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land of nod

Land of Nod

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

  Genesis 4

Considering Cain and Abel

How do we see the story of Cain and Abel through the lens of Johannine thought? The keeper of flocks contrasted with the tiller of soil. The favored first-born versus the overlooked second. The key to the story, as we are constantly told, lies in verse 3: Through the course of time Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the firstlings of his flock.

Cain, the eldest and sower of crops, is described as crestfallen and greatly resentful when God favors the loving offering brought by Abel but God does not leave Cain alone with his anger, fear and envy. God asks Cain why he feels these negative emotions. No reply is recorded from Cain but further words from God are: If you do well, you can hold up your head. God warns Cain of sin and describes it as a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master. As we read this story we hope that Cain can resist the power of envy because we want to resist this green devil ourselves; yet we know the story too well. Cain goes out to speak with Abel and unable to resist the skills of the demon, he kills his brother. Several verses later Cain asks God to allow him to be killed as he wanders the earth but God refuses this request. So Cain finally settles east of Eden in the land of nomads, Nod.

When we consider this story through the perspective of the writings of the Apostle John, we might spend time today considering three points.

God is honest with both Cain and Abel, acknowledging Abel’s true love of God and Cain’s more egocentric self. God does not pamper us by avoiding the truth. We see this same honesty in Jesus as John tells the story of the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

God does not abandon Cain in his sadness and grief. He abides with him, yet continues to present him with truth. God allows Cain the freedom to choose his own path. We see this same fidelity in Jesus when John retells his words about the Good Shepherd. (John 10:1-21)

God does not create an easy exit for Cain but rather allows him to experience the consequence of listening to the demon who lurks at the door. God offers Cain transformation through suffering. We see this same love in Jesus with every story John tells of the Resurrected Christ. (John 20 and 21)

And we also experience this same love from Jesus each day of our lives when, as true children of God, we take our cares and worries, our joys and delights to God.

Tomorrow, considering holiness and a prayer for true children.


Image from: http://thesestonewalls.com/gordon-macrae/in-the-land-of-nod-east-of-eden/

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Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking


Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tissot: Cain Leads Abel

It is likely that we each have our own definition for sin and we may want to compare it with what we find in Genesis 4 when we hear the Creator warning Cain: Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?  If you do well, you can hold up you head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door; his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.

We are only a few pages into the Bible and God describes to us what sin is and how it can steal into our hearts almost without our knowing. How is it that we miss the personal implications for our own development when we hear this story?  Cain is told what sin is and is cautioned about sin.  God does not withdraw his love yet Cain seems to feel slighted and he appears to think only of himself and his own sadness; he does not celebrate Abel’s good fortune but instead takes Abel out into the fields to murder him.  The ground that Cain had tilled now becomes a killing field; and the innocent Abel dies without reproducing his own family.  As this chapter unfolds, we see that the chain of violence begun by Cain continues through his descendants and, we suppose, continues through time even to us.  Sin that has been unleashed in the world continues to be a demon lurking at the door which we have the power to master yet somehow do not.

Commentary will elucidate further for us.  Although Cain and Abel may represent nomadic versus sedentary farmers, or rival ways of life, Cain’s act of violence represents “an attack on the integrity of the family, an offense against the divinely intended order of creation expressed in the command to reproduce.  But Cain’s sin is more than a rejection of the divinely established order; in arrogating to himself the divine sovereignty over life in ending a life, Cain has repeated the sin of his parents by making himself ‘like God’.”  (Mays 887)

When we think of sin we are accustomed to feeling less worthy, less hope-filled, more culpable, more ashamed.  When we think of sin we think of turning away from God, of being self-centered and un-controlled and we forget about God’s grace and God’s love.  Rather than give ourselves an overwhelming obstacle to overcome, how much better we might fare if we focused instead on how God loves us and wants to help us.  In short, rather than fuss with ourselves about how poorly we are doing we might feel more successful if we focus instead on giving our feelings of resentment, disappointment and anger over to God.  Knowing that we may too easily succumb to the devil that prowls at the door, let us give our negativity to the one who converts it into goodness.  Let us acknowledge the negative emotions that sneak up on us, and then instead of acting on them . . . let us turn them over to God.

Sin has been described as the willful turning away from God, and in turn this means a turning away from hope.  In this season of Advent, as we prepare ourselves for the coming of the light into the darkness of the world, let us take a journey inward to uncover the Cain in each of us.  And rather than take our brother into the fields to kill him in the place where we have harvested goodness in God’s name, let us celebrate the good fortune of others . . . and turn over all resentment to God.  In this way we easily and happily turn the tables on the demon who constantly lurks at our door.


A re-post from December 4, 2011.

Image from: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/vintagecharming/3784014/Cain_and_Abel_1904_James_Tissot_Chromolithograph_Print/Ephemera

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 887. Print.

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