Genesis 4:17-26 “So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.’ Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, ‘God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.’ Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.”
The above words give us a fascinating description of the culture founded and developed by Cain. You understand that this was not an Old Testament Messiahist (or Christian) civilization. These people were not the seed of the woman – which godly seed is present in the world. This was not the city of God but the city of man; it was not the kingdom of heaven but the kingdom of this dark world. This was a civilization surviving under the curse which God brought upon Cain and his line. This was the culture of the seed of the serpent. I want to examine it and see its parallels with our own day and see the important lessons we can learn from this passage.
1. THE GENERAL TRUTHS SEEN IN CAIN AND HIS DESCENDANTS.
There are three important truths manifest in this Cainite civilization – ‘Cain-ite’ not ‘Canaan-ite’ civilization. I want you to notice first;
i] Cain and his descendants are living in our Father’s world.
Before Genesis chapter four is Genesis chapter one; so the world in which the family of Cain lives is the one created in the beginning by our Lord Jesus Christ. Without him was not anything made that was made. All the godless descendants of Cain need to be confronted with that reality. There is no escape whatsoever for them from that fact, from having to look at and deal with the work of God’s hands day and night. They are continually surrounded by God’s power and Godhead. The universe in which they live, the manner in which he has designed everything, his laws defined in scientific codes and precepts – I’m referring to pi, and gravity, and the boiling point of water, and the temperature at which it freezes – all such things structure their existence minute by minute. It makes their research possible; it is the guarantee of progress.
The firmament above us is displaying the handiwork of God, not every god’s handiwork, or any god’s handiwork, but the God of the Bible, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am saying that Cain and his descendants, both yesteryear and today, are continually confronted by God’s works, the fingerprints and footsteps of Jehovah are everywhere. All that men see, whether through a telescope peering into the remotest parts of God’s creation, or with the most elaborate electronic microscope examining subatomic particles, all that reveals the power and glory of God in all his works of creation and providence. This revelation impinges upon every human being, on our brethren in the remote parts of Papua New Guinea or on the scientist working in the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. No matter where he is or what he does, this revelation of God’s greatness is clear to all the line of Cain. It is utterly unavoidable to them all; everywhere that man looks he is confronted by God’s power, and goodness, and glory in creation.
Let me use this illustration; you imagine walking into the empty house of total strangers. You move around it room by room, and you see how they’ve decorated it, the wallpaper, the paint work, the furnishings, the carpeting, the paintings hanging on the walls, the books on the shelves, the CD collection, the photographs of family members on the cupboards and so on. You gain a broad understanding of the kind of people whose house it is from what you’ve perceived in every room. Now when you’ve looked over such a home will you come to the conclusion that it is just at it is for this reason, that some years ago on this spot there had been a fortuitous explosion, a big bang, and when the dust settled this home and all that is in it as you’ve just examined it was what had been created? No, of course not. Everyone will say that this home has all the marks of being designed and made by an intelligent and loving person.
So it is with our world, and every man in his heart of hearts has an innate knowledge of the Creator from considering his creation. Man must infer this from the surrounding environment. Everywhere he looks in the whole of the cosmos the Godhead of God is seen. He is born with this understanding; children you know are the most avid creationists. They know that all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all. All mankind knows this and is aware of an unqualified dependence on this God, that they are accountable to him and responsible to their Creator. No amount of degradation can remove from man’s mind this awareness that he must answer to the God in whom he lives and moves and has his being. That is the first truth of the Cainite civilization that it is found in the creation of God.
ii] Cain and his descendants are made in God’s image.
We know that from those famous words of Genesis one and verse twenty-seven describing man before the fall, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Then after the fall we are told that fallenness does not mean that the image of God has been eradicated. In Genesis chapter nine and verse six, we read, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” Murderous Cain slaughters innocent Abel and the horror of that deed is that both murderer and victim were made in the image of God. Even the act of murder did not eradicate the likeness of the Lord in the murderer.
So everyone you meet, however loud his evangelistic atheism, is made in the image of the God of the Bible. Bertrand Russell was made in the image of the God he despised. Richard Dawkins is made in the likeness of God. And so what are the implications of that for the descendants of Cain? There are a number;
All men have a divinely created mind and extraordinary knowledge. Of course, man’s intellect has been disordered. The descendants of Cain are often mistaken as to matters of fact, origin, purpose and destiny. They are frequently fallacious in their reasoning, but they are still rational beings, often brilliant in science, wonderful teachers of chemistry and mathematics and languages – think of the one or two teachers in your school who made subjects come alive – fine reporters sending brave stories from the battlefront, all as worthy of credit as those politicians of whom Paul write, “the powers that be are ordained by God.” They have knowledge; they know the harmfulness and wretchedness of pornography. Even as they practice such perversions they know that those who live like that are worthy of death. Felix trembled when Paul reasoned with him of righteousness, self-control and judgment to come. The king wasn’t Mr. Cool smiling cynically back at the apostle, patronizing him. He knew that what Paul said so earnestly to him was absolutely right. So all the descendants of Cain have knowledge.
Again, having the image of God means that all the descendants of Cain have a freedom. With his freedom he makes choices, for example, to become a suicide bomber. He chooses to do that. He is not programmed to respond instinctively – as if at the touch of a button. He is not the prisoner of conditioned reflexes. The sons of Cain freely make their own decisions – for example, to have nothing to do with God and live just for themselves. They are not puppets, and God is never responsible for anything sinful that a man might do. You understand that it was not because of some alleged animal background in Cain that he murdered Abel. The murder was not due to some primitive instincts which man has derived from the beast. Cain was angry with his brother and freely decided to kill him. The late Francis Crick claimed that man’s freedom is “in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” Crick believed that the whole of our mental life, all our choices and all our responsibility, was no more than a kind of determined chemical software programme running in a computer-like brain. No. Christians are no friends of such determinism. Men choose freely. The line of Cain bit it off and spat it out and did it their way. So the image of God means that the line of Cain also has a freedom.
Again, being made in the likeness of God means that all Cain’s descendants had an aesthetic sense. We would expect those who are made in God’s image to be creative musically, and write poetry, and decorate their homes attractively, and design the clothes they wear for special occasions, and sing, and forge metal. The Cainite civilization is going to be renowned for its works of art, its cities and architecture, its stress on education and scientific achievement and business and medical science. Its gifts in these areas are going to surpass much that the seed of the woman is able to produce. It will have its glorious composers and sculptors, its poets and engineers, its judges and entrepreneurs. The devil took Jesus up to the top of a mountain and showed him the world in all its glory and Christ didn’t contradict and say that it wasn’t glorious because it had all been made by men and women who bore the image of God.
Again, in the Cainite culture you will find community and relationality; you will meet fine lasting friendships like those of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, and again of Coleridge and Wordsworth. You will hear of the bravery of men and women in the line of Cain, of one of them laying down his life for a friend, of women refusing chemo treatment lest the unborn baby they are carrying should suffer. You see wonderful solid marriages amongst the descendants of Cain. Husbands and wives bound together in the commitment of total, permanent and exclusive love. This is because they are all made in the likeness of the Triune God who said, “Let us make man in our image . . . Let us,” said the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. We are made for others. It is not good for man to be alone. So you will find men and women hating the life of being a restless wanderer, and wanting to live in cities. What other general feature of the line of Cain do we observe?
iii] Cain and his descendants are all addressed by God.
When Cain has killed his brother God does not say that he will never talk to him again. God takes the initiative and he interrogates Cain personally. “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? Where is your brother Abel? What have you done?” God questions him and condemns him for what he has done. So God speaks today to the whole world of man. He does so through the conscience that he has given to every one of us. He does so by writing the things of the law in men’s hearts so that all men know that running away from marauders, dropping your weapons in battle, deserting your friends, running away, not protecting your family and home and village is cowardice.
God also speaks to us in creation. The heavens declare to the line of Cain that God is majestically glorious. They say, “God is infinitely mighty and divine.” Through the Scriptures God speaks to favoured men and women. God has spoken to our fathers by the prophets and in these last days by his Son, and so the knowledge of the great biblical narrative has gone round the world. The story of Noah’s flood has reached many civilizations. The Old Testament Scriptures have pervasively affected the Koran. The New Testament has affected the Book of Mormon. For two thousand years, but particularly in the last two centuries, the influence of the Bible has affected virtually the whole world. The Scriptures are read; texts are posted outside churches; the Gideons give them away and place them in universities and hospitals and hotels. The whole Bible is read constantly over satellite radio stations. The Word of God is also preached and borne witness to by millions of Christians, and so, I say, God is speaking to all the sons of Cain. Of course their knowledge is fragmented and confused, but all men know far more than their behaviour, and that is their condemnation. There is no person who has not in the middle of the night been awakened by God and summoned to give an account of himself to the Holy One.
So I have answered this first question concerning Cain and his descendants, what general comments can we make about them? And I have said that they are all living in our Father’s world, they are all created in God’s image, and they are all addressed regularly by God.
2. WHAT ARE THE PARTICULAR CHARACTERISTICS OF CAIN AND HIS LINE?
What does this fourth chapter of Genesis tell us about them? Does it confirm what we have said about every natural unregenerate man? We must say two things about the Cainite civilization, making a couple of very different judgments upon them.
i] The descendants of Cain are clearly a culturally creative people.
You notice firstly that Cain marries. He doesn’t have a ‘partner’ or a ‘live-in girlfriend’; he has a wife (v.17). They have full conjugal union and become the parents of Enoch. What a marvellous ordinance the family is. I suppose more than ten years has passed since Ferdinand Mount wrote a book called ‘The Subversive Family.’ You understand the implications of that brilliant title. Here is Caesar and the all-controlling state, and it gives its subjects its ideas and values about what it should believe and how its citizens should live, coercing them to toe the line. “Education, education, education,” Caesar chants. In other words, the state is the sphere from which your education comes. Caesar will tell you what is the good life, and who is your neighbour, and what is man’s chief end, answering all the big questions of how we should live. But, wait a minute, here is the divine institution of the family! And the husband and wife in their homes are nonconformists to Caesar. The husband may say, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” What a mighty influence the family has in resisting tyranny and passing on its possessions and lands, its values and enthusiasm, its faith and its God to the next generation. So there is family life and you find it in the line of Cain.
Again, notice that Cain builds a community, a ‘city’ the Bible says (v.17), but it is referring to a gathering of people who live together. They divide the work so that one becomes a shoemaker, another a wheelwright, another a weaver, another a medical man, another a plumber, another a roofer, and so on – a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker – so that not one person alone has to try to make and do everything. In the Cainite civilization there is mutual dependence. So in the seed of Cain here are those who are herdsmen and live in tents (v.20), and another man is a musician and the father of all who play the harp and the lute (v.21). One man, the famous Tubal-Cain, is a metal worker. He forges all kinds of bronze and iron (v.22), while another man becomes a poet (v.23). What do we have here? Graham Harrison suggests the following;
“We are given in this chapter an account, in microcosm, of the unfolding development of the human race. Indeed there is something exceptionally modern about this chapter. Take the various things that I have mentioned – don’t they form an essential part of many people’s lives today? Were you to ask them what is needed for a happy and fulfilled existence here upon earth, many would answer you in terms of this chapter. They would say that a man needs food, enjoyment, a bit of culture – the arts, music, drama, whatever it is. Or, at a more popular level, he needs a radio and a television set in the corner of his house, so that he is able to turn it on and have his little bit of culture coming into his own home. Then, as well as that, modern man needs industry. And he needs sex, doesn’t he? That is all the rage in these days. No restraints, no limitations; if you want it, you take it. Lamech is a very modern man. In other words, like so many parts of Scripture when you read it with insight and understanding, this chapter is not just telling you about something that happened many thousands of years ago – it is doing that, but it is not simply doing that. It is also saying, Don’t you see our society in this? Don’t you see that here is a mirror to the world – that this is the way the world goes? It is not quite as old, but almost as old, as creation. These are the things that men want and grasp after and strive for. These are the things that men think will bring them satisfaction.” (Graham Harrison, Beginning at the Beginning, Sermons from the Book of Genesis, Bryntirion Press, 1999, p.38). So the Cainite culture is diverse and creative.
ii] The descendants of Cain are clearly a morally depraved people.
You see two examples of this. We are introduced to a man called Lamech and he decides he will marry two women, and so the degradation of women begins in the line of Cain. You nowhere come across a woman who decides she will marry another husband. It is always another wife taken by a man, isn’t it. What do we say about this? That God made one wife for Adam; he brought Eve alone to him and the two become one flesh. Three cannot become one flesh, and that was generally observed in the Old Testament. Isaac had one wife; Noah had one wife; Hosea had one wife; Isaiah had one wife. That was the approved pattern in Israel. “But,” you say, “compared to the behaviour of Israel’s neighbours, polygamy is surely better.” True, we can always find someone worse than ourselves. Polygamy is a lesser sin than promiscuity. The Canaanite gods of fertility had temple harlots and that was basically religious prostitution, and compared to sexual licentiousness polygamy was tolerated in Israel. There was no stoning or excommunication from Israel for such a relationship, but it was always degrading and divisive. No blessing rested on Abraham’s polygamy. It was a poor, human, makeshift solution, a sign of lack of faith. It led to contempt, and jealousy, and quarreling in the home and estrangement between husband and wife
Examine the history of all who were to follow Lamech in this first example of polygamy in the Scripture. We are told that Esau’s two wives “were a source of grief” to his parents (Gen. 26:35), and Jacob had nothing but trouble with the two sisters he married within a week of one another. When he came in from the fields at the end of a day’s work he was confronted with anything but a peaceful home. There was rivalry, envy, hatred and a power struggle between his two wives under his own roof. Finally a burst of anger exploded between himself and his favourite wife Rachel. Doesn’t that phrase ‘favourite wife’ give you a chill? The jealousy continued among his children, and the children of Jacob’s other wives sell their half brother Joseph, the son of the favourite wife, into slavery. They easily lied to the old man that a wild animal had killed Joseph and they broke his heart. It was no big deal because their home had always been Heartbreak Hotel. That’s the fruit of polygamy. In the story of Abimelech polygamy leads to murder. There’s the war of succession and Abimelech kills his 69 half brothers. Think of it! Look at the troubles in King David’s family because of his polygamy. Solomon’s kingdom was ruined through polygamy as “his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (I Kings 11:4).
It is all a very dark picture, and if you know anything about Islamic countries and African nations where polygamy is allowed you are confronted with the poverty that results from looking after many wives and hordes of children. I was in a district of Kenya called Thimlich where a man a generation ago married ten wives. He was a poor subsistence farmer who would have had difficulty in sustaining one wife and their children. Many children died and they all lived from day to day wondering where the next meal was coming from. It was a fight to stay alive and it is still like that as I speak to you now, and so it is all over Africa. Then there are also the heritage quarrels, the succession feuds, the tribal wars, the endless intrigues, the murders, and the fear that an adversary will use a magic power to kill you. In Africa there is a close link between witch doctors and black magic and polygamy. Here in Genesis four it all starts in the line of Cain with Lamech and this bare statement, “Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah” (v.19). The New Testament says barely that an elder should be the husband of one wife.
The other example of depravity you see in the theme of Lamech’s song in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth verses; “Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.’” You see what it is? A song of vengeance. A young man had wounded Lamech, maybe aimed a punch at him, or thrown a stone at him and hit him. Lamech had retaliated swiftly and cut the teenager down. You hear about it all the time. Road rage; “you cut me off . . .” An argument in a pub; “who are you looking at? . . . you’re looking at my girlfriend”, the knifings in the evenings in Glasgow that have made Scotland the most violent country in Europe. What an extraordinary fact! It all goes back to Cain and his line. This is what Lamech did, flaunting himself in the face of God. “I have killed a man,” he says, “I cut him into little pieces. It was a slow lingering death. I got seventy-seven times vengeance on him for daring to hit me, and I got away with it. Nothing has happened to me!” Cain was cursed for what he did. God put a mark on him and he became a vagrant and a wanderer for the rest of his life. If anyone sought to kill Cain then sevenfold vengeance was pronounced on him. “Well, I’ve killed me a man,” boasts Lamech, “and no divine vengeance whatsoever has come upon me, certainly not sevenfold vengeance. What is God going to do about it? Nothing.”
Don’t we come across this spirit in our age, for example in the Saturday night fights, in the iniquitous suicide bombers, but even in the music of popular culture? This week’s papers have told of a West Indian rap band who have been disallowed entry into England because their lyrics are full of violence. Some of their songs are not allowed to be played on the BBC. They chant about killing homosexuals and they defend it by saying that that is the attitude to gays in the West Indies. Then God have mercy on us. These verses in Genesis four, this song of Lamech is almost a primitive form of rap, glorying in violence, isn’t it? “‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.’” This is where we are in the Western world today, right in the mainstream of the Cainite civilization.
See what we are meeting in this catalogue of human sin. We are confronted with a catalogue of human misery. You look at the way Cain is living as a vagrant fighting to survive. See Lamech’s behaviour, his home life, consider the boy he has murdered, look at this man’s boastful spirit glorying in his shame, and what we are confronted with is a catalogue of human grief. You think of the pain that lies under the surface of the whole line of Cain; under the bluster and the rejection of the living God are the broken hearts and the battered wives and babies, the suffering mothers, all the tears and anguish. Isn’t that part of the frustration of men holding down the truth in their ungodliness. What God said to Saul of Tarsus he says to these men and women, “How long will you kick against the goads?” Isn’t it a painful thing to kick out and kick against the sharp point of a goad? But that is what you are doing when you resist the God who is speaking to you. Little wonder multitudes are taking prescription pills for being depressed. Little wonder they want to smoke nicotine, and take drugs, and try to drink their troubles away. You can see all sorts of psychological and social problems in our society as people struggle in the slough of despond because of the misery they are in. The wages of sin is death.
So here is a community which, we are told, has agriculture, industry, the arts, family life, poetry and the rest of it, but it also has polygamy and murder, a glorying in violence and the suffering that comes from that. They are people who defy God. They are daily confronted with God’s creation, they are made in the image of God, and God is speaking to them constantly, and yet the civilization of Cain holds down such truths in their unrighteous living. In other words, to possess those truths doesn’t necessitate the practice of those truths. They know God but they behave like demons, and the fact that they behave so wickedly is no proof that they don’t know God. What are they doing? They are holding down the truth by their sexual behaviour and by glorying in violence. They are clamping down on their consciences and the voice of God in creation. In other words the truth these people cleave to is a truth that clamours for a certain response. It is saying to them, “Turn from your sin to me in repentance. Bow the knee! Worship God!” It is beseeching truth. It is truth that calls for a decision. It is not a ‘take it or leave it’ truth. It is not truth in the abstract. It is not dispassionate truth. It is a word that comes from the living God and it demands existential action.
But what do they do? They keep it under, hiding it away, suppressing it. They are keeping the lid on this tremendous vision of God’s glory that surrounds them night and day. They are refusing to acknowledge God. They will not worship him. It is generating enormous pressures in their minds, but they keep capping it – like the pressure a mighty artesian well brings on its cap trying to burst out. I saw a burst out once, so dramatically. There was a man who had attended our church for a time, but he had stopped coming long before I became the minister, but his wife came to the women’s meetings. At the end of his life he was sick and I went to visit him in the local hospital. His wife was with him, and just before I was preparing to leave she turned to him and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice for Geoffrey to pray before he went?” He shook his head saying “No.” She protested, “Come on,” she said, “He’ll say a little prayer before he goes.” He got quite agitated, “No! No! No!” he said loudly and heads turned around in the other beds. She wouldn’t take his ‘No’ for an answer. “Come on Geoffrey,” she said to me, and looked at him. “O all right,” he muttered with a groan. And I prayed the most insincere and stumbling prayer of my life. You understand what was going on? He was raised in a Baptist church and had heard the gospel but there came a time in his life when he clamped down on its testimony to him and continued to do that for forty years. Now as he was a dying man he didn’t want to face up to the possibility of being wrong. He didn’t want to hear a man talking to the Lord he had rejected commending him to God asking God to show him mercy via Jesus Christ. “No! No! No! Not God. Not praying to God.”
That is how the world behaves clamping down on the truth, even when they have a few days to live. Why are they acting like that? In the interests of their unrighteousness. In other words, they love their sins more than God; they love their own opinions and attitudes more than the cross; they love to do things in their own unrighteous ways. Of course they defend themselves saying, “They haven’t got enough evidence to believe in Jesus Christ.” They claim that it’s in the interest of science or academic integrity that they’re not believers in the Bible, so that they’ve not been convinced. They keep their heads erect. They don’t cringe at religion. They can’t bow before this God.
So where do we stand today? The people of the British Isles are reflecting in their own national life these precise features from Genesis. We are living in a day of technological and cultural achievement and yet enormous spiritual and ethical decline. We’ve been living on the moral capital of the Christian past for decades and now we are facing a new situation one in which our God is gone, the one in whom we spoke solemnly in our courts of law, the one who was witness of our marriage vows, the one who is prayed to at the beginning of each day in Parliament, the one in whose name our monarchs are crowned, the one whose wisdom was the foundation of daily education, but now he is gone from the scene. You look for him and where is he? And so his morals can’t survive without him; his view of marriage is gone, and wisdom is gone because it begins with fearing him, and crime and punishment are gone, and the nation is more divided than ever.
You may think that I am a prophet of doom, but I must remind you of one fact that has been often observed in the history of the world, that democracy has been able to flourish only upon a Christian foundation. I find in the whole story of European civilization that it has flourished effectively when people of high moral and spiritual standards are its leaders. When a Hitler or a Stalin takes control then democracy shrivels. You see, in a democracy the people are the masters, but when a people lose their theology, and lose their God and lose their categorical imperatives then there can only be an inevitable regress into anarchy. Hear some words of the late Professor A.J.Ayer, a high priest of atheism, the late TV pundit. He said once that there was no such thing as good or bad acts, merely feelings of “boo!” or ”hurrah!” Simply ‘feelings.’ And that conviction is the road to anarchy because everyone is left cheering or scorning the actions or beliefs of others. However, any anarchy will not itself be permanent because there will arise the necessity of imposing upon the disorder an order that tyranny alone can control. You see Iraq today and the longing of many people there to be back under a military dictatorship, that that is preferable to the present anarchy. That is why, in the abandonment of the Bible, and the consequent abandonment of absolute standards there is the challenge to the permanence of democratic institutions.
So we find ourselves – to say the least – on the threshold of total social and moral breakdown. One thing is certain, that the western world has no divine right before God. God does not need us. The Christian cause does not need western civilization, and when it pleases God to give us over as a consequence of the way we treat our marriage vows, and the way we abuse his gift of sex, and the way we slaughter the unborn child, and our greed and pleasure loving and violence, then God will dispense with us. But as I close there is one thing more, and it is the brightest light in this description of the Cainite civilization and it is the very last sentence in the chapter, “At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord” (v.26).
3. THE HOPE OF THE CAINITE CIVILIZATION IS THAT MEN CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.
We are told that Adam and Eve had another child and they named him Seth which probably means ‘appointed’ or ‘foundation.’ In his parents’ eyes after Abel’s murder when Seth was given to them God had appointed another seed, a replacement son, a line other than the line of Cain. Here was salt and light from God in the world, and we are told that in the fulness of time Cain became a father and during that time there was a turning to God, a reformation, an awakening of spiritual concern. People began to call upon the name of the Lord. They had had enough of all the violence and sensuality of the descendants of the line of Cain. Did they become sickened of that indulgent grievous lifestyle, the absence of moral seriousness and simple fun, and all its decadent fruits “We must know the Lord for ourselves. That is eternal life, to know him. What is life without God?” they said and they called and called on his name.
It happened once in the civilization of Nineveh, the people quite suddenly began to listen to a man speaking in open air meetings, a person whom God sent to speak to them. The whole nation was convicted; they were sickened of living for sin and self. Their lives were despairing and ruined, and then this man called Jonah was sent to them from God and he began to preach to them the message the Lord had given to him. He told this civilization that they were a lost people; he told them that they were on their way to destruction and they would be soon overthrown. “We are going to be overthrown. Think of it! We are going to be overthrown.” And we are told what was their reaction, “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’ When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (Jon. 3:5-10).
What greater hope can there be for a culture than that? That the royal family and the government believe God and they turn from their sins? That the beggars and the Big Issue sellers believe the street preacher when he cries, “Fellow sinners, have you ever heard of the gospel glory of the grace of God? Have you ever heard of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Have you heard the voice of Jesus saying, ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’?” Will you say, “Yes I did. I heard of the marvel of mercy from a holy God, and I saw your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” And God will say, “So you’ve been holding down the truth in the interests of your own unrighteousness?” What can I say? I’m guilty before God. I cannot say, “But I didn’t know.” I can’t say, “I was caught in the grip of forces outside my control. I was just a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” No, I know today what I shall know in the Great Day with even more clarity, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.”
What shall I do? I shall give up all my evil ways. I shall say, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that I will not perish.” What can I do? I can plead the name of Jesus Christ. I can say, “Father you say that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Take away my sin. You say that those who come to you in his name you will in no wise cast out, so don’t cast me out. Make me one of your children. Save me by the one who has lived for me, and borne all that my sins deserved, and spoken for me, and ever lives to intercede for me, the one who is offered for me in all the proclamation of the gospel as the Saviour.”
Remember this great gospel is for the sins of the dimensions of this whole Cainite civilization. I may be guilty of all the sins of Cain and of Lamech, every one of them, and yet the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin; “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains, and I wish that we could all believe this truth today, assured that the most serious of our problems is our estrangement from God, and our greatest need to honour him and serve him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
14th August 2006 GEOFF THOMAS