I enjoyed reading Amber’s devotion on Friday, though her use of Genesis 4:6-7 sent me into something of a scramble. One of my many goals for the coming year is to once again read the Bible through. For whatever reason, that particular scripture stuck with me last week and I thought it to be a great tie-in with the boss your heart theme...until Amber used it in her fantastic devotion. Here I sit on Sunday evening, Genesis 4:6-7 firmly ensconced in my mind and the Spirit pushing me to go with it…so here it goes.
The Old Testament has always been a great source of comfort and delight for me. So many Christians casually dismiss what is contained in those ancient texts and opt instead for what they view as the “more relevant” New Testament to spend their time of study. Sadly, many Christians and churches reference Psalms and Proverbs from time to time, but tend to ignore the rich contents of the rest of the Old Testament. Not serving on a church staff at the moment, I rarely get the opportunity to preach. The church I attend is full of many gifted individuals who are at least as talented a speaker as I. When I do get the chance, however, I almost always opt for an Old Testament text.
The reasons for that exceed my ability to succinctly explain in an abbreviated blog. I must say though that I never cease to be amazed at how the true loving nature of God leaps from the pages of certain passages of Old Testament scripture. It puzzles me when people describe the God of the Old Testament as “angry and vindictive”, as if He’s somehow different from the God of the New Testament. Rest assured that the all- knowing, all-powerful, awe-inspiring God that’s reflected in the Old Testament and loving, gracious, and merciful God that Paul writes about in the New Testament are one in the same.
That truth is reflected in Genesis chapter 4 in a memorable story that you’re probably familiar with. Adam and Eve’s two sons, Cain and Abel, brought separate sacrifices to God. The Lord looked favorably upon Abel’s sacrifice but not so upon Cain’s. Genesis 4:6 records the words the Lord spoke to the crest-fallen Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” The Lord looked into Cain’s heart and saw that it was in the process of turning from God and He issued Cain a stern warning. In effect He told Cain that sin desired to have him, to rule him, and to destroy him, but that he must resist it.
We now know that what had entered into Cain’s heart was a homicidal malice that was misdirected towards his brother, Abel. We also know that Cain murdered Abel and was severely punished for his actions. What’s often missed about this story, however, is that the whole tragic episode was completely avoidable if only Cain had done one thing; bossed his heart. You see, the sacrifice that Cain brought to God wasn’t really a sacrifice at all; he simply brought the “leftovers” from his crop while Cain’s sacrifice from the fat portions of the first born of his flock was clearly sacrificial in nature. Undoubtedly, the condition of Cain’s heart was self-serving. Selfishness turned to bitterness when the Lord rejected Cain’s sacrifice, and bitterness turned to contempt. Through it all, God saw Cain’s heart darken and warned him to give sin no quarter. Make no mistake, every moment you draw breath, sin is “crouching at your door”; it desires to have you and rule over you. When we allow sin a foothold in our lives it grows and multiplies like a cancer. Cain’s obvious sin was killing his brother but that was merely the fatal manifestation of allowing sin a safe harbor within his heart.
As much as I love messages from the Old Testament, perhaps the thing I’m most grateful for is the fact that I live under the grace that Christ’s blood secured for me on Calvary when he established a New Covenant between God and man. It’s that cleansing blood that allows me to face every day with a renewed hope and purpose. Yes, I know that sin is “crouching at my door”, waiting for an opportunity to strike, but I also know that I serve a God who is mighty to save and whose blood has paid the price of my sins. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” It’s the certainty of knowing that my God is able and willing to cleanse me of my sins that gives me the confidence to boss my heart and not allow sin to gain mastery over it. And the times I do stumble, I know that the same God who warned Cain not to allow sin a place in his heart, the same God who raised Christ from the dead, is the same God that is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”