Tag Archives: Cain

The Beginning of Prayer

When did people start to pray?

In Genesis 4:26 we read that people began to call on the name of the LORD (Yahweh) in the days of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren, specifically a grandson named Enosh. People spoke with God before Enosh was born, but conversations with God prior to Enosh were initiated by God: God spoke to Adam in Genesis 3, God spoke to Cain in Genesis 4. In prayer, a man or woman initiates communication with God by calling upon him.

Eve makes a statement in Genesis 4:25 about the blessing of having a son to replace Abel, who was murdered by his brother Cain. But she speaks of God in the third person (“he”). Prayer addresses God directly, in second person (“you”).

It seems natural to think that Adam or Eve or their son Seth (Enosh’s dad) prayed before their grandson Enosh and his generation were born. If they did, the Bible does not tell us. Instead, the Bible emphasizes Enosh and his generation. Enosh’s uncles, Cain and Abel, worshiped God in Genesis 4, but whatever Cain did was unacceptable to God and whatever Abel did died with him when he was murdered by his brother.

So we have no direct Scriptural evidence for prayer before Genesis 4:26. But in Genesis 4:26 we learn that Enosh and his generation began calling on the name of Yahweh at that time. In Genesis 4:26 something new begins.

“Calling on the name” is surely a reference to prayer. Enosh and his generation may have also sacrificed to God, as did Cain and Abel, but that is not mentioned. The emphasis is on prayer.

Many generations after Enosh, Jesus visited the Temple in Jerusalem. He was outraged by the distractions which the religious leaders had introduced in order to make financial transactions in God’s house. In an unexpected expression of righteous indignation, Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers and drives out the animals with a makeshift whip. He accuses them of turning God’s house into a den of thieves.

Then Jesus makes a fascinating assertion. He insists that his Father’s house is to be a house of prayer. Think of all the activities which Jesus could legitimately mention: praise, sacrifice, teaching, preaching, giving, fellowship, healing, but the only thing he mentions is prayer. Why?

Prayer is at the heart of biblical faith. The soul of spirituality in Scripture is the communion of God with the saints, his people. Humanity is created to know God and to enjoy him and his blessings.

After Adam and Eve sinned and broke the close relationship between humanity and God there was something vital missing in every person, something crying out for completion. Prayer is the heart’s cry for the One who is absent until forgiveness and restoration is affected and a new connection is made with the Maker.

In the larger context of Genesis 4-5 this verse at the end of chapter 4 highlights the contrast between the line of Seth (which includes Enosh) and the line of Cain (who killed his brother, Abel).

Cain’s descendants go to work developing the bountiful natural resources provided by God in order to build an impressive civilization. (I am especially fascinated with Jubal, the first to make and play musical instruments, or perhaps the first to develop music significantly enough to be considered the ‘father’ of all musicians.)

The creative use of nature is in no way sinful in itself. God filled this world with resources and he blessed humanity with the curiosity, creativity, intelligence and energy to discover and develop, to fashion and create. But the line of Cain in early Genesis is distinguished in this instance mostly by an omission, and what is lacking in Cain’s descendants is any effort to call upon the name of the Lord.

Seth’s line, on the other hand, has a desire to seek communion with God through prayer. And so, early in human history the division between believer and unbeliever surfaces (a continuation of the break between Cain and Abel). This is a division which will be seen in Noah vs. the antediluvian world, in Abraham vs. the Canaanites, Israel vs. the nations, the remnant of Israel vs. unfaithful Israel, and finally in the Jewish-Gentile church vs. those who reject Christ.

From Enosh to Jesus to now, the great feature that distinguishes the people of God is prayer, not just haphazard flirtations with prayer, but a heart that is hungry for the presence of God and refuses to give up seeking the Lord until he is found.

Unbelievers pray, but they are not known for their prayer.

God’s people should be seen by the world as a people of prayer.

Brother Richard

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Are We Our Brother’s Keeper?

Cain killed his brother Abel because he was jealous. When God asked Cain about his brother’s whereabouts, he fired back at the Lord in anger, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Cain meant that he was not responsible for his brother, but God disagreed.

Cain’s question has become a symbol for issues far greater than the tragedy between two brothers from the ancient past. The question is now asked in relation to the Church’s responsibility to society. Is the Church called to eradicate all injustice in this world?

God’s command in the Old Testament to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17) could be seen as an answer to Cain’s question. God’s people have a responsibility not just to their own family members, but also to neighbors. Does that include the society at large?

In the New Testament, a man asked Jesus about this command to love one’s neighbor. He wanted to know where to draw the line. How does God define “neighbor”?

Jesus answered the man’s question with a parable. A traveler was robbed and left for dead on a dangerous road. Two religious Jews passed by and denied the man any assistance. A Samaritan, however, went out of his way to help the dying man.

Jesus told his listeners, Jews, to be like the Samaritan, a people considered inferior by the Jews. Clearly Jesus expects his followers to help those who are in need, and not just those within one’s own socio-economic or ethnic group.

God’s people should reach across the multitude of lines that divide humanity in order to help anyone who is in need. But did Jesus expect his followers to establish a just and equitable society?

Jesus was a prophet like those in the Old Testament. They spoke truth to power. As bold messengers from the Lord, they stood against exploitation and oppression. They were advocates for the poor and disenfranchised in their culture.

Did not Jesus carry on the tradition of exposing and denouncing the sins of the ruling class? He did. Jesus excoriated the leaders in his day for using their places of privilege to enrich themselves at the expense of the marginalized.

The prophets’ fiery denunciations against abuses of power are a good model for the Church today, but only if their full message is understood and imitated. The prophets clearly saw that a just society depends upon a God-fearing and God-obeying people. Trying to remove injustice is not enough. The prophets’ ultimate goal was to turn the hearts of the people to the Lord.

Jesus condemned social injustice, but he left no mandate for redeeming cultures, societies, or governments in this age. He predicted that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed, and it was. He also predicted that all kingdoms in this age will fall and they will. Why? Every new generation battles with sin and injustice because this world is broken by sin; and this broken world needs not just progressive social reform, but radical spiritual change.

Jesus expects his followers to denounce social injustice, but not as part of an attempt to establish heaven on earth because that would be an impossible task. Every generation starts over with a fresh crop of sinners whose hearts are drawn toward disobedience to God, leading to another harvest of injustice.

Despite the perpetual and inevitable failure of humanity to achieve a just and righteous society, God’s people are not allowed to be pessimistic. Instead, the Lord expects his followers to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. In fact, the Bible asserts that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). But good works without faith are futile.

The man who asked Jesus how to define “neighbor” had first asked Jesus’ opinion about God’s greatest command. Jesus answered by noting the command to love one’s neighbor, but he said that it was second in importance, not first. The primary command is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength. Loving one another is not a substitute for loving God.

A rich man asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give all the money to the poor, but not so that first-century Palestine would be a more just and equitable place. The young man needed to rid himself of all that would keep him from following Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus was the ultimate goal then as it is now.

Jesus attended to the sick and poor, but he did so in order to bring attention to his message. At the end of his time on earth he gave his followers instructions for carrying on his work. “You all will be my witnesses,” he told them, to everyone everywhere (Acts 1:8). The record shows that Early Christianity’s main focus was placed on announcing the truth about God’s salvation.

Moments before Jesus surrendered his life on a Roman cross, he said, “It is finished.” What was finished? Surely he was not referring to the work of social justice, because as he uttered those words the world was filled with war, poverty, sickness, violence, and despair.

Jesus’ finished work was to give his life as a sacrifice for sin so that all who trust in him will be right with God and spend eternity with the Lord in a place without social injustice and without sin. Help those in need, but put your faith not in social reform, but in the Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord.

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church

Published by the Camden News in Religious Reflections April 12, 2013

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