(Today’s reading is from Genesis 4 – if you’d like to take part in this Lenten journey, you can learn more about the details at http://thepeopleschurch.com/genesis-in-40-days )
I love my brother, Joe. He’s five and a little less than six years younger than me. He’s my own sibling and he is far cooler, better looking, and smoother than I’ll ever dream of being. He does interesting things, with interesting people, in interesting places. I’ll admit, there are a few times I’ve been jealous of my brother but without exaggeration, I am much prouder of who he is than I ever am envious.
What makes a good sibling rivalry? The kind of competition that makes both siblings better and pushes one another onto becoming better men and women. How can you experience that kind of relationship without it turning into jealousy, anger, and envy?
Today’s passage is the worst of possible sibling relationships. Cain can’t stand that his younger brother Abel does something well. He can’t help but compare himself to his brother and in so doing he finds himself depressed, angry, and vengeful. Abel’s death comes so suddenly (v 8) without any words ever uttered in the chapter by Abel himself. Cain certainly speaks. Even though he is shown mercy by God in his punishment, he still begs God for more. There is never a sense of remorse for his brother’s death.
Why do we treat our brothers and sisters with such disregard, always focused on our wants, needs, and desires? Can we be happy for our siblings and celebrate when they celebrate? I can’t think of many sadder passages in the Bible.
Who Helps You Make a Decision?
The rebellion in chapter 3 inspires a myriad of questions:
- Why was the tree “a delight to the eye?”
- What is the sound of God walking in the garden?
- Why create the serpent anyway?
- What does it mean to know good and evil?
This is the stuff I love about Genesis. This book sets the stage for everything that is to come yet it also holds up on its own in a way that gives us a better picture of God, one another, ourselves, and our world. At the end of the day, I can’t help but wonder – who is to blame for this the events of this chapter?
When something goes wrong, something dreadfully, awfully, and terribly wrong, do we accept willingly accept responsibility? Because I usually look for other culpable parties before I’m able to step up and take ownership of my own mistakes, faults, and sins. Is it cowardice, self preservation, or just a fear of punishment that makes us so reluctant to accept our own culpability?
This is the first example, among many later, of sin in scripture. The reaction of Adam and Eve isn’t so different from our own…and their need for grace is similar to ours. Tomorrow’s chapter? Some of the first examples of that grace that is so desperately needed, even in the face of horrific choices.
“In the beginning, God created…”
I remember the first time I saw the Northern Lights. I was eighteen and hanging out on a beach on the Lake Michigan coast by the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. It was the very end of the summer and I was preparing to head to my freshman year at Alma College. I was excited, nervous, and anxious about starting school but this last night with friends was a welcome release. As we sat out on the beach, we noticed the lights start slowly until around 12:30 they were in full force. At that point, it was like nothing could stop them.
None of us wanted to leave, turn away, blink even. Yet just as quickly as they developed, they started to disappear. And then, we were left with waves, sand, and hope for some kind of return. That was a beginning of so many things in my life and it started with something so indescribable. Words, truly, don’t do it justice.
Genesis 1 and 2 – there are no good words to describe the beginning of something profound, incredible, and miraculous. The poetry of these first chapters of the Bible are impossible. They carry a weight far greater than the words on the page. “In the beginning…” To imagine the beginning of, well, everything…it’s impossible to comprehend.
Yet here we are and this is where we start.
I hope you’ll consider continuing this journey through Genesis as we continue together through Lent. This is the beginning. Let us marvel.
President’s Day Reading Catch-up
Days 13-17 – Numbers 33 – Joshua 24
Nothing like a long weekend to help you catch up on some reading, eh? Or, in my case, nothing like a long weekend with your family at a waterpark to wreck havoc on your good intentions. I feel like there is some kind of parallel between this weekend and the Hebrew people’s journey in the wilderness. Hear me out – they want to do the right thing, the thing God has called them to do, but something always seems to get in their way and distract them. They assume it’s going to be easy and, predictably, it never is. We’re still reading some difficult passages and truth be told, I’m looking forward to the end of this section.
This is a big chunk of the OT and by the time we finish it we’ll be out of the Torah and onto Joshua. That’s gotta mean something, right?
- Numbers 33 feels like a sitcom “clips” show. You know the episode I’m talking about? One of those shows that claims to be all new but it’s really just a collection of clips from the previous episodes. That’s what we’re dealing with here. A recap of what we just read in the previous 32 chapters. Actually, it’s helpful for me to reread this whole section. Nice to remind yourself how everybody got to where they are.
- Numbers 35 – Cities of refuge for those seeking asylum. I love this concept. Where are the places of security, refuge and sanctuary in our world today? Where do we allow the accused, the frightened, and worrisome?
- Again, I’m concerned with this approach to reading scripture. I know there are some subtle differences between the similar events that are retold in Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, but for the life of me, I can’t pick them out while reading this much this fast. What I am discovering are the larger themes and ideas that permeate throughout the meta-narrative – God’s continual presence, call and response, the need for obedience, humanity’s shortcomings, and the ability to forgive – just to name a few.
- Moses is again reminded that he will not enter into Canaan. What must he have felt to know that his children and grandchildren would see the land he had longed for for so long? Is that a comfort to us? To know our children will experience great joy, even if we do not?
- Retelling the 10 commandments – Deuteronomy 5
- Best part of Deuteronomy – 6:4-9 – SHEMA!!! I may not remember much else from my seminary Hebrew classes than these wonderful verses. This sticks and it should stick. I want to remember these verses- To keep these words. To share these words.
- Big warning – Deut 8:19 If you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
- Hooray! More food laws! I was wondering if I should eat roebuck or the buzzard. Guess not.
- Deuteronomy 15:10 – Give liberally and ungrudging when you do so
- And here come the sexuality laws…Deuteronomy 22…this deserves more attention…in another post…on another day…
- Fun new law I just learned? Deuteronomy 23:24 – If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in a container.
- Laws usually develop because of the actions of a community. I’d like to know the origin of this particular law and want to know how many times it occurred to warrant recording it in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 – If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand; show her no pity.
- Wrapping Deuteronomy up with another recap, this time set to a song. Way to go, Moses. I didn’t realize you had some music skills in addition to all the prophetic stuff!
- Moses’ eulogy is beautiful, fitting, and a nice conclusion to the Torah.
- It’s the turning point! We’re in Joshua!
- And let’s also welcome Rahab onto the scene. Her story is a pretty fantastic one – this foreign woman is responsible for giving the Israelites what they needed to come into the land and survive. She is one of many “women of questionable backgrounds” who proves to be part of the great story of all of God’s people. God chooses the most unlikely, even you and me. Her quick thinking and wise words make all the difference.
- Joshua 5:15 – Josh takes off his sandals in the presence of God’s holy messenger…very similar to Moses removing his shoes in front of the burning bush. Bottom line? Take off your shoes in the presence of the divine.
- Those sneaky Gibeonites tried to pull a fast one on Joshua. Didn’t seem to work out in their favor (Joshua 9).
- Joshua 12 is the list of kings defeated. That’s, um, a lot of war. A whole lot of war.
- Dividing up the conquered land – give it to the tribes, give the Levites their due, and make sure you set up cities of refuge. I think I got this section. Bring on Judges.
Posted in Bible in 90 Days, Genesis in Lent
Tagged Andrew Pomerville, Bible, Deuteronomy, Gibeonites, Joshua, Moses, Rahab, Reading, Robert Burns, Roebuck, The Bible in 90 Days, The Peoples Church of East Lansing, The Shema