God is the ultimate storyteller, and the Bible is God’s epic tale.
We’re seeing that story unfold in Genesis as we’ve already traveled through an amazing six days when God created the heavens, the earth, the oceans, plants, animals, and then finally you and me — and then we witnessed the terrible fall when sin entered our world and our lives, leaving the Lord no choice but to drive out Adam and Eve (and by extension, all of us) from the garden of Eden.
No doubt you’re keenly aware that human beings are adept at messing up the good things God gives us. But since God is love — and exhibits more love than we could ever comprehend — He is all about saving us. Bringing us back into the fold. Redemption.
In fact, we see the Lord began to weave together His grand story — which culminates with Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross — in Genesis itself. In the third chapter, God tells the serpent who initiated the fall of humanity that he “will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” It’s the very first reference in Scripture to what Jesus will do in the future: Although the son of God will be beaten and scarred and put to death (bruising his heel), Christ’s act of sacrifice will crush Satan (bruising his head) — and it’s an ultimate defeat. Now and forever.
But the Lord is just getting started telling his story. In Genesis 4, as we saw Sunday, the Lord introduces us to the offspring of Adam and Eve. You know their names well: Cain and Abel.
This next part of God’s epic drama digs deeper into the fallen human heart — specifically Cain’s. In many ways Cain is a lot like us. While God speaks to Cain (can you imagine that?) and gives him every opportunity to have a relationship with him, Cain holds back what he’s willing to sacrifice to the Lord. You can relate, right? We’re often unwilling to live within God’s boundaries in the belief that we can show ourselves a better, more exciting time, and then we go our own way and fall on our faces in sin. Perhaps Cain also believed that if he sacrificed the “really good stuff” to the Lord, he’d be left with nothing — despite the fact that God created Cain and everything around him. It’s all the Lord’s anyway, isn’t it? So why was Cain (and why are we) so reluctant to give back to God what he already owns and simply entrusted to us for a short time?
The result is that God doesn’t accept Cain’s paltry sacrifice — and it’s further complicated by the fact that the Lord loved Abel’s sacrifice. And now we have the fraught emotions of jealousy and anger entering God’s story. Comparing ourselves to others. Feeling sorry for ourselves. But it wasn’t as though the Lord tossed Cain on the garbage heap — God corrected and counseled him and gave him an opportunity to approach him in the right way: “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.’” (verses 6-7)
But instead Cain transferred his anger at the Lord to his brother Abel and killed him. His own flesh and blood. Of course, as with all sin, murder never makes things better; it only makes them worse. And Cain felt the full brunt of his sin’s consequences.
Like Cain, many of us struggle with anger. And while Ephesians 4:27 tells us that being angry in and of itself isn’t necessarily sinful, it’s a dangerous emotion because it can open the door for all kinds of damage and, indeed, evil. Anger can be so hazardous to us that the Lord commands us further in Ephesians to not let the sun go down on our anger — to resolve it quickly, that very day in fact. Perhaps the most telling illustration is the rest of the Ephesians verse which implores us to not give the devil a “foothold.”
Anyone who’s scaled a rock wall or took part in outdoor rock climbing knows what that means. For climbers, a foothold is more or less a new lease on life. It’s a long way up the rock, and you might be tired — but if you can rest all your body weight on a little sliver of stone, you can hang out a while and resume your climb when your energy returns. Footholds are valuable in such endeavors. And they’re valuable for Satan, too. He’s so committed to destroying us, in fact, that he’ll search high and low for that little, tiny spot — that opening, that point of vulnerability — where he can dig in and stay as he continues his climb into our lives.
Indeed, Cain’s sin cost him just about everything, as he told the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” But God’s story continued on amid Cain’s brokenness — and more people filled the earth as the years passed, and certainly brokenness continued among God’s creation.
But Genesis 4 ends in a very hopeful way. The narrative turns back to Adam and Eve, who had another son, Seth, who in turn had a son named Enosh. And we discover that “at that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
We sin. We suffer for it. And hopefully we cry out to God in those moments. Often the Lord uses the darkest times to get through to us, to jump start our relationships with him. Sometimes it’s painful, but as anyone who’s gone through such moments, the pain is worth the restoration of a relationship with God.
So let us heed the words of the One who is the apex of God’s story in the Bible — Jesus — who told his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God,” and then all the other things we need in life and fret over will be added to us. And we can call out Christ’s name right now — he’s made himself completely available to his children, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He never takes a coffee break, and he’ll never hang up on us.
Dial that number, beloved.