Title: East of Eden: Living in a Fallen World
Text: Genesis 4-11
Introduction: We begin our study this morning in Genesis 4. We’ll make our way through each chapter to 11. We will look at 3 main stories today of life in the Fall. This isn’t to say that sins domination ends at Chapter 11, but that chapter 12 is where there is a significant change in the storyline:
- Cain & Abel (4-5)
- The Flood (6-10)
- The Tower of Babel (11)
Interspersed between these stories are the listings of their generations – their descendants. It is fun to look at them and study them, though we don’t have time for that today. Let me give you an example to whet your appetite: Adam to Noah: 10 generations; Noah had Shem – from Shem to Abram is 10 Generations.
“Preaching the Word Commentary Series” of these passages says: Moses has exercised great literary care in constructing the story because again, as in the creation account, sevens and multiples of seven are used to shape the narrative symmetry. Within verses 1-17, the name ‘Abel’ and the important designation ‘brother’ each occur seven times. Cain occurs 14 times. And whereas, in 1.1 – 2.3 the name God (Elohim) occurred 35 times. From 2.4 to the end of chapter 4 the words ‘God’, ‘the Lord’, and ‘the Lord God’ occur a total of 35 times. The careful Hebrew scholar Gordon Wenham observes: “the last verse of chapter 4, ‘At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord,’ thus contains the 70th mention of deity in Genesis.” Conclusion: There is vast intentionality in this narrative as it instructs us about the essential nature of all mankind.
Sometimes we read the 1st 11 chapters of Genesis and we feel like parts of the story are missing or there is a contradiction. But that is only because we are looking at it the wrong way. It’s like looking through binoculars backward. As you observe what might seem like controversies and contradictions let me point out that the literary goal of Moses might not fit the parameters you set up. When trying to understand Hebrew Literature, you’ve got to come to terms with Hebrew poetry, symmetry, and language. Don’t box your study in the context of a 21st Century culture.
Transition: My premise for this series is The Bible is One Story: His Story. It’s all about Jesus.
The bookends to this story are Creation and the Garden of Eden at the beginning and Heaven, where Eden is restored. The storyline progresses from where there was perfection in the Garden, but all was lost when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, to the hard cold fact of life in the fall. From that point forward, there is a constant desire and pursuit for the perfection of the Garden to be restored. We all want a place like that.
- Adam: be fruitful and multiply, fill the land, have dominion.
- Noah: same command – be fruitful and multiply, fill the land, have dominion.
- Abraham: same thing – Go to a land, I will build you into a nation.
Two main parts: land and people.
- We’ll see in the coming weeks that the people Israel had the chance to inherit a land flowing with milk and honey, but they rejected God, too.
- I think at times, many in the United States think that this is the Promised Land – That these United States are God’s new Eden. We think if we just elect the right officials or enact the right laws, we’ll have the perfect place here – with God’s blessing. It’s like its built into our spiritual DNA. But according to Scripture, that’ll never happen in the US. As great as it is to be an American, The United States will never be heaven. As a matter of fact – The US has become more like Sodom and Gomorrah than the Garden of Eden!
- The point is: we won’t have Eden restored until we all get to Heaven (and what a day of rejoicing that will be!).
Last week we looked at Creation and the perfection of Eden. Let’s turn our attention to this week’s topic of life in the fall. Our first story is…
I. The Story of Cain and Abel (4-5)
exp.: Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the Garden. They have two sons, whose only experience of the garden is what their parents tell them. The story: God’s regard for Abel’s offering and his disregard for Cain’s offering. Cain was angry and his face fell; here we find the effects of sin: his anger, jealousy, pride and in a moment we’ll see Cain’s ‘in your face’ rebellion.
God’s Intercession: rd v 6-7; this really should be more of the focus for us. In Adam and Eve’s sinfulness, God was merciful. In Cain’s unsatisfactory offering, God intercedes. Just what his offense was, we don’t know. Rd v 7: if you do well… the idea is of action. What he ‘did’ in presenting his offering wasn’t regarded by God. Now, the question is: just what did he do? Much debate has ensued about the offering of Cain. Was it because it was a grain offering and not a blood sacrifice? Was it that Abel’s was from his first born, but Cain’s wasn’t the first fruits? The Bible doesn’t clarify. And because it doesn’t clarify, we must then ask ourselves, what is it God is communicating to us?
What we do know is that action is born out of attitude. A little boy brings a flower to his mother. Consider what this little boy is thinking. A little girl makes a card for her daddy all on her own. Consider her attitude.
There are two types of people in churches across the globe this morning: those whose presence is born out of an attitude of worship and sincere appreciation to God for who He is and all that He has done… and those who are fulfilling some sense of duty. Is my being here today a sense of duty – I’m getting paid to be here – or would I be here anyway, because I want to come praise and worship this God who loves me so?
app.: We see Cain’s behavior and we understand, because we can act that way, too. But more importantly, turn your focus to see how good and merciful God is to Cain. God gives Cain an opportunity to repent and do what is right. God warns Cain about what is waiting in the wings for an unrepentant man.
Instead of repentance, Cain doubles down, plots his brother’s death, lures him out to the field and kills him. When confronted by God, he doesn’t respond like Adam did. Adam was honest and truthful. Not that he did perfectly, it’s almost as if Adam blames God for his sinful rebellion, but not Cain. He lies. But God knows.
Something interesting here that I’d like to note: Abel’s blood and the ground are given anthropromorphic characteristics. Rd v10; Abel’s blood has a voice and the ground has a mouth. The word ground appears 15x’s in these 1st 4 chapters. Basically, his punishment is that he can no longer work the ground, but instead is to be nomad… a fugitive, a wanderer. It isn’t unusual to find anthropromorphic qualities in creation (i.e., the trees praise). What I find interesting is this connection between the ground that used to produce a harvest for Cain and the curse Cain receives that prevents him from ever working the soil again. He will no longer be able to work the ground for food.
At this moment He cries out in anguish. It all is too much for him. So, what does God do? God is merciful…once again and God will protect him.
So Cain leaves in 16 and settles in the land of Nod, but what does he do? He has a son and builds a city and names the city after his son. Mark that place in your Bible (v. 17). His punishment is to be a wanderer and a fugitive but in open rebellion, he builds a city and names it after his son. How’s that for “in your face rebellion”?
The generations of Cain are listed in the rest of chapter 4 and there is an idea of continued descent of the sinfulness of man as we come to Lamech down in 4.23.
t.s.: In chapter 5 we have the 10 generations of Adam to Noah. Then, beginning in chapter 6, we have the story of the flood.
II. The Flood (6-10)
exp.: the flood is the longest story in our section of living in the Fall. It begins with an odd story about the continued spiraling out of control sinful behavior of mankind. One result is that God will shorten the lifespan of man from hundreds of years down to 120. We will see that happen over the next 10 Generations. In v 5 – 6 we see a contrast between the heart of man and the heart of God; rd 5; every intention was only evil continually; rd v 6; God was sorry, God regretted. It is hard for us to comprehend the mind of God. We use anthropromorphic characteristics and traits to describe God in human language. But God isn’t human. So, when we do that, we limit him – we box him in, as it were. But how else are we to describe God? Remember this when you read about God. You’re reading words that are limited. God isn’t! So, if our words are limited, what then is the teaching, what then is the principle God would have us learn?
Here’s what we learn from God in this statement. He feels. There is emotion with God. There is feeling with God. Listen to Gordon Wenham who clarifies for us the depth of anguish and sting of pain God feels. He translates God was sorry or God regretted as: “He felt bitterly indignant”. This word… is used to express the most intense form of human emotion, a mixture of rage and bitter anguish. And then he gives examples of where this word appears else where in Scripture:
- Dinah’s brothers felt this way after she had been raped (Gen 34.47).
- Jonathan felt this way when he heard his father Saul planned to kill David (1 Sam 20.34)
- David – when he heard of Absolam’s death… do you remember his mourning? (2 Sam 18)
- A deserted wife feels this way in (Isaiah 54.6)
- This word is used to describe God’s anguish three times: here, Psalm 78.40 and Isa. 63.10. both of those texts translate the word ‘grieved’…
ill.: But in God’s anguish against sinful man, He is still merciful. Noah acts in faith and obeys all of God’s instructions. Noah and his family is saved through faith. They pass safely through the waters and are protected by God.
app.: When you read these chapters, don’t chase after the Nephilim or the sons and daughters of whoever. If you focus too much on what you don’t know, you’ll miss the obvious before you. God’s heart is broken over man’s sinfulness. That’s what you need to know. That’s what you need to see. His anguish, described in human terms, is so we’ll see what our sin does to the heart of God.
exp.: So God chooses to destroy mankind from the face of the earth – all except Noah and his family (his wife, his three sons and their wives). But sin isn’t wiped out. Sinfulness still reigns supreme. Ham sins against his father and is cursed. It appears that Ham doesn’t share his father’s beliefs. Which is amazing considering what he endured on the Ark!
t.s.: Well, chapter 10 brings us to the Tower of Babel…
III. The Tower of Babel (11)
exp.: v 1-9 are constructed in a beautiful, poetic, chiastic structure. Listen to Hughes: The careful structure is matched by a painstaking use of words and wordplays through assonance (words that sound the same), rhyme, and alliteration, which of course are hidden in the Hebrew. The result is a remarkably subtle and powerful story that leaves its mark on the hearers.
A “The whole earth had one language” (v 1)
B “there” (v. 2)
C “each other” (v 3)
D “Come, let us make bricks” (v 3)
E “let us build for ourselves” (v 4)
F “a city and a tower”
G “the Lord came down … “ (v 5)
F1 “the city and the tower”
E1 “which mankind had built”
D1 “come … let us mix up” (v 7)
C1 “each other’s language”
B1 “from there” (v 8)
A1 “the language of the whole earth” (v 9)
As we read the story of Babel we are once again reminded that Man is sinful and God is merciful.
- The Arrogance of Sinful Man: rd v 4; let us make a name for ourselves; this echoes the ‘in your face’ rebellion of Cain who named a city he built after his son, Enoch, in light of his punishment as a wanderer and a fugitive and who lied to God and said: I don’t know where my brother is – am I my brother’s keeper? The Arrogance of Sinful Man!
- The Intercession of a Merciful God: God knows we are frail and fraught with our own arrogance. He knows we think we are ‘all that’ but instead in he intercedes for our benefit. Where we would destroy ourselves, He intercedes, protects and provides. He knows just what we need. He did it with Adam and Eve providing for them coverings to cover their nakedness and shame. He did it with Abel, giving him a Mark of some sort to protect him. He did so with Noah in 8.1, but God remembered Noah… and we actually see it here. These people can become even more wicked than the people God destroyed back in the flood. What God does is what is best for them.
Conclusion: My wife and kids tease me about what I like to watch on TV. They say I watch news, sports or sports news. Well, that isn’t so true anymore because those are the websites I cruise. I guess I get that from my dad. The down side is that these three genres rarely give you good news. In sports, the teams I root for lose. The players I root for don’t get a fair shake. In the news, rarely is there a story that lifts you up. If you think that man is basically good at heart, you don’t keep up with the news. Everyday there is another bombing. ISIS is now bombing Muslims – regularly. I was encouraged to hear that many Muslims in Mosul have been harboring up to 75 Christians from the extremists – over the last few years that Mosul has been under extremists control.
This morning I read a story about a teenage girl in Kerrville, TX. She left her two little girls in the car for 15 hours yesterday – and killed them: 1 year old and a 2 year old. I don’t know why, but that story just made me want to sit there and cry. The report said she could hear them crying for her as she lay down in her house.
My guess is that you don’t need more evidence of The Arrogance of Sinful Mankind. We can all take a look down deep inside and see the potential there. This would be a sad story indeed, if it weren’t for that 2nd lesson today: The Intercession of a Merciful God.
If left in our sinful state, we would perish – never having the opportunity to a right relationship with God. But God, who is merciful, interceded on our behalf. The Bible teaches us that God demonstrates his love us in this: while we were yet sinners – arrogant sinful human beings – Christ died for us. He paid the penalty of sins for us to liberate us from the penalty of sin.
If you’ve never received the forgiveness of sin… I offer you Christ today.