Monday, January 4, 2010

Grace in the story of Cain

As I attended church meeting on Sabbath at Andrews Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church (January 2, 2009), the speaker for the day, Pastor Lorenzo King, discussed how the Bible showed two contradictory positions on capital punishment. His explanations took me back to Genesis 4 with the example of Cain. This morning I decided to go over the account for myself and was touched by the immense grace and mercy that G-d granted unto this first murderer.

Cain, the world's first murderer, did not get capital punishment. Instead G-d gave him another punishment. Cain was to be a nomad, a wanderer, who would not make his living through agriculture and farming (Genesis 4:12).

Cain being a farmer all his life felt that this punishment was too harsh (Genesis 4:13), as the only way he knew to survive was through farming. After all, that is what he had done all his life.

As a result Cain appealed unto G-d to lighten his punishment, as he felt that it was too great for him to continue on earth and survive (Genesis 4:13). Perhaps he felt that with him having no homeland or base to dwell, being nomadic would leave him at the mercy and the hospitality of others. Cain did not see how he could continue on the earth. Perhaps he felt that demons awaited to torment, torture and kill him as he was outside of G-d's presence.

So G-d gave Cain a mark (Genesis 4:15). This was the first time G-d marked someone. Yet this mark gave Cain security. It ensured his protection from being killed. This mark preserved Cain from destruction. This was an act of mercy, an act that mirrors the salvation that G-d would later give to humanity.

In Egypt, centuries later, the Hebrew children would later also have a mark placed on them that would protect themselves and their families from the destroyer.

Even after Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, he found some place to dwell. In Genesis 4 verse 16, the Bible says that Cain dwelt in the land of Nod. This meant that even after being punished, Cain could find a place to rest and settle. Not only did Cain find settlement and refuge in earth; G-d also allowed him to build and establish a city (Genesis 4:17). After having his son, Cain was seemingly motivated to build for future people and give his son and future peoples a better life with greater opportunities and choices than what he had. Cain thereby became a community builder and someone concerned about urbanisation and putting in the provision for life in the future.

G-d also permitted Cain to become a contributor to humanity and help to fulfill G-d's mission or purpose of populating the earth. Cain did not just have a passive existence. Not only did Cain settle, but he also was able to share his life with his spouse and start a family (verse 17). His family also contributed to humanity's technological advancement and progress of humanity. His descendants, through one of his great grand son, who was also a murderer, were able to become musicians, skillful inventors and players of the organ and harp (verse 21). Another descendant through the same great grandson that was also murderer was able to master the art of tent making and cattle rearing (verse 20). Thus one domesticated cattle and discovered how to build tents while the other learnt how to build, repair and play musical instruments.

Thus G-d by being merciful unto Cain, and even his descendants allowed them to settle on the earth and make technological advances that the rest of humanity could benefit from.

In this case, the absence of capital punishment still meant that the families of murderers could add to human civilisation and existence, which in the long term bettered the human experience on earth.

This remarkable account of Cain and his family, shows that G-d is indeed merciful and compassionate and will even listen to a murderer and redeem his life. If G-d could hear that murderer's appeal and grant favour, G-d can hear our petitions for his favour, especially if we want to break from fears of the future, and the wrongs of the past. All of us who are looking for a fresh start, we can call on G-d and ask him to help us find our gifts, talents or comfort zone, where we can make a meaningful contribution to the human family.

Love, security and peace be yours as you seize the opportunities in 2010 to make a fresh start and attempt to move from a destructive past towards a future of making a meaningful contribution to the human family.

(You can read Genesis 4:9-24 for the account on which this blog entry is based.)