amen

WHAT’S MISSING?

Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden.  I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  Genesis 4:13-14

         The pain Cain expresses has more to do with what he will suffer than what God has suffered.  There is no thought that God’s heart was broken when Cain killed Abel for doing something holy.  What’s missing in Cain’s response to God’s curse?  A real apology!  Cain never said, “I’m sorry.”  He only considers his own skin and the ways he will faint under his punishment.

         Do you know someone who expresses no remorse?  They are simply, because of the state of their heart, unable to recognize what their sin against another causes.  Many wives and husbands are cruel to each other.  Hurtful things are said and treacherous things are done.  When the one who feels betrayed speaks up, backs up, and expresses pain, remorse is absent.  But when the pain of consequences is felt, a token “Sorry!” is expressed.  There is an expectation that everything should be back to normal.  He, or she, fails to know the repercussions of his actions.

         All throughout Israel’s history, God qualified the kinds of tears they cried.  God laid out the ground rules from the beginning.  “Obey me and you’ll be blessed.  Disobey and you’ll be led into captivity.”  They did well under the leadership of righteous kings for short periods of time.  Eventually though, they regressed and began to worship idols, throw their infants in the fire, and act disgracefully toward their God.  The consequences were felt.  God used enemies, like the Babylonians, to take His people as slaves.  In their great distress, they cried out to God to deliver them.  But God said, in essence, “You are not crying because you agree with me about your sin.  You’re crying because you hate captivity.”  Is this not like Cain?

         I bring the message home to my own heart today.  How often have I said, “Father, I blew it.  I did ‘this’ and now I’ve lost what I treasured.  Forgive me.”  My apology was all about me, about what I lost.  I did not picture the face of my heartbroken Father.  Self-pity rather than remorse was expressed in my so-called apology.

Only You, LORD, can give me a true heart of repentance.  Amen

LAND AND THE BLOOD SHED ON IT

And the Lord said, “What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from you hand.”  Genesis 4:10-11

         Now, this is a message we don’t hear much about.  The land holds the memory of blood shed upon it.  The land, as well as people, can be cursed and found begging for forgiveness.

         The piece of ground upon which Abel was brutally murdered pulsated with the memory of the traumatic event.  God could perceive its cry.  That’s not surprising since He is also the One who says that the stones will praise Him.  He hears the sounds of earth that are undetected by men.

         Some time ago, I was invited to hold a Prayer Mapping Conference at a Christian retreat center.  My assistant, Elizabeth, and I were confused when we encountered some of the worst spiritual warfare we had ever experienced.  As I tried to teach, I could feel the swirling of evil spirits around my head.  It was hard to think, even get words out.  Our normal kind of warfare praying didn’t bring freedom.  After the first day had ended, God led Elizabeth and I to do a history of the retreat center, what it had been originally.  Providentially, God led us to discover that the very site we were sitting on had been the place where the Underground Railroad ended during the Civil War.  It was the stopping place where thousands of battered and wounded slaves got off the train.  Trauma still marked the place.

         We covered this in prayer, asking God to release the land from the effects of the memories.  We dedicated that land to God and asked that He bless now, in full measure, the ministry of the retreat center.  Teaching that day was a different experience.  The room was peaceful and the ministry fruitful.

         As Christians pray over their homes, we must also remember to cover the land that our homes sit on.  We never know, from history, what the ground remembers.  Isaiah, as well as many others, reinforced this.  For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.”  Is. 26:21

         How the earth and its inhabitants cry out for a redeemer!  And there is One.  We just need to ask our Redeemer, Jesus, to forgive and cancel the curse of sin.  Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant, and sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  Hebrews 12:24

There are many ways for me to rule my garden.  Bringing freedom to the land is your mandate.  You promised to heal our land if there is repentance.  Amen

WHEN GOD ASKS A QUESTION

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”  He said, I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”  Genesis 4:9

         When an acquaintance asks a question that hits too close to home, skirting the issue is always a temptation.  “Where were you last night?”  The answer can be short and evasive.  “Out!”  The one who asked will usually get the message that the subject is closed.

         But when God is the One who asks the questions, does the truth not come spilling out?  Is lying to God even a temptation for us?  He is the one we worship.  Knowing His character and His holiness, we tremble and know our place.

         Cain knew God.  God talked with his family.  God was intimate with them.  Cain knew God’s nature; He was love but He was also holy.  He was powerful but He was also approachable.  Did Cain cave when God came to ask him Abel’s whereabouts?  Not at all.  The first words of sarcasm in scripture are found in Cain’s retort.  “What?  Am I my brother’s keeper?”

         This will be short today.  There is nothing more to say except this.  When I’ve sinned and the Spirit of God asks me, “What have you done?”  The only option available to a child of God who knows her place is this, “Oh God, I have sinned.  Forgive me!”

Oh Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Psalm 139:1-3

DOING SOMETHING BEFORE IT MULTIPLIES

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.  Genesis 4:8

         What did Cain speak to Abel?  They had words ‘in the field’ which means away from home. No parental restraints were in place.  Whatever the nature of their conversation, I’m sure it was not the first time such words were spoken.  One does not murder a brother without a history of conflict.

         Cain’s conscience had long been seared by the little choices he had made along the way.  Jealousy didn’t start with this argument.  It had probably been exhibited when they were children.  Did Adam and Eve see it when the boys were small?  Had they dealt with it?  Just because it ended in murder doesn’t mean they had turned a blind eye to Cain’s animosity for his brother.  Wickedness can be bound up in the heart of a child and good parents grieve when they see it.  Loving discipline appears to be ineffective.

         God is the perfect parent yet, as His child, I sin.  He employs righteous methods to raise me up to be like my older Brother, Jesus.  He nurtures, warns, woos, cajoles, disciplines, and sets consequences in motion.  Stubbornness is bound up in my heart and, for a time, I insist on learning the hard way.  I ignore the warnings and choose to sin and suffer the consequences.  At that point, God hopes I will return to Him to live another way.  When He whispers a warning, will I stop, listen, submit my will and obey?

         God gives me opportunities throughout mid-life to deal with issues I never dealt with as a child or as a young woman.  He re-parents all areas that were stunted.  He knows that each seed of unrighteousness that I ignore will be a seed that grows over time.  Whatever issue I turned a blind eye to at 40 will be exacerbated by the time I’m 80.  If I privately nursed my fears for a lifetime, I will be known as a fearful person in the senior years of my life.  Anxiety won’t be concealed because issues only intensify with time.

         But ah, so does righteousness.  Whatever I choose to nurture will be multiplied.  Cain’s seeds of jealousy evolved into a murderous rage.  A holy simpatico could have flowered into a righteous alliance.  There’s nothing more beautiful than when one brother gives his life for the other.  How stunning God’s ways.  How ugly sin’s fruit.

Make me holy.  Hide nothing from me when You search my heart.  Amen

MY PIVOTAL MOMENT

“If you [Cain] 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

         After Cain brought a grain offering, one that God did not accept, it was not too late for him.  Sinning against God didn’t close the door for restoration.  God’s question to Cain reminds him that if he ‘now’ brings an acceptable blood sacrifice, all will be well.

         God does not leave his instruction there.  The wisdom that follows resounds down through the ages and lands at the door of my heart.  “Christine, you’ve sinned.  Now what will you do?  Sin wants to consume you but you must rise up to master it.  Will you repent or allow your sin to progress to the next level?”

         What I do at the pivotal point of temptation is crucial.  Satan tempts me but he can’t make me sin.  He makes false promises but I should know better.  I should know by now where his options lead.  He offers me a quick way out of pain but the long-term pain I will be taking on is never mentioned.  The proposition of feeling better, enjoying something, getting out of confinement and ending my dilemma, are so appealing that I fail to wait on God.  I trade His promises for the fodder of a liar.

         Cain’s improper sacrifice was exposed.  Instead of being humbled, he got angry.  Satan tempted him to take revenge, to spend his anger in order to feel better.  He killed his brother in rage and jealousy, the one who had made the right sacrifice.  Thus began a holy war that is still being played out. No disagreement has the potential to spawn more hostility than a religious one.

         Satan is a roaring lion, crouching at my door.  His desire is for me.  But I can, through the grace of the Spirit, rule over him.  Jesus, at Calvary, put Satan forever under His feet.  As I take up the authority Jesus promised, he is also under mine, if I so choose.

When my emotions are hot, I will step back, get alone with you, and do nothing until Your Spirit leads me.  Amen