“We broke the world. We did this.”
Isn’t that clip amazing? Obviously, it takes a few artistic liberties with the Genesis story, but I think it captures the imagery in a powerful way. “We broke the world.” Remember that.
Well, we’re in week 4 of our series, “Origins,” looking at the first 11 chapters of Genesis.
Tim preached the first three weeks, and if you haven’t yet heard those messages yet, I strongly recommend you go back and watch them. They’re phenomenal!
In the first week of the series, Tim helped us understand the intentionality of the creation account in Genesis 1.
In the second week, we dug into the creation of Adam and Eve in chapter 2, and got a glimpse of how God intended the world to be - peaceful, abundant, free of shame…
But then last week we looked at chapter 3 - the fall of man. Tim helped us see how quickly God’s designs for creation were warped and broken once sin entered the world.
Today, then, we’re going to continue the story. We’re going to look at Genesis chapters 4-6, where the consequences of the fall begin to radiate outward, covering the entire world and all of humanity.
So grab your Bibles. You’re going to want the text in front of you, because we’ll be covering a lot of ground today! [House Bibles - app]
And by the way, Tim said the same thing a few weeks ago, but there is a LOT of stuff I simply don’t have time to dig into. I put a few extra details in the app, but I’m definitely going to miss a few things that you’re interested in.
Let’s start with the end of chapter 3. Adam and Eve have eaten of the forbidden fruit and God has explained the consequences now that sin has entered the world. Now words become action. Look at verse 20.
Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.
If you want to see that Adam and Eve’s sin had consequences, think about this: the very first event that happens after the fall of man is the death of an innocent creature. Look at verse 21. Animal skins. I mean, the animal that died had done nothing wrong (unless God made them snakeskin speedos)…
Until this point, everything in Eden was life and harmony and goodness. Adam had a relationship with the animals he named. Death wasn’t a thing. Everybody ate fruit and nuts and plants for food. (If you don’t believe me, look at verse 1:29).
But now, to cover Adam and Eve’s shame, a living creature had its life snuffed out. It’s the first glimpse that things are not what they were meant to be.
After doing this, God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden. Verse 24.
After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
A quick note about this. As far as the flaming sword is concerned, it simply represents the fact that there is no undoing what was done. Humanity is banished from the place God had created for us. We can’t go back to Eden again.
Now, it’s natural to see this and think God is being unjust somehow. “They made one little mistake and now they’re kicked out forever?” That’s not fair.
And I get why it would seem like that to us looking at the passage with a modern lens. But to the original readers - the Israelites - this whole story is about a God of grace reaching out in love, and humans constantly turning their backs on his designs.
Yes, God is the one banishing them, but which way do Adam and Eve leave the garden? East. This is significant. It’s a theme in the book of Genesis. When you see someone moving east, they’re always moving away from God - away from his purposes.
In other words, this was not what God had intended. Humanity brought the world’s brokenness on ourselves.
So for the next few minutes, I want you to try and set aside your modern lens and think about this story like an Israelite.
God - Yahweh - is a God who creates very good things for us. He intended for our world to be like Eden. But humans constantly find ways to throw his intentions to the curb.
So what I want to do is briefly look at three specific moments in these chapters, and look for this pattern:
God’s intentions -> Humanity’s rebellion -> The spread of sin’s corruption.
We begin with what happened to Adam and Eve’s firstborn son.
Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
Ok, so what was it about Cain’s offering that was not pleasing to God? Well, to be totally honest, we don’t know. The text doesn’t tell us.
There are lots of ideas:
· Maybe it’s because Abel brought the absolute best of his flock but Cain only brought a token offering.
· Perhaps Cain brought the wrong kind of crops.
· Maybe Cain as a farmer was tied to a specific part of the land, but Abel was a shepherd, spreading out and “filling” the land like God wanted. We don’t know.
What we do know is that Cain is ticked. The literal Hebrew here says, “Cain was very hot and his face fell.”
We all know how this feels. Jealousy, a feeling of unfairness, when you’re criticized by your parents or your boss… It messes with your emotions, right? You get hot. You want to lash out or curl up into a corner. We can all relate to Cain here!
That’s why it’s important to notice what God says to Cain. “You will be accepted if you do what is right.” Again, we don’t know exactly what Cain was supposed to do here, but he would have.
Whether he was supposed to give more generously, or give the right kind of offering, or whatever, God is saying, “Look. My arms are open, Cain. It’s ok that you messed up. Just turn back to me and you’ll be accepted.”
He goes on in verse 7, “But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.”
In other words, Cain has a choice. If he has the humility to align his life with what God has designed, he’ll be fine. But if he turns away, sin is all too ready to pounce, to take over his life, and lead him even farther from God.
Let’s see what he chooses.
One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.
Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
There it is again. East of Eden. Away from God’s intentions.
Obviously, sin pounced and Cain allowed it to control him. And look what happened. God intended for humanity to live in shame-free harmony with himself and with one another. That was his design. Cain chose to rebel and brought murder into the world.
One final point about this. God puts a “mark” on Cain which offers some kind of protection. And no, I can’t tell you what this mark was. The speculations are all over the map: a hairstyle, a dog, a city, and, my favorite: a unicorn horn. Entire books have been written about all the different theories.
All we can say is that, while this mark will be a constant reminder to Cain of his rebellion in killing Abel, it’s also a constant mark of God’s grace - Cain already has a punishment for his sin. God won’t let others punish him as well.
It’s a reminder that justice belongs to God, which will be an important factor to remember in a moment.
Ok. There’s the pattern. God designed a world of life and harmony. Cain turned his back on God’s design. And the world’s brokenness spread further.
Let’s look at the next small story. Skip down to verse 23. Here, we have one of Cain’s decedents, a man named Lamech, sharing this odd poem with his wives.
One day Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
listen to me, you wives of Lamech.
I have killed a man who attacked me,
a young man who wounded me.
If someone who kills Cain is punished seven times,
then the one who kills me will be punished seventy-seven times!”
Wow. Good poem, dude. It doesn’t even rhyme! Ok, actually, for a lot of reasons I don’t fully understand, this is considered good Hebrew poetry.
But what the poem shows is a man taking justice into his own hands. Look at what he says! A young man wounded Lamech… so he murdered the guy. That was not a proportional response.
And then he implies that God’s justice for Cain isn’t good enough. Instead of God avenging someone 7 times, Lamech is saying he should be avenged 77 times! The Israelites hearing this story for the first time would have been appalled at his arrogance.
What this passage shows is that the consequences of sin are continuing to fracture and corrupt the world. Not only did Cain turn his back on God’s intentions by murdering Abel, now his descendants are turning murder into some kind of twisted idea of justice.
Yet again, God showed what his “very good” intentions were - by creating harmony in Eden and later by choosing to limit Cain’s punishment. He laid out what the world was meant to be, but humanity chose to rebel.
SONS OF GOD
And it just gets worse. Skip ahead with me to chapter 6.
We know from chapter 2 that God created a beautiful, equal, complimentary relationship between Adam and Eve. It was “very good.” It’s how he intended men and women to coexist. But now even that gets ignored.
Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them. The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”
In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.
Now, I’m going to tell you exactly what this all means. I just have to make a time machine and ask Moses directly. Because frankly, we have no idea.
Sons of God, Nephilites… This stuff would have made sense to the Israelites, but unfortunately it seems lost to history. What was so wrong about these marriages? Were they building harems? Was it rape? We just don’t know.
But we can say one thing for sure: The relationship between men and women was breaking down. Marriage and sexuality were veering off of God’s design. The days of Adam and Eve living in open, shame-free commitment were long gone.
Just like Cain and Lamech, we see humanity turning its back on God’s design.
CONSISTENTLY AND TOTALLY EVIL
Again, these stories may be a bit confusing for our modern sensibilities, but they would have made complete sense to the Israelites.
And this is key: To them all of the events of chapters 4, 5, and 6 – the ceaseless rebellion of humanity – would have made the next couple of verses seem like a natural and justified response by God.
Look at verse 5.
The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.
Think of how far things had devolved from the perfection of Eden. What began with a single act of rebellion had turned into a humanity in open defiance of the will of God. “Everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.”
Humanity broke God’s heart.
What happens next in the story is the great flood. That’s what I’ll be talking about next week. But right now, I want to stop and consider what we can learn about the nature of sin from these chapters between the fall and the flood. I think it’s really relevant.
For a long time, I used to think that the definition of “sin” was pretty obvious: breaking a list of rules that God has given us.
But wait a second. Cain. Lamech. The Nephilites. They didn’t have rules in this story. They didn’t have the law. How were they supposed to know how to live?
Well, I believe the answer in the story is that God showed them what was right. He created a very good world - a world of order and harmony and peace and abundance. Living into his designs was what was required of them.
Again, set aside your modern lens for a second and think about it: They didn’t sin by disobeying strict rules. They sinned by doing anything less than God’s intentions in Eden.
· God creates a world of peace. Cain murders his brother.
· God creates a standard of justice. Lamech takes justice into his own hands.
· God creates marriage between men and women. The so-called “sons of God” twist that ideal to their own ends.
I always used to think that my sin made God turn his back on me. You know, I want to reach God, but I keep breaking all these rules, so he turns away.
Now, I realize I had the imagery totally backwards. God doesn’t turn his back on me when I sin. I turn my back on him!
Genesis makes it abundantly clear: From the beginning of time God has been offering me a world of beauty and life and provision. He has desired for me to be in a direct, open relationship with him. He’s longed for me to live free of shame with other people, in full control of my ego, in harmony with the natural world. His arms have always been open.
But what have I done with all that? I’ve let lust and greed and pride warp my relationships. My ego has twisted my God-given identity. I’ve chosen a lifestyle that wreaks havoc on the natural world.
I’ve turned my back on God’s intentions time and time again. I have sinned. I’ve broken God’s heart.
We all have. The Apostle Paul put it this way,
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Think how differently that verse sounds when you see God not as some strict dictator in the sky, but as a loving creator whose own children keep trashing his designs.
Sin is not about rules. It’s about posture.
And whenever humanity turns its back on God’s design - when that’s our posture - brokenness spreads through the world like a cancer.
Hatred, isolation, pain, injustice, decay… “We did this. We broke the world.”
“Everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.”
That’s a pretty grim analysis of human nature, isn’t it?
Thank God we are living in the world after Jesus has come. Sin is crouching at the door and has pounced on every one of us. But the death and resurrection of Jesus has set us free from sin’s power. It doesn’t have to control us anymore.
Because of Christ, we now have the ability to turn back to our Creator. We can begin to live out his “very good” designs in our lives. We can start living in a new Eden right now.
· Loving relationships in a world full of discord.
· Justice and mercy in a world full of violence.
· Purity and life in a world full of decay.
Being a Christ-follower is not about maintaining a list of holier-than-thou rules. It’s about turning our lives back to God and allowing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to open the door to a new Eden.
So how do we do that? How do we turn back to God? How do we avoid rebelling like Cain or Lamech or the Nephilites?
Well, if you’re a follower of Christ, it’s actually pretty easy.
1. Do a heart check. Look at your posture. Are you aligned with God’s intentions for the world or have you turned your back on them?
2. Confess where you have sinned to God. And you don’t have to do this weighed down by guilt and shame. The Apostle Paul made it clear:
“Now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
3. Once you’ve confessed, you can experience forgiveness. The Apostle John said:
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
We can live free of sin’s control. But it all starts with a heart check. And I want to give you guys a chance to do that right now.
Close your eyes for a moment and think about how well your life aligns with God’s intentions for creation…
God created a world of abundance and provision. Where have you let greed, money, and materialism call the shots?
God created a world of dignity, purity, and equality between men and women. Where have you turned to lust, abuse, or control?
God created a world of meaning, purpose, and vocation. Where have you let apathy or indulgence become normal?
God created a world of humility and peace. Where has pride, anger, racism, or violence taken root in your life?
“Everyone has sinned. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
O God, forgive us. [PRAY]