Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lessons from Cain and Abel. Part III

ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING. by Annang.

I agree that God was there. I also agree with the deep lessons drawn out in the previous posts, about persecution, about the typology of Abel's blood and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This story, like the Adam and Eve story, also paints another picture that may disturb some about the Character of God. The All-knowing God, who sees all things even before they happen, often seems to arrive late on the crime scene. You know, those films or stories about the gangland policeman who always appears on the scene just after the victim has been killed! In the Garden of Eden, God turned up only after the devil had succeeded in tempting Eve and Adam; here too, only after Cain had done his deed. He accused Cain of not being his brother's keeper, but why didn't He keep or defend Abel, the God-loving, God-fearing and God-devoted worshipper? Where was God indeed!

Many righteous men throughout the Bible suffered in the hands of the unjust and asked that question over and over again. Think of David in the hands of Saul, or Job in the hands of the devil. Why does our God appear to turn up late when we have been almost destroyed in the hands of unjust men?

God does know everything: He knows our suffering and our pain, and He is there, not aloof, but strengthening us as we go through the pain. Though our “blood” is shed, it is, in Paul's words, being poured as libation on the altar of His sacrifice for the Gospel. No wonder the Book of Revelation ends with similar stories of the sufferings of the saints in the hands of sinful men and women, the testimony of the saints who overcame the Evil one, not by their sword but by surrender to the will of their heavenly Father, and their Word of Testimony also speaks volumes like that of Abel.

When we read Abel's story, we should be encouraged in our little sufferings as believers that our God is there with us. And if we have not yet shed blood in our struggle over sin, let us determine to strive hard for holiness and to persevere. It is to His honor and glory that we overcome; whether it is sin in ourselves or in this world. -Annang

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lessons from Cain and Abel. Part II

GOD IS ALWAYS THERE. by Calorius.

There are a lot of spiritual truths brought out by G Columbus in yesterday's post but I still don't get it about why God didn't prevent Abel's death. There was a purpose to Jesus' death but what purpose could Abel's death have served?

Throughout this early part of Genesis, God is like an absentee farmer, like a remote landlord. He creates Adam and Eve, provides for them and instructs them, then goes away and only shows up again after they've messed up and it's time to judge and sentence them. A similar situation is seen with Cain and Abel, and a few other times in the book. It is very reminiscent of some of Jesus' parables. In the account of the history of Israel, we see clearly how they keep coming to Him and going away, back and forth, especially the book of Judges.

A more subtle theme is the ways in which God APPEARS (it's a perception only) to be close at times, then distant, then close, then distant again. There are times when He "hides His face from us", what someone has called the "my God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" periods, but what is their purpose? I believe, of course, that all this is our perception, because God is Omnipresent and Omniscient and knows the future.

So in actual fact, God was there all the time; when Eve picked the fruit and as Cain tightened the shoe-lace around his brother's neck. However, our awareness of His presence is not there all the time, so that we have to be careful to live right, even when He seems to be gone.

I remember watching movies like "Escape from Sorbibor" and "Schindler's list" and "Roots" and thinking where was God at that time? I think the answer is, exactly where he was during Abel's murder; He was right there. When bad things happen to "good" people, it is no indication that God has abandoned them.

It reminds me of what I was once told about a sermon Paa Willie (the late William Ofori-Atta) preached from Genesis. He preached that when Cain asked "am I my brother's keeper?", it was rhetorical but if God were to answer it, one answer which is different from what we are usually taught from this passage might be to say, "No, Cain, it is I the Lord who is your brother's keeper" . Cain was being insolent, pointing out that what had happened was in part due to God's failure to protect Abel, to be Abel's keeper in the sense that we often expect. How we understand God to be our keeper is very important. It will prevent us from losing faith when certain things come our way. The prosperity doctrine people will probably cut my head off if they hear this. - Calorius

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lessons from Cain and Abel, Part I.

REDEMPTION, OBEDIENCE AND JUSTICE. By Gaius Columbus

I suggest that the story of Cain and Abel is primarily an allegory about Christ, even though there are lessons about justice to be learnt too. After the fall, man chose to manage his own affairs, including his views about morality and worship. The example of Abel, however, makes clear that, there have been in every generation a small cadre of men and women who despite their natural inclinations decide to follow God’s prescriptions to the best of their ability. Many of these people, Abel, Moses, David, Rehab, Daniel...all the way to our Lord Jesus are catalogued in Hebrews 11.

This group shared little in common with the vast majority of mankind living in their time who continued to follow their own prescriptions and inclinations; the proverbial sheep versus goat dichotomy. This is how I see the story of Cain and Abel and the interpretation I believe Paul and other New Testament writers later put on this story.

Hebrews 12: 22-24: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

Cain knew what the right sacrifice to offer to God was, but he substituted what he considered to be a reasonable alternative. He incorrectly presupposed that God would be satisfied with his personal view of acceptable sacrifice. God in addressing Cain’s anger tells him in essence (my paraphrase), “you know what is right to do, now go do it and I will accept your sacrifice too”. God had at some point made it known what He expected in a sacrifice and Abel followed this prescription. Cain did not.Man’s prescriptions for covering his own sins, although “sensible”, are incorrect.

Man’s ideas for redemption were overruled by God, even in the Garden. When Adam and Eve sinned they clothed themselves with leaves to hide their nakedness but God seeing this, replaced their coverings with the hide of an animal killed for this purpose. This was probably the first indication of God’s preference in regard to atonement and sacrifice. Perhaps Cain and Abel knew this and it informed Abel’s choice of sacrifice.

Abel's story is the first indication we have of the stratification of mankind into righteous vs. unrighteous and this continues throughout history. We see two kinds of people: those, like Abel who take God’s prescriptions for life seriously and come to God the way He has prescribed vs. those, like Cain, who presume to know what should please God and so bring to God their own defunct ideas and reasonable-sounding precepts made by men, the false religions.

Cain, rather than change his ways, became angry and displaced his anger onto Abel. This story in Genesis is less about justice or a failure of divine protection, and much more about establishing a picture of the long struggle to come in the ages to follow between those who obey God and those who follow their own ideas. It is the story of the Jews vs. the Gentiles, John the Baptist vs. Herodias, the elect vs. the unsaved, Christ vs. the Pharisees, and Rome vs. early Christians. For friendship with God is enmity with the world.

The persecution of righteous Abel by unrighteous Cain is instruction for God-fearing men of all ages. Abel’s story foreshadowed and eventually culminated in our Lord’s struggles with the Pharisees and His eventual death at their hands. His story foreshadows the struggle between our Lord—Son of God without blemish—and the Pharisees—men who taught and followed the traditions of men. It, perhaps, even is a story of the greater spiritual struggle between Satan and God’s elect and is an example for us in the present age until the Lord returns.

I believe God was present in this story but in a completely different role from our human expectation. This role is didactic and best understood in the context of Christ’s life and mission in particular. Jesus knew the Father’s will and followed it. The Pharisees presumed to know God’s will but replaced it with the traditions of men. Like Cain’s sacrifice, the self-styled morality of the Pharisees, like other self-styled religions through the ages, was rejected by the Father. Jesus, by the attestation of miracles and wonders and by His death and resurrection had His sacrifice and His life validated by the Father. Like Cain, the Pharisees plotted to kill him and did. To us, it appears that God abandoned Abel to the evil plans of an unrighteous man and similarly, we see Jesus apparently abandoned by God to the evil intents of unrighteous men; "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me”

It is true that other parts of Scripture portray God to be our protector, which He is. Here, however, I believe the intent of this story is to set a precedent or expectation of what is to happen later with our Savior and with those who choose to follow Him. For the righteous in the ages to come, it is the first example of what to expect as a consequence of the decision to follow Christ: derision, persecution, ridicule, harm, even death. – G Columbus

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CAIN and ABEL, some questions.

WHERE IS GOD WHEN THE RIGHTEOUS ARE IN HARM’S WAY?

In further study of the early part of the Book of Genesis I have some questions.

Where was God when Abel was being slain? I can't imagine that Abel, who had just established communion with God, would not cry out to God for help as his brother was squeezing the life-blood out of him. Where was God’s protection?

I have reflected on these questions myself but I would like to hear what others think. Any answers? - Calorius

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