July 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Abel’s death and Cain’s rebellion shattered Adam’s hope if only for a little while. He witnessed the full impact of sin and the intensity of its consequences. And aren’t we the same way? When we hear of atrocities either from next door or from the other side of the world, we lose hope. We wonder, “Is God really there and caring for us? Is He still watching over us?” It is true that sin is in this world and until Christ comes again, there will still be sin in this world. But God does still have followers and there are still people who reflect His love and mercy even in an evil world.
This is the case with Seth and Enoch; both were followers of God in an evil world, and both brought some kind of hope. Seth was the son born to Adam and Eve after Cain and Abel. Eve named this son Seth, “For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” (Genesis 4:25 KJV). Seth means “compensation” or “appointed”, and he brought hope to his parents. Unlike Cain but like Abel, Seth feared God and obeyed Him. Adam and Eve taught Seth directly about God and about their sin. What an awesome experience that must have been to follow God at that time! For almost a millennium, Adam and Eve could impart wisdom of how to live godly and could be a witness, telling seven generations of people of how he walked in the presence of God. The many inhabitants of Earth could go to Eden and see the flaming swords and cherubim guarding the tree of life. At that time, “Skepticism could not deny the existence of Eden while it stood just in sight, its entrance barred by watching angels. The order of creation, the object of the garden, the history of its two trees so closely connected with man’s destiny, were undisputed facts. And the existence and supreme authority of God, the obligation of His law, were truths which men were slow to question while Adam was among them.” When the evidence is right in front of you, it’s hard to dispute its authenticity and existence.
After Seth had his first son Enos, “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26 KJV). See, with Cain and his family in his land and Adam’s family in their land, there was a clear division line between those who followed God and those who didn’t. They had worshipped God before of course, but now the distinction was clearer. Cain went on to found a city, but his descendants had a different purpose for themselves. Instead of seeking to be in the presence of God, they remained content with the Earth’s material possessions and with their own selfish desires. They were different from those descended from Seth who sought to do God’s will.
But they did not remain separate; “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” (Genesis 6:2 KJV). When truth mixes with error, only error comes out. Therefore, wickedness increased and humans sought to please themselves instead of God. Now, I’ve always imagined the world at that time as a time of extreme wickedness, a time of glorification of sin, and a time of general ignorance. And this was true to some degree; evil was prevalent, and with humans living and increasing their knowledge for centuries one can only imagine what was going on. But not only was it a time of darkness, it was also a time of light. Man’s intellect and strength at that time is unparalleled. If we marvel today at the discoveries and intelligence and physical prowess of man who live for 70-80 years, imagine how we might wonder at the discoveries from mankind who lived for more than 8 or 9 centuries. Yes they may not have had the plethora of technological and scientific discoveries that we have today, but surely they were close. They developed in stature and mental capacity quickly just as we do. The difference is that they had much more time to improve and build in their knowledge. It was also a good time for the Word of God to be spread. Adam and Eve were able to tell of their time with God and about what they learned from Him. Everyone could see the garden of Eden and could share in our first parents’ sorrow in going against God. There were fewer degrees of separation between Adam and the other inhabitants of the Earth. Their mental capacities also worked for them. I’m sure that they had intelligent conversations and discussions on God’s Word and that they were able to spread their findings across generations. It’s really quite amazing when you think of the spiritual, intellectual, and physical accomplishments of those first people.
As an example of a follower of God, enter Enoch, son of Jared. The Bible doesn’t say much about his life. His biography spans only 4 verses: “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:21-24 KJV). Ellen White adds a bit more to his story and gives some context to his life. Enoch lived for 365 years on a sin-filled Earth, yet he remained faithful to God and desired to be closer to Him. He didn’t become a hermit, he lived and worked all the while doing God’s will. He embodied the command to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2 KJV). He was a vessel for God at that time and he shared God’s Word to the believers and to the skeptics. Shouldn’t we be the same? We live in a sinful world just as Enoch did. And we have the same capacity to reflect who God is in our character and to live as God wants us to live. To be in constant communication with God must have been amazing. To have such a close relationship with Him that God wouldn’t want to break the communication through death must have been the best experience known to man. I know I strive to have that kind of relationship with God. But in order to do so, we need to be in the world but not of the world. Not conforming to the ways of the world helps us to be in and to improve upon a relationship with God.
Through Seth and Enoch, we see hope for the newly sin-filled world. There were many other unnamed people who followed God of course. Though evil is here, there will always be good.
July 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
The first murder on Earth foreshadows the attitudes of the Earth’s future inhabitants. Whenever I read about the encounter between Cain and Abel, I’m always amazed at how quickly sin spreads. Of course, sin was first manifested on Earth with Adam and Eve ate the fruit and then proceeded to place the blame on others instead themselves. And death had already manifested itself when God made clothes from animal skins for Adam and Eve. But with Cain and Abel, we see the death of the first human being and the first casualty of this great controversy.
God had explicitly told the first family about how to go about about sacrificing a lamb for their sins. The sacrificial lamb was to mirror Christ’s death on the cross and no other sacrifice or offering would suffice. “Without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin; and they were to show their faith in the blood of Christ as the promised atonement by offering the firstlings of the flock in sacrifice” (71). Abel followed the Lord’s command and followed His will. He recognized the importance of the sacrifice. Cain, on other hand, wanted to follow his own will. In his mind, atonement was obtained through his own works, not through the mercy of God. When God accepted only Abel’s offering of a lamb and not Cain’s offering of fruit and vegetables, Cain was enraged. See, Cain resented the fact that Abel’s offering was accepted; Cain knew that what he did was wrong and what Abel did was right, yet he still wouldn’t obey God’s command. God saw Cain’s anger and asked, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6, 7 NIV). Again, here is the power of choice and here you can see God’s unchanging love in the mercy that He shows to Cain. He was given the opportunity to change, to make things right. Instead, Cain let sin rule over him and he killed his brother.
We see this dynamic many times in history and even today; we see the struggle between followers of Christ and followers of Satan, bringers of love and agents of hate, good and evil, right and wrong. Those who bring evil usually know what is good and right, yet they hate those living right all the more, for “everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:20 NIV). We’ve seen this throughout history in the murders of so-called heretics and in the injustices and oppression that we see in the world.
Not only did this murder set the stage for the great controversy, it also introduced the idea of being saved by works alone. Many people believe that so long as you do what you think is right and follow God’s law without surrender, you’ll be fine. Such is not the case. Simple following the letter of the law is not saves us, but it’s accepting Christ as your Savior and surrendering your life to Him. In Ephesians, Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9 NIV). We are saved through the grace and mercy of God, not by our own works. And even if we were to try and be righteous, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6 NIV). We are sinful and even at our best we’re still sinful.
When we accept Christ as our Savior, following His law and His will comes next. We will find it a delight to follow it instead of a burden, and we follow it out of love for Him, not to gain a reward for ourselves.
The first murder painted a picture of the future of Earth, and today we still see its effects. Only when Christ comes again can the controversy be ended and sin be completely eradicated with its followers and originator.