Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 1, 2001
Please turn with me to Genesis chapter four. As you're turning, let me ask you a few questions that relate to our text this morning.
As we’re beginning this July 4th holiday week - comparing the United States today with the United States 50 years ago - even 30 years ago - do you think that the United States today is a more Godly country? As a society, are we moving closer to God or farther from Him? The United States is a great country with tremendous opportunities and riches. But, today, the United States is in serious spiritual trouble. And, with some exceptions - mankind as a whole is continuing to sink in sin - descending farther away from God. How are we to live in this society?
This is not a new question. In the first century, when the church was young, the Roman Emperor Caligula thought he was god and set up a statue of himself in the Temple in Jerusalem. Claudius had so many wives he could have started a harem. Nero used Christians as torches - setting them on fire to light his parties. These we’re the political leaders that set the direction for the society to follow. How do you live in a society like that?
That’s our focus this morning. How can we respond to the ungodliness of the society around us?
Genesis chapter four begins with one of the most familiar accounts in the Bible - Cain and Abel. We know this. Cain brings the offering which was not acceptable to God. Abel brings the offering which was acceptable to God. Cain becomes angry - rejects God’s council and murders his brother. Cain is judged by God and sent out to wander the earth.
Sometimes we only get that far in the story. But, what comes next is important for us today. This account of Cain and Abel is the beginning of a division between those who will live in Godliness - in obedience to God - and those who will live rejecting God.
Look with me at Genesis 4:16: Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.
In judgment God sends Cain out to wander the earth - restless - no permanent home. In defiance of God - Cain settles down and begins a city that he names after his first born son, Enoch.
Verse 18: Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech - Cain’s great-great-great-grandson.
Verse 19: Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all the implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
Let’s pause in the midst of this genealogy and think about what’s happening here. Cain was probably a good father and good great-great-great-great-grandfather. He saw his family grow and flourish in the city - this civilization - that he had founded.
Jabal had herds and was involved in the production of food and skins and wool and the basic things that people need to live. Animals provided transportation and were used in plowing. Jabal was an economic success.
Jubal was a musician. In the city of Enoch he was the artist - the creator of beauty and inspiring music.
Tubal-cain was the technological genius - the scientist. A metallurgist who forged tools of bronze and iron - harnessing nature to improve people’s lives.
Ungodly people can be successful in this world. But, success in this world cannot substitute for godliness. There is a serious problem in Cain’s civilization.
Verse 23 - look with me at the heart of the father of these 3 successful boys. Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to my voice, you wives of Lamech, give heed to my speech, for I have killed a man for wounding me; and a boy for striking me; if Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
Cain struggled with himself over the murder of his brother. He struggled with shame and guilt. He would hear the story of his dead brother all the days of his life.
But, while Cain succumbed to sin Lamech exalted in it. Lamech killed people - in cruel cold blooded vengeance - and he bragged about it. He was proud of it. He even wrote songs and poetry about it that perhaps his son Jubal would perform in the city. What kind of evil is in the heart of a man who would kill a child and brag about it?
Lamech is the first polygamist recorded in the Bible - a practice that always led to sin. Lamech lives by his appetites and desires. He is proud of his sin.
From Cain to Lamech and his sons there is a descent into the pit of sin - into ungodliness. Cain’s family line descends until in Genesis 6 we read God’s assessment of their civilization: God saw the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5,6)
Genesis 4:25,26: Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth, to him also, a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.
There is a contrast here - a great division in the road of mankind’s history - two lines of descendants from Adam. We’ve traced the line of Cain and their descent into ungodliness. In verses 25 and 26 the narrative backs up to trace the other line of descendants - back to trace the line of descendants coming from Adam through Seth.
Immediately there’s a difference. Eve acknowledges that God has given her Seth as a replacement for Abel. Its a new beginning - a new line that will lead to mankind’s promised salvation.
Seth walked in the steps of his martyred brother Abel. To Seth is born Enosh. In chapter five the genealogy is continued. It includes men such as Enoch - the man who walked with God. (5:24) And, Noah - who, as a righteous and blameless man, found favor in God’s sight. (6:8-22) God chose Noah to preserve the Godly line of Adam - through which has come Jesus our Savior.
How can we respond to the ungodliness of the society around us - in a society around us which is descending away from God?
Genesis 4:26 is significant because it comes right in the juncture between these two directions in mankind’s history - Godlessness on one side - Godliness on the other. How did the Godly line of Seth respond to the evil around them?
Verse 26: Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.
This is the first time this statement is made in the Bible and it sets the pattern for us - how we are to respond and live today. In the midst of ungodliness “call upon the name of the Lord.”
To understand what this means for us today - practically there are two parts of this statement that we need to focus on.
First, that men began to “call” upon the Lord. That word “call” is significant. In the original Hebrew, “to call” contains the emotion of “crying out” to God from the depth of our soul - the core of who we are. Its a cry that’s been echoed through-out history. From here in Genesis 4 - to the cry of the martyrs in the Book of Revelation - crying out before the throne of God - imploring God to intervene.
Ezra was given an edict by Cyrus - the King of Persia - permission to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple. The first 8 chapters of the Book of Ezra chronicle Ezra’s struggles, the opposition, all that he went through to build the Temple.
There comes a day when the Temple is completed - consecrated - sacrifices are resumed - Levitical priest are brought in to do the sacrifices - even the instruments used in performing the sacrifices are returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Everything is going great.
Then Ezra looks around at his people and is appalled. With all this religious activity for God the heart of the people is full of sin. They haven’t surrendered themselves fully to God.
Ezra says: “I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled some of the hair from my head and my beard, and sat down appalled. I fell to my knees and stretched out my hands to the Lord my God; and I said, ‘O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens. We are before you in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this.’” (Ezra 9:3,5,6,15)
Calling out to God - “the cry” begins in our hearts when we fully realize our sin and emptiness before God. It comes as we cease all of our activity for God and throw ourselves before the grace of God pleading for His mercy and forgiveness - longing for God to create within us His holiness.
Calling out to God comes as we long to worship of Him - to honor Him - to serve Him - to come close to Him - to follow Him all the days of our lives. We cry out - because we realize that only He can create this intimacy in our relationship.
This “cry” also intercedes for others. It is not hard to imagine that the family of Seth cried out for their cousins in the line of Cain.
William Law writes, in his book “The Power of the Spirit,” “We may take for a certain rule, that the more the divine nature and life of Jesus is manifest in us, and the higher our sense of righteousness and virtue, the more we shall pity and love those who are suffering from the blindness, disease, and death of sin. The sight of such people then, instead of raising in us a haughty contempt or holier-than-thou indignation, will rather fill us with such tenderness and compassion as when we see the miseries of a dread disease.”
It would be so easy to go through the Castro district and think to ourselves, “These are sinners.” Yet, how compassionate are we for those who are dying of AIDS? Please understand, I’m not trying to just single out the gay community. We could just as easily consider Broadway or the Mission - men and women - children - who sell themselves. So many in this city - in our neighborhoods - who live for drugs. The many who are homeless. Broken marriages. Abused children. Criminals. A society coming apart - confused - deceived by Satan.
We’re a part of all this. Do we ever “cry out to God” in compassionate pain for the suffering and lost ness of those around us? It is a challenge for us to go through our neighborhoods in prayer - crying out to God for our nation - crying out for our own emptiness and sin.
The second part of this statement, Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord - focuses on the Lord.
If you were with us for our Memorial Weekend Family Camp at Camp Koinonia - we heard Roger Williams - the Director of Mount Hermon - share about the names of God. So often, when we read in our English or Armenian translations “God” or “Lord” we forget that these are translations of Hebrew names that have great significance.
The Bible contains a number of names for God that God uses to reveal different aspects of His character or how He deals with mankind. “Adonai” - one name for God - describes God’s personal relationship with us and mastery over our lives. “Elohim” describes God’s sovereignty over His creation.
Here in Genesis 4:26, the name “Lord” translates the Hebrew word “Yahweh.” Its the most frequently used name of God in the Bible and the one name the Hebrews would never write or say. Its just too holy - too sacred to profane by writing it or speaking it. In fact, when we say “Yahweh” were still not sure that’s the right pronunciation.
When God meets Moses at the burning bush, Moses says to God, “Okay, You say You’ve heard the cry of Your people in bondage. So, You’re sending me back to Egypt to the people of Israel to tell them that the God of your fathers has sent me. They’re going to ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?”
God answers Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Same name - “I AM” - “Yahweh”. (Exodus 3:13,14)
Yahweh describes God as the One who will always be. God who is personal - continuous - absolute - faithful - unchangeable in His dealings with us. He is tender, compassionate, merciful, and loving. In spite of our wavering, He will never go back on His promises to us. As the Almighty God, He is able to fulfill His promises.
Yahweh has established our salvation and our hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ. When the Jews asked Jesus, “Who are you?” Jesus answered and said, “I AM.” (John 8:58) “I am the God of your salvation.”
How can we respond to the ungodliness of the society around us? This is the God we cry out to - Yahweh.
Two questions - to ponder as we go from here into another week in America. First: What is the cry of your heart? What concerns you deep within?
Second: Who will you cry out to?
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright© 1960,1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.