Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Genesis 4:1-15


The playwright Christopher Marlowe personifies envy as a person unable to read who wishes to burn all the books in the world. In other words, envy is more than just wanting what another person has; envy involves wishing that another individual did not have what you desire.

I think almost everyone can admit to wrestling with envy. It is the sin with which I most struggle. As a young, single man, I envied others who appeared happily involved in a romantic relationship. In my professional life, I have envied others who were given opportunities I thought I deserved and who were recognized for their accomplishments.

When we harbor bitterness and when we resent seeing someone else enjoy blessings that we crave, it translates to the destruction of our relationship with God and with others. Envy kills.

The deathly nature of envy looks like a Greek fable. An Olympic competitor was so envious to see some citizens raise a statue in honor of one of his rivals that he went out late each night to try to tear down the monument. After repeated efforts, the athlete succeeded in knocking the statue from its pedestal. The irony is that when the heavy monument fell, it did so on top of the envious man, thereby crushing and killing him.

Genesis 4:1-15 records the account of two brothers, Cain and Abel. Both brought an offering to God but only Abel brought his best or first fruits. As a result, God respected Abel and his gift, but "He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell" (Gen. 4:5).

Cain wanted what Abel had, only without the attitude of Abel to receive it. Instead of allowing the root of bitterness to flare up in his heart, Cain needed to turn to the Lord in faith with a similar love as that of Abel. Nevertheless, Cain became envious and that envy led to the murder of his younger brother.

Even after this horrendous crime, the heavenly Father gives Cain (like his parents before him) an opportunity to confess. But Cain, in the same pattern of his mom and dad, tries to cover up his sin. His attempt proves unsuccessful, for Abel's blood calls out for justice from the ground.

Abel's life was unjustly taken, so his blood cried out from the earth for revenge. That is what all our murderous, envious Cain-like hearts deserve. Yet, the author of Hebrews presents a better word. Christ's life was unjustly taken, only His blood cries out from the cross for reconciliation. Jesus revives.

In her poem Envy Went to Church, Elva McAllaster concludes: "Envy went to church this morning./ Being Legion, he sat in every pew./ Envy fingered wool and silk fabrics,/ Hung price tags on suits and neckties./ Envy paced through the parking lot/ Scrutinizing chrome and paint./ ... Envy thumped at widows and widowers,/ Jabbed and kicked college girls without escorts,/ ... He liked his Sunday scores today/ But not enough:/ Some of his intended clients/ Had sipped an antidote marked Grace,/ And wore a holy flower named Love."

Let us sip of grace, clothing ourselves in love rather than envy. Let us say, "Christ, You are enough for me."


I can recall a time in my life when envy destroyed: 



from Best Devotional Commentary - "What Cain should have done when he heard God's words of judgment is to have fled to God, rather than from Him. He should have fallen on his knees and begged God, however great his sin, to forgive that sin and not allow it or anything else to drive him from God's presence. ... Cain, we are told, 'went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden (v.16). Do not let it be true of you that you 'went out from the Lord's presence.' Flee to Him, and find in Him the One you have needed all along" (Boice).

from Best Academic Commentary - "Alienation from God leads to fear of other men (cf. Job 15:20-25). Certainly it is the fear of retribution that is the heart of Cain's complaint. 'Anyone who finds me will kill me.' Whom he feared has perplexed commentators, since according to the Genesis account there was no one else around but his parents. This may indicate that the story of Cain and Abel was originally independent of the stories in chapters 2 and 3. However, it is unlikely that the editor was unaware of the problem created by juxtaposing chapters 3 and 4 in this way (cf. Westermann, Gunkel). Most probably he envisaged other descendants of Adam seeking to avenge Abel's death" (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "I would word the expository idea in this way: Those who worship must have as their goal always to please God so that they will not allow sin (envy and hatred) to work its ruinous ways in their lives. This formulation centers on the warning that God gave Cain but includes all the major facets of the story. Anytime a person is filled with envy and anger over God's blessing on others, there will be disaster if that anger is allowed to run its course. Cain has become the abiding example of this pattern" (Ross).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Genesis 3:8-13


A former seminary professor of mine spoke of potty training his 3-year-old son. On one particular morning, his son stood up on a chair and began to do "his business" in the floor. My professor yelled out, "What are you doing?"

He obviously knew what his little boy was doing, but his question (mostly out of shock) at least gave the little boy a chance to explain himself. As parents, we want our children to own up to their misgivings and improper conduct. We want them to acknowledge wrongdoing and learn from it.

God is a Father. When Adam and Eve disobeyed in the garden, God gives them opportunity to own up to their sin. God is not aloof or ignorant to what has happened. The Lord's queries of "Where are you? What have you done?" (Gen. 3:9,13) do not suggest He is less than all-powerful or all-knowing. Instead, God's response is that of a Father.

Too often, however, instead of owning up to our failings we try to cover them up.

Notice that Adam blames his wife. "The woman You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate" (Gen. 3:12).

Once when my wife and I were leaving her grandparent's home I thought she had left her cell phone at their house. Frustrated, I told her that we had to turn and go back (all of 1/4 of a mile). When she went inside, her father called her cell number. To my surprise, I had her phone in my pocket!

When she returned to the car, I told her she had the phone in the vehicle the entire time. Having already blamed her, I was now set on "saving face." I lied. Like me, many people have a tendency to blame others for their misfortunes, mistakes, or mishaps.

Notice that Eve blames the snake. She says, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (Gen. 3:13).

As a toddler, my oldest son had a propensity of running into solid objects like counter tops, tables, chairs, etc. Even though these objects were set in place, Whitman remained convinced that they were to blame for him suffering some personal hurt. Like my son, many people have a tendency to blame various things or circumstances for their own poor choices.

Notice that Adam and Eve both blame God. Adam says, "The woman You gave me." Eve essentially says, "The snake You made."

Don't we have a tendency to blame God when things do not go as we think that they should, or when we face consequences for poor decisions? Instead of taking ownership for ourselves, we shift blame. Instead of repenting, we excuse ourselves.

Learn a lesson from Adam and Eve. Do not point a finger at others or at circumstances or at God but accept responsibility for yourself.

More importantly, learn a lesson about Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Jesus reverses the pattern that Adam and Eve set. Rather than point an accusatory finger, Jesus - who was blameless in all things - takes our blame onto Himself. All you must do is believe and confess: Christ stands waiting to take your blame and render you forgiven!


I have a tendency to cast blame or excuse my own sin when: 



from Best Devotional Commentary - "The first scene is creation, in which God alone is active. He speaks and the worlds come into being. The second scene is domestic. It involves God, Adam, and Eve, as God makes a place for the man and woman and prepares each of them for the other. This scene fills chapter 2 and ends on the notation: 'the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame' (v.25). The third scene is the temptation. In it the characters are Adam, Eve, and Satan. It ends with the fall. Beginning with chapter 3, verse 8, we come to a fourth scene in which God now enters the garden to confront the other three. This is a judicial scene, a scene of judgment" (Boice).

from Best Academic Commentary - "Here the sins of the various characters are elicited from their own lips. But there is a certain gentleness about the inquisition. Delitzsch remarks, 'It was God their creator, who now as God the redeemer was seeking the lost.' By reverting to the term The Lord God  from v.8 (cf. 'God' in vv.1b-5), the narrator hints that God can still be man's covenant partner as well as his creator and judge" (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - Regarding the man, Ross points out that the truth finally comes out: "I ate." Regarding the woman, Ross indicates that her confession to God's original question finally comes out: "I ate." He then concludes, "In the dialogue the Lord shows His majesty and potency by asking penetrating questions, and the humans appear fearful and defensive with evasive excuses. Eventually they did confess, and it was sufficient" (Ross).