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Archive for March, 2012

Every wrong has many victims. Those who care for the victim suffer, as do those who care for the person to blame. The guilty are never alone in their guilt, or in the price that is paid.

We each think there are things that we would never do, and it may be true. If our lives had been forged under the same circumstances as the criminal’s however, we might find that we’re not so different as we like to think. A great deal depends upon circumstances that only God can enable us to overcome.

We should always thank God if we’re not put to the test. We may not always recognize the wrong, and we may not see the pain, but God does. Others learn wrong from us, and children follow our example. Jesus said (Matthew 18:10), “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their Angels in Heaven always look on the face of my Father in Heaven.”

We may not see the pain on God’s face, but it’s there. The face of love is the face of God, for the Script tells us that God is love (1st. John 4:8). The wounds show on Jesus (Isaiah 52:14). If a woman had two sons, and one were to kill the other, it would be very unusual for the mother to want the killer to be put to death (2nd. Samuel 14:4-11). I think you would experience every negative emotion that has anything to do with anger and grief, but you wouldn’t want to lose the remaining son.

Adam and Eve suffered through that sad experience. Here’s something that people don’t usually understand about God; he loved both Cain and Abel as did Adam and Eve. All of them despised what Cain had done, but love dies hard.

The Lord knew Cain as a babe in his mother’s womb, and as a little boy playing with his brother Abel. As the face of Cain became that of a man turning away from the face of God, the cross of YHWH Elohim grew heavier.

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In the beginning God interacted with man in a different way. It wasn’t really a more personal relationship but a more physical one, so far as physics are concerned. Men knew who God was, but yet they didn’t really know him (Romans 1:21). It’s similar to the time when Jesus lived among us.

God met and talked with Cain on more than one occasion. YHWH Elohim appeared to him as a man in some form or fashion, and not in a display of omnipotent power. Our bodies would have to be made of some indestructible material to withstand the full presence of God.

Also, God’s desire has always been for society to be built upon brotherly love and the love of God, rather than fear or law. Love can’t be forced or built upon fear, and laws can’t change hearts. Various laws were given later as a necessary response to mankind’s lack of love (Galatians 3:19,21,22,24).

God asked Cain in Genesis 4:6, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” God already knows the answers but it’s fair to also require an answer from us. In Genesis 4:9 he asked, “Where is Abel, your brother?” Cain apparently didn’t understand the omniscience of God for he answered with the lie, “I know not.” He then forms a revealing question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

I don’t hear either love or reverence for God in Cain’s words. I see a fear of truth; the fear that drives mankind to either shun God, or to imagine him to be something different from reality. All the while Abel’s blood was crying to God from the ground.

We are all brothers. What kind of world would it be if we were our brother’s keeper? I’m not talking about keeping our brother at a disadvantage, or as a slave. It would mean building each other up, instead of tearing each other down. It might mean building homes instead of pyramids. God’s way would mean caring for that which your brother cares for. It would mean not “using” someone or taking advantage of them.

It’s good to give, and it’s good to get, but it isn’t good to give to get. That isn’t actually giving, but more like trading. Cain probably thought he could buy God’s favor with gifts. Such “gifts” are more like loans; if you accept them, then you are indebted to the giver. It’s even difficult for us to receive a gift graciously. We tend to feel cheated if we don’t receive another, and another…

Cain was probably more angry with God than with Abel. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “…As you did to one of these, the least of my brothers, you did to me.” I believe that what he said should be taken literally. That should be the attitude of every one of us, male and female alike.

2nd. Timothy 1:12  says, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him…” Jesus is the keeper; the good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep (John 10:11).

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There are other Hebrew words associated with the names of Cain and Abel that I didn’t mention earlier. “Qana,” can mean zealous, jealous, or envious. Cain wouldn’t have liked the idea of his brother getting the better of him in anything. He probably felt like he was a better man than his brother. Maybe he was in many ways, but better is a relative term.

Cain didn’t recognize his potential for evil. God had warned him that sin was waiting “at the door,” but Cain’s anger prevented him from listening. It lay on his mind until it ruled his life (ref. “Whispers in the Mind,” and “Nachash” in my Dec. 2011 archives). I don’t know whether he killed Abel in a fit of rage, or whether he planned it, but it was murder either way. In the things that we think, and in the stuff that we do, we can easily lose sight of things that really matter. We can lose ourselves in the process.

In my previous post, I mentioned the Hebrew word “abad,” which is translated as “tiller,” in Genesis 4:2. Another Hebrew word transliterated as “abad,” also applies to Cain’s life. The Hebrew letters “Aleph,” and “Ayin,” are both transliterated into English as an “a,” as well as other vowels. “Abad,” spelled with ayin instead of aleph, means to wander away, disappear, or to lose yourself. It’s often translated “destroy.”

“Abel” (Hebel), is spelled with the Hebrew equivalent of the letters h, b, and l. A different spelling of “Abel,” using “aleph,” b, and l, is the word for a meadow, and also means “mourn,” and “bewail.” No doubt it’s the origin of our English word bawl ( loud crying). I think of Adam and Eve searching for Abel, calling his name across the empty meadows where he had kept his flocks.

If you separate the name Abel into two words, “Ab,” spelled with an “aleph,” and a “b,” means “Father,” and “El,” is the shortened form of the word “God.” Cain lost his way, and the spirit of Abel returned early to the Father in heaven. God tried to reason with Cain, but have you ever tried to reason with an angry man?

If Cain had only thought of the pain that he would cause, he might not have let something that began as a small problem lead to sacrificing everything for nothing. I’ve seen that sort of thing happen over and over. He may have felt like some great principle was at stake that called for the sacrifice of brotherly love, but he had little feeling except for himself.

The empathy that we feel for other human beings depends a lot upon our own experience. We can’t understand something very well if we haven’t experienced it ourselves. That is true even of those we love. When we see loved ones hurting, our pain can be greater than theirs in some ways, but we’re still seeing from the outside. Our feelings, and our pain, can even mask that of others. I’m sorry, but sometimes I can’t see you crying because of my own tears.

Sometimes, we can be like Cain, hurting our own selves, and there may nothing anyone can do but suffer along with us. The best thing is to take God’s advice, and “leave it at the altar (alter),” and seek to be reconciled to our brother (Matthew 5:23-24).

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The Hebrew names of Cain and Abel tell a story. When Cain was born Eve said, “I have gotten (qanah) a man with the help of the Lord.” She may have been thinking that her first child was the “Seed” who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). “Cain,” (Qayin) is phonetically similar to qanah, and means “lance.” Qanah (gotten) means to erect, or create. It’s also used in speaking of buying, or earning something.

It is also the word for a calamus, or a reed. “Cane,” is a reed-like plant with a straight stalk like the shaft of a lance. Cain probably thought of himself as an upright guy, and that he could earn the favor of God. He was a tiller (abad) of the soil. He worked (abad) hard. “Abad,” also means “a deed,” “servant,” or “slave,” and is sometimes translated “worshipper.”

Cain would probably have been the kind of church member who gets things accomplished. He would likely have taken pride in paying his tithes, and would have looked good to all the external indicators. He brought an offering to God from the fruits of his labors. He was the kind of person who would set standards. The Greek word “Kanon,” means “a straight reed,” or “rule.” It’s where we get our word “canon,” for a standard of faith or law.

Rules are necessary, and the higher the standards, the better, but man’s standards often conflict with those of God. Having a code to live by doesn’t always mean that you can meet it either. Cain thought that he was “able,” but he didn’t know his own heart. Abel realized that he himself, was not “able,” so he placed his hope in the sacrifice of God. He knew he didn’t have anything with which to bargain with God. Good deeds should by all means be done, but they’re not good enough. Our motives are seldom one hundred percent pure, and Cain didn’t realize, as did Abel, that he needed grace (chen).

Some people think the original language indicates that Cain and Abel were twins, which is certainly possible. Abel may have received the name we know him by at some later time. I don’t know why Eve would have called him “Hebel” (“Emptiness,” or “Vanity”), from the womb, unless the name originally meant something else. I suppose that she could have thought that a second child was unnecessary, but I don’t think that would be the reason. Perhaps, she was simply thinking of the physical emptiness of her own womb.

“Hebel,” means something transient, or unsatisfactory. Those meanings could have become attached to his name because of his untimely death, but they also seem to fit his life. He was probably a humble man. “Hebel,” is translated  as either “vanity,” or “vanities,” five times in Ecclesiastes 1:2. Abel likely recognized the vanity of life; that an offering doesn’t necessarily mean acceptance, and that only God could save him. He would have identified with these words; “In my hands no price I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” Cain didn’t love his brother, and he didn’t love God, and love is the only acceptable offering.

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