God's End Game - Part 11
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
January 27, 2019
The last time we met I caught you up on the series I’ve been preaching called God’s end game because we had left it simmering on the stove for a few weeks while we focused on Christmas and what-not.
Today I’m going to pick up in Genesis where we left off. We’ve been in Genesis for quite a while because to figure out God’s end game you must go back to the beginning of the game. Genesis is the book of beginnings; it tells us how all things began.
All things began good, even very good. But Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s one rule and were forced out of the garden of Eden.
One verse in chapter 3 tells how serious this breach of trust was…
Genesis 3:21 (ESV) — 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Before the fall, death was not part of the human or animal experience. All creatures, including man and beast, ate plants. That means the lion would lay down with the lamb. Remember that.
The first creatures to experience death were the innocent animals God used to provide coverings for Adam and Eve, to cover their nakedness. The nakedness of the first three chapters in Genesis is both literal and symbolic, meaning that it means so much more than just a lack of clothing.
From that point on, all creation suffered the effects of sin.
One scholar writes, “the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience reflect a new reality for humanity—one that is characterized by pain and struggle.” That pain and struggle seeped down into every nook and cranny of every living creature’s existence.
Now all creatures know a world “red in tooth and claw.”
Sin brought shame, a breaking of fellowship with God, a struggle in humanity (between the sexes, between good and evil), and a struggle in nature.
To read the first few verses of chapter four, which chronicles what happened just after Adam and Eve had been cast out, you might think all was well…
Genesis 4:1–9 (ESV) — 1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.
They say life goes on. It does and it did, even with the father and mother of all humanity. They went about the business of fulfilling God’s plan to multiply and fill the earth with his image bearers. Eve had two sons: Cain and Abel.
Cain grew up to become a farmer. Abel grew up to become a shepherd. Evidently taught by their parents to worship God, both brought offerings to the Lord.
If they had had Instagram back then, you’d have thought all was comfy cozy in Adam’s family.
Ah, but it wasn’t.
4b And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
So much has been written about this. Why did God accept Abel’s offering and not Cain’s? Some say it was the items offered. Sheep were more acceptable than vegetables. That can’t be right because in the OT both are honored by our Lord.
It wasn’t what was offered; it was the attitude of the offerers. One commentator says:
[The answer lies in the text of verses 3, 4 because whereas Cain only brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground,” Abel brought the best of the flock—“the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions” (v. 4). Cain evidently was indifferent about his offering, but Abel was careful about his. The rabbinic commentators note that “fat” and “firstborn” mean that Abel gave God the pick of the flock.
The difference was that of heart attitude. Cain came to God on Cain’s own self-prescribed terms, but Abel came to God on God’s terms. Cain’s spirit was arrogant…]
Note how God reacted…
6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 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.”
We know full well and are thankful that…
Isaiah 42:3 (ESV) — 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
Isaiah 57:15 (NLT) — 15 The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.
But it is surprising how God seeks out Cain to offer comfort and counsel, even though he is arrogant and unrepentant. Our heavenly Father is far more merciful and loving than we give him credit for, even to the point of seeking out the unrepentant. And this is the OT! That gives us a whiff of the sweet smell of what Jesus did in coming to save us from our sins.
Cain, however, wasn’t comforted and didn’t take God’s counsel…
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
When we read that it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It doesn’t really shock us because we look at it from the way things are as we know them now.
Murder is simply a fact fo life. This is terrible to say, but it’s a common, everyday occurrence as awful as that is.
But try and project yourself back into the situation of Adam and Eve. The only death they had known was that of the animals God slew to make them clothes. Even then there’s no way they could have known how far-reaching and utterly soul-corrupting sin was (and is). There’s no way they could have fully understood what suffering and pain it brings.
But in an instant, they did in the absolute worst way.
I can’t help but wonder if they discovered Abel’s body. If they held in him in their arms not understanding why he wasn’t breathing. Why his blood soaked the soil.
While they held him did they realize it had to have been Cain? Who else could it have been?
And then it slowly sank in…
Genesis 2:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
There’s more than one way to die. This was their fault. They brought this into the world. And it was so soul-corrupting it passed on to their offspring. And it made the pinnacles of God’s creation, God’s image bearers, capable of the most heinous things.
The news for all of us is we are the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, which means we have inherited this corruption. We come into the world capable of heinous things as well and are consequently under judgment, even if we never go as far as Cain did.
In theological terms it’s known as original sin, “the doctrine that, as a result of Adam’s fall, all mankind are sinners by nature, having a propensity to sin that underlies every actual sin.”
It means our hearts are dark, that when we do evil it’s because of what’s inherently in us, what’s been passed on to us. Jesus, who knew men’s hearts, said…
Mark 7:21–23 (ESV) — 21 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Some might protest, “I don’t buy that original sin stuff. I don’t believe I would ever be capable of murdering someone or anything like that. People are born basically good and it’s negative influences like environment and experience that lead people to do horrible things.”
Hannah Arendt was a Jewish intellectual who went to the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann was a German high official responsible for much of what occurred in the Holocaust.
Arendt wanted to see who was capable of such incredible evil. What she saw and felt and thought as she sat there became a famous article titled “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.”
In it, she said, “You know what? He looks ordinary. He looks just like us. He doesn’t look evil. Do you know what that means? He is just like us.”
If we say no to that, then we are saying Eichmann and Hitler are sub-people. They are less than human. They are an aberration.
Arendt says if they are sub-people and we treat them that way, then we are doing exactly what they did to the Jews. If we don’t treat them as sub-people, then we have to admit we’re capable of it too.
When we study Genesis to find out why God needed an end game, why things are the way they are, we discover it teaches a terrible truth: we all come into this world with hearts blackened by sin.
I know that sounds old-fashioned. I know that sounds like something a Bible-thumping fundamentalist would say, but all that aside, doesn’t it fit? Doesn’t it explain reality? Experience? Mankind, no matter how good things get, always finds a way to mess it up.
This world is dark because our hearts are dark.
This is the foundation for what Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome about the human condition…
Romans 5:12, 14-21 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Sin spread from Adam and Eve to Cain to the rest of humanity making us capable of terrible things but also making us culpable (guilty) even if we never do anything all that bad.
That sounds unfair, doesn’t it? Maybe we get the whole capable thing but culpable?
How is it fair for me to be under God’s judgment for something that happened in the garden eons ago?
14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
Yes, we all come under judgment for one man’s trespass, but do you realize we also are offered forgiveness and restoration for one man’s obedience?
The first Adam failed. Christ, the second Adam, didn’t!
Let’s be consistent here. If we reject the truth that we can be held accountable for another man’s unrighteousness, then we must reject the truth that we can be saved by another man’s righteousness.
16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sin brought shame, a breaking of fellowship with God, a struggle between the sexes, between good and evil, a struggle in nature, and darkened hearts for all humanity.
SEE ILLUSTRATION - Are we in kindergarten?
Conclusion: Let’s finish up this morning…
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”
God never asks a question for information. He’s all knowing. But he does ask them for illumination on the part of the person he addresses.
God gave Cain an opportunity to confess and repent. But instead he lied and deflected.
This reminds us of a very similar scene.
Genesis 3:8–10 (ESV) — 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
One man’s disobedience makes us by our very nature opposed to God, unwilling to come to him. But, oh, he comes to us, making it possible for us to turn to him.
John 6:44 (ESV) — 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
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