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Life on the snake’s path – Genesis 4 (continued)

by on November 18, 2014

There’s one more thing we need to see to complete the picture. How did Cain kill his brother so easily? Remember, Cain is the guy with the sharp metal tools. And now we find out what man can do with that technology. Instead of cutting the wheat with his sharp tool, he cuts down his own brother. Mankind was supposed to be the caretaker, using his skills to nurture God’s world. That’s what technology is for. We’re supposed to use it to serve others, to serve the creation. But we found a different use for technology didn’t we: murder.

The bible is always cautious about technology. It’s not evil, but there’s a problem with it. Technology makes man more powerful. And man is walking the snake’s path. And so ever since Cain there has been this close connection between technology and violence. We made swords and chariots and then later bullets and battleships, every technological advance has been used to make weapons. Even the internet started as a military network. Eventually we learned how to split the atom, so of course we had to build a bomb. And as soon as we had that nightmare weapon, we used it on people. The current technology of choice is Toyota Hilux, mounted with a heavy machine gun, that can spit out metal at an insane speed while driving at an insane speed. We humans have made it clear that there is no end to the evil things we will do if we can only find out how to do them.

That’s the point of Lamech’s song. The story skips down to the seventh generation: And we meet Lamech and his son Tubal-Cain. Tubal Cain continues the Cain’s technology of metal working, and His dad Lamech sings a lovely song about how he’s using it.

Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;

you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for striking me.

24 If Cain is avenged  seven times over,

then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

This is a battle song. Lamech’s achievement is that he has killed men. And boys. On the slightest provocation. His boast is that his violence is unrestrained. It is much worse than his forefather Cain’s violence. vengeance not seven times but seventy seven times over. Violence that knows no bounds. What a great man Lamech this is!

But in context, what we are supposed to hear is the mad boasting of the man who has the technology in his hands. He has the sharp weapons. The overwhelming force. And he loves to use it!

Christians shouldn’t get too excited about technology. The bible adopts a cautious approach to it. We should always be asking, what will it be used for? Medical science is used to heal – and also to abort unborn children. The internet’s main use is…pornography. We don’t reject technology, but be realistic. Whenever you think about technology, try to imagine it in Lamech’s hands, in Cain’s hands, in the hands of someone who is walking the snake’s path into madness. Because that is how it’s going to be used. It’s going to make it easier to hurt people. If sin traps us into cycles of violence like a merrygoround, technology makes the merrygoround spin faster. When John Howard had the guts to ban guns in Australia, do you know what happened to the number of mass shootings? It dried up to zero. He could see that it’s not always wise to put powerful technologies in to peoples’ hands.

But you can’t take away all the technology, can you? We’ll always have it. So is there any hope for mankind, or are we doomed to destroy ourselves forever? Can we ever get off this crazy merrygoround of sin and violence repeating over and over?

When Jesus’ disciple Peter asked his master, how often should we forgive a brother who sins against us. As many as seven times? do you remember Jesus’ answer? Seventy seven times. He’s quoting the battlesong of Lamech: if cain got vengeance seven time over, I’ll get it seventy seven times, said lamech. But Jesus turns that upside down. Don’t forgive seven times, but seventy seven times.

Sin is a terrible force, but Jesus is bringing even greater force into the world: the power of forgiveness. This might sound like a nice dream, but Jesus didn’t just come to say be nice to each other. There’s no power in that is there? No, Jesus came did something new, something that got to the root of the issue. He took all our anger and violence on his shoulders, he became the brother whose blood was shed. At the cross, Jesus became the victim of our murderous hatred. He played the part of Abel.

But he also became the guilty one brought to justice, punished with our punishment. Cain had said, my punishment is more than I can bear. And it really was. There was nothing Cain could do to wipe away the stain of blood. But now Jesus bears Cain’s punishment, and yours and mine. He carried that load, became the guilty one.  That cycle of violence, that merrygoround of sin, Jesus enters into the whole loop: he’s the victim, and he’s the guilty one. He gets on and he changes the pattern.  ‘Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ Instead of striking back Jesus willingly gives himself to serve. He takes that whole cycle of bloodshed and vengeance, and he breaks the merrygoround. He takes it down to the grave.

Abel’s blood in the ground cried out for justice, and revenge. But the blood of Jesus says something new and better: it says ‘forgive them’. It breaks the pattern of sin, wipes away the bloodstain and brings as back to God. Forgiven, clean. The saints in the book of revelation have these white robes they’re wearing,and how did they get to be so white, well they used to be dirty but then the washed them in the blood of the lamb, and those robes came out white as white. That’s the power of forgiveness.

So when Jesus said forgive seventy seven times, he’s not just saying wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get along. He’s saying I’m bringing in a new power that beats sin, That overturns it: the power of forgiveness and release. The power which I called down with my own blood.

It starts with Jesus, but then it flows out into us his people, and we become a repentant people, we have this hope of getting free from our sins. That’s what repentance is isn’t it, it’s saying I want to get away from this sin and not do it any more. I want to get off the merrygoround of sin and hatred and violence. To say that, you need a lot of hope and strength. Hope and strength which you can only find at the cross of Jesus. When we repent in the name of Jesus we tap into this great new power, the power which will oneday recapture and renew the whole of this messed up creation, the power of God’s forgiveness and release from sin.

And we start to learn again, we learn to forgive instead of hate. To serve instead of harm. To use our tools to do good instead of evil. The prophets looked forward to a day when people would beat their swords into ploughs. That’s it isn’t it, reversing what Cain did. That day, which the prophet foresaw, has now come. The day for you and me to serve our neighbour in love. To use fire to cook meals for others and warm the cold, not to burn them. To use our strength to protect the poor, not to kill enemies.  To use our education to improve the world, not to exploit it. We humans have lived long enough under Abel’s blood. Now we are invited to come and make a fresh start  through another man’s blood: the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s something worth boasting about!

From → Bible talks

One Comment
  1. Jon Blyth permalink

    Thanks Jono, great way to start the day reading this post.

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