Today’s Scripture: Genesis 4:10-16
10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 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.”
13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 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!”
15 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. 16 So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
My grandfather was a pastor and I remember him giving an example of sin in one of his sermons. He said that sin was like a nail that we hammer into a piece of wood. You can remove the nail – but the hole remains. He was reminding us that sin has consequences.
In this chapter of Genesis we see the consequences of sin for the second time in two chapters – and both of those consequences involve exile. Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden. Cain was removed and sent to the land of Nod. I view these exiles not as punishment – but consequence. Not as vengeance – but outcome. As a result, the thing we learn about God is that God lets consequences happen – for good or ill.
However, I can easily see how one might read these passages, and others in the Old Testament, in a different way. God can certainly seem vengeful, full of wrath, and all about the punishment. But there is something that happens in these two exiles that changes my mind about God – something that we might miss if we just focus on the consequences.
In chapter three, after Adam and Evan had been exiled, God made them clothing from animal skins so they would be protected and warm. (3:21). In chapter four, God placed a mark of protection on Cain so that no one would harm him. Do these sound like the actions of a vengeful God? If God were truly vengeful why not just send them away and be done with it? Instead, God acts with love and care and protection and compassion.
I might amend my grandfather’s sin example. Yes, the nail causes a hole in the wood. Those are the consequences of hammering. But maybe God is in the business of finding the putty to repair the hole – heal the hole – and allow the wood to be used again to its fullest purpose.
God sometimes we forget just how compassionate you are. We think you are hateful and vengeful and wrathful. Remind us today of your desire to heal us – to restore us – to protect us. And help us to open ourselves to your loving kindness.