Devotionals Genesis

Punishment and Trust

Here in South Carolina, USA, there is a man who has been found guilty of various crimes. Alex Murdaugh followed his father and grandfather in their law practice as an attorney. They seem to have been the best law practice in Upstate, South Carolina. People of both wealth and integrity. He was convicted of murdering his wife and one son. For this he received a life sentence. He was also convicted of serious theft charges. He stole millions of US dollars from his clients. He has tried many different things to get out of jail. The latest is his lawyers saying the murder trial court clerk tampered with the jury. It is like he is saying that his sentence (punishment) is more than he can bear! As a lawyer he did not consider that doing the crime requires doing the time. As we read the next passage in Genesis, this very thought comes to mind:

Ge 4:13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD’S presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

1) Not counting the cost.

Ge 4:13 Cain said to the LORD, My punishment is more than I can bear.

One would have thought that knowing what his parents did in the Garden and how God responded to them, he would have known better than to murder his brother … especially since these two sons would be the first to start fulfilling God’s instruction to procreate! No … the passion of jealousy, anger and depression was too high. He was thoughtless when committing the deed. Personal satisfaction was all that controlled his heart.

But once the Judge passed sentence, Cain was in despair. (Abraham calls God “the Judge of all the earth” in Genesis 18). What is so desperately sad is the fact that Cain shows no remorse and no repentance. All he can say is … “My punishment is more than I can bear.”

Think back to his parents. They knew they had sinned in the Garden. They covered their nakedness and they hid from God. They were ashamed and sorry for their sin. Cain was filled with self-pity because the Judge found him guilty of sin! The word “punishment” implies that because of sin, a judgment was given.

It’s not that he can’t be forgiven … it’s that he immediately looks at the judgment against himself. It’s all about him. No thought that his parents lost a son. No thought that God had plans for Abel. No thought that Abel could unlike him, provide grandchildren for his parents! No … he was selfish. Why does God provide this information in His Word for us? Why does He not focus on what Adam and Eve were doing? Because God wants to teach us lessons. He wants us to think seriously before committing sin. He wants us to know that any sin we participate in, whatever it is, has consequences and we need to know that those consequences are our responsibility. As the saying goes … “do the sin, be punished.” Think about the little child who is naughty (has sinned – call it what it is), responding in whining and complaining and saying … “but that’s no fair” to the punishment the parents instituted. In different ways we can be like that … Cain was.

2) Unpacking the judgment. He complains to God about the terms and conditions of his punishment.

(1) He is very direct. He addresses God as “you” as if it’s God fault. Today you. See that? No remorse. No confession. No repentance.

(2) God is the reason for him being removed for the land. Is it?

Ge 4:14 Today you are driving me from the land.

Is it the judge’s fault that the prisoner lands up in jail? No! It is the criminal’s fault.

(3) This will result in Cain being unable to reach God. I will be hidden from your presence. Remember he is a man of the soil. He is a vegetable and fruit famer, and the land where his parents are, the land from which he has been evicted is good land. It is land where God is present. Now he will be in places where to him, God is not present. He is working through his sentence and feels filled with despair. He is partitioning his punishments and feels he cannot bear them. At this point, ask yourself what Cain could have done to turn his lot around. Surely it would be flinging himself before God in true remorse, in honest confession of his sin and seriously seeking forgiveness followed by the promise to proceed in repentance and faith. Did he? No! Will you?

(4) He acknowledges his sentence as being a nomad … a restless one … moving from place to place, never settling down because he can never find good agricultural soil! I will be a restless wanderer on the earth. Never planting roots. Never having solid neighbors. Children never having friends. Food, water, shelter and other necessities mostly lacking.

(5) But then, Cain turns into a coward! He was not afraid to kill his brother Abel, but is now afraid that he shall be killed. He is so scared … he feels everyone will target to kill him … whoever finds me will kill me. History informs us that one of the traits of a criminal is that another criminal gets to them. Take the pedophile … his greatest fear when being sentenced is that the prisoners will treat him as he treated those children. When I did prison work, I was told that the two criminals prisoners don’t like is a pedophile and a rapist. They treat them as their victims were treated. Consider a murderer … he or she has taken another’s life. They are locked up with brazen murderers. Their fear is that their life will be taken for the smallest reason.

This is Cain. “It’s one thing to kill my brother … but … I’m scared of being killed!” If you steal you think others will steal from you. If you are an adulterer, you think your wife or husband will commit adultery too. Sin distorts your perception and you view others exactly as you are! In immigrating to the USA, I have notice a huge difference between the RSA and the USA. It is that in South Africa just about everyone trusts no one else … especially people you don’t know.

On the other hand, America, certainly the part where we is built upon trust. People trust each other. People are not looking over their shoulders. People do not view others with suspicion. Someone stopped by yesterday to drop one of our grandsons off. He came inside to say hi. It was sweltering hot, so I offered him a cold Diet Coke. He asked my grandson to switch his car off. Sometime later I walked him to his car. He got into the driver’s seat whilst I hung into the passengers door window. All the windows were open. His wallet was on the consul with a few $20 notes lying next to it. That is trust. That is belief that people are and can be good people. No suspicion. No seeing someone of whichever ethnicity walking past and thinking they are no good and about to commit a crime. As you pray for people, pray for yourself that you will be a person God trusts and whom others can trust too.

Father in heaven, caring God and Provider of all our needs, help me to see people through loving, caring eyes … and even if they are not Yours, may I treat them as You treat me. Graciously help me to be cautious about sin. Cause me to refrain, for Lord I do not want to be like Cain as he refused to take accountability for his doings. Amen.

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