When we plant gardens we understand the value of buying starter plants to jumpstart growth. It is still understood that the plant started from a seed.
“Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.’ Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” Genesis 4:1-2
Where It All Started
Every plant starts with a seed. This is true of every form of life on earth. We can trace the roots back to where it all began and learn a lot about our origins. This will lead us to see the importance of being deeply rooted in Christ.
We continue our study on being rooted picking up where we left off in the book of Genesis. While this is not a study of the book of Genesis per se, we understand that the word, “Genesis” means, “Beginning” and so it is most certainly the best place to find the starter seed that first sprouted to set the growth of this world into motion and where we can trace our roots. We are going to continue to build the foundation for our study by seeking to understand how everything starts with a seed. We had just heard from God about all of the seed curses that would come as a result of the disobedience of the first man and woman along with the deception of the serpent. Genesis chapter 4 begins with the planting of seeds in the birth of Cain and Abel. The text reads, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.’ Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (Gen 4:1-2). What should grab our attention from this reading is not that seed produced after its kind and two male children were born, but notice that one was a keeper of flocks and one was a tiller of the ground. Adam was originally charged with being a gardener, a cultivator of the ground. It appears that his son Cain continued in that trade. His brother Abel was a shepherd. Each of these young men needed to worship and obey God in their own lives just as Adam and Eve were charged to do. When it came time to bring an offering to the Lord, they brought the offspring or the harvest of their own field, one an animal sacrifice and one a crop sacrifice, both of which were acceptable to the Lord, from what we can read in the Old Testament. We read, “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” (Gen. 4:3-5).
The Growth of the Seed of Man
First, notice that the text reads, “in the course of time”. It takes time to produce the seed and have something to offer to the Lord. Secondly, while it has been highly debated as to why the Lord accepted Abel and his sacrifice but disregarded Cain and his sacrifice, I believe there is a key word in the text that tells us why. It is the word, “firstlings”. Abel brought a more excellent sacrifice than Cain because he gave the very best of his flock and believed that by giving God not only the prime offering but also its fat portions (which were considered to be the best), he demonstrates faith in the promise of God to reward the faithful worshiper (Heb. 11:4). As we will see, they both worked the same field each producing either plant or animal life, the question was, would they give to the Lord the first and best of the reward of their labors. It is true that animal sacrifices do become the atonement sacrifice, because of their blood. Yet in the context, Cain and Abel were not bringing a sin offering but a worshipful token of blessing to the Lord. Based on what is revealed, God has never indicated that the animal sacrifice was the only sacrifice or offering that could be made. The “best” sacrifice has always been the only sacrifice that God will accept, whatever that offering is that the worshipper brings to the altar. The phrase that should be our focus is, “if you do well”. We continue, “So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’ Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” This is the first physical human death recorded in the Scriptures and it stemmed from worship toward God. One man worshipped from the heart and gave the best while the other merely brought an offering but his heart was selfish with his blessings and he had a poor disposition. Selfishness turned to jealousy and jealousy to greed and Cain killed Abel. Now as we get to the heart of the matter, “…the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ And he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?’ He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.’” There is so much rich symbolism here about the death of Abel. Notice first, that another sacrifice was made. Cain did not get approval for his first sacrifice and instead of doing what was right, he took the life of his own brother and for every sacrifice we make we are held accountable. God wants to know what happened to Abel and Cain basically says, I am not responsible for him, he is a grown man and he is able to answer for himself. So God tells Cain that he already knows what happened and Abel’s blood was crying out to him from the ground. The significance of his voice coming from the ground is certainly connected with Cain’s line of work. From dust you are and to dust you shall return but it should not be at the hands of another man. Abel’s life was taken from him and his blood flowed into the ground from which Cain grew his crops. So God said, “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth." Cain replied, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." Cain basically said that he no longer had a purpose. His occupation, his place before God and his place in the family or community are now lost. Cain felt the weight of this curse and knew that someone would now take his life as a stranger in a foreign land. To make certain that Cain’s curse would not be broken for his actions, “the Lord said to him, ‘Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.” Just as Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden, now Cain, after killing his brother, would have to leave forever. It is hard to read of Cain’s punishment. The text says, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” The Lord cannot fellowship evil and separates Himself from those that willfully live in sin. How many of us have been living east of Eden and longing for home again? How many of us have been living away from his presence because of our own wrong doing? It is time to remember our roots and it is time to get back to Eden.
Getting To Know Our Roots
It is meaningful to know where we come from and where we are going.
The entire purpose of going back to our roots and looking at how the seed of a plant, animal and even man will reproduce after their kind, is to be reminded that just as all of the plants and animals worship God by fulfilling their purposes, we too must learn to live and serve God in our own generation (Psalm 148). While the seed can be produced in good soil, a man can certainly choose evil and not be master over it. We were created to have dominion over all things and Satan is one of them, as we can crush his head (Rom. 16:20). When he is crouching at the door, we must rule over him. We can no longer afford to live east of Eden. We need to live in the presence of God. The next section of our text is something known as a genealogy. Today they are also referred to as a family tree or lineage. These have been dubbed one of the most difficult things to read in the Scriptures apart from perhaps the meticulous laws of the Old Covenant. But I believe after this study, you will never read a genealogy again in the same way. I want you to think of the word “seed”, every time that a new name appears in the list. Because each generation of people stem from a seed and the fruit that is being produced by that seed could cause a plentiful harvest or cause a whole bunch of weeds, thorns and thistles to grow up (Read Gen 4:17-24). We all have one common ancestry that can be traced through the Scriptures and started with one seed and grows with each successive generation. The text then states, “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." Seth then also produced offspring, “To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh.” But most importantly, the final words of Genesis 4 give us hope when we read, “Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” This may be a reference to prayer. God had been in such close fellowship with man up to this point but with each successive sin, the presence of the Lord was not as readily available as he only makes an appearance periodically and only in the most holy and sacred places or in judgment against evil. Mankind had reached a place where they wanted to call on the name of the Lord, after losing paradise. They longed for Eden where fellowship with God was intimate.
The Life of the Seed
Without reading in its entirety, Genesis chapter 5, is clearly a genealogy from the first man up until the days of Noah and his sons. This is an extension of the family tree or lineage that we have been following all along. It is the seed of man from the beginning. These genealogies are critically important in Bible times because if you wanted to know your history, be in a covenant relationship with God, or serve as a priest, you needed to follow the proper family lineage. As we will see shortly, it is also critical that we have these genealogies recorded because through certain individuals there were promises made that could only be fulfilled through their seed. You can trace the roots of each man back to their ancestors and learn a great deal about the seed from which they come. The old adage states, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The reality is wherever the apple falls, it falls with seed in it that can be planted again and grow fruit after its kind. We could just as easily say that although each seed is unique in that if placed in the right soil and provided with the right conditions can thrive, often the place that we find ourselves is due to the generations before us or our present environmental influences. We need to understand our roots and make certain that we are living up to our fullest potential. The reason this is critical is because if you glance through chapter five of Genesis, you will notice that at the end of each life span mentioned, there is a statement of death. So and so lived so many years and then, died. We each have a certain number of years to live and then we die a physical death. What will we do with the years of our lives? How deeply will we be rooted and how much will we grow? Will there be an abundance of fruit from our days? In light of our study of roots, many of you may have read the news article about a sequoia tree that fell which was a popular tourist attraction for a long time. #pioneercabintree “ARNOLD , Calif., Jan. 9, 2017— An iconic sequoia tree in northern California, famous for a pathway carved through its trunk, fell as northern California endured severe storms and flooding, park officials said. The Pioneer Cabin Tree, 33 feet in diameter at its base and 150 feet tall, had a wide walkway carved through it 137 years ago, before the Calaveras North Grove of sequoia trees was purchased by the California State Park System. A popular tourist attraction, vintage postcards depicted cars traveling through its opening, although in later years it was open only to hikers. The tree splintered heavily at its base and crashed to the ground on Sunday afternoon, an apparent victim of severe storms affecting the area. Park volunteer Jim Allday said the tree had shallow roots, no more than four feet deep, and that the trail around the tree was flooded with rainwater. ‘We lost an old friend today,’ Allday wrote. The Calaveras Big Trees Association, a volunteer group, wrote on its Facebook page: “This iconic and still living tree – the tunnel tree – enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it.” We need to understand the importance of roots and their depth so that when the storms of life come they are not too much for us to handle. We will all see physical death for falling short of the glory of God, but the worst thing that could ever happen to any soul of man is to fall into the hands of the living God in judgment because we did not grow and produce the fruit that he has planted us for, pruned us for and prepared us for. It is time to grasp the significance of our roots and grow up into Him. Many people fail to realize how important roots are in their lives. The root system that we have makes us who we are. When we are conceived and then born into this world, we begin to develop a very diverse set of memories, values, a heritage, habits (good and bad), traditions (new and old) etc. that will forever be a part of who we are as an individual. A tree doesn’t get to choose where it is planted, neither does it get to mend the branches broken by the wind or remove the scars of a lightning strike from a storm. A tree that wants to survive grows beyond the many hard times of damage and drought that it has faced throughout the years, if it wants to live on. The tree accepts that the experiences of its environment are merely a part of growing up. Apart from anything spiritual, we all have a past that has in some manner shaped us into who we are today. We have scars that don’t leave us. While we can alter our environment and do things to protect our growth process, I tried to think of the best way to illustrate this and I would like to share a poem with you titled, “Good Timber” that reads, “The tree that never had to fight For sun and sky and air and light, That stood out in the open plain And always got its share of rain, Never became a forest king But lived and died a scrubby thing. The man who never had to toil To heaven from the common soil, Who never had to win his share Of sun and sky and light and air, Never became a manly man, But lived and died as he began. Good timber does not grow in ease; The stronger wind, the tougher trees; The farther sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength; By sun and cold, by rain and snows, In tree or man, good timber grows. Where thickest stands the forest growth We find the patriarchs of them both; And they hold converse with the stars Whose broken branches show the scars Of many winds and of much strife -- This is the common law of life ---Douglas Malloch We need to value the winter as much as the spring, the storm that brings the flooding as much as we do the pleasant rains; we need to welcome the high winds and lightning that may break us from time to time as much as we appreciate the light of the sun and a warm summer breeze. Another author named Hermann Hesse once wrote, “For me, trees have always been the most powerful preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men…”, he continues, “In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.” I know that many of you have been forced to overcome some amazing setbacks in your life. I realize it is hard for you to have lived through those circumstances. I also do not wish that you had not experienced these events, because I firmly believe that the encounters of our days do not weaken us, but make us stronger and better suited to become all that God wants us to be. I do understand that there are some events that no one should have to experience, but in Christ, even the most heinous of actions against us can be used for the glory of God. To those of us that live with the reoccurring thoughts of neglect, abuse, mistrust, broken homes, death of loved ones unjustly, or whatever it may be, if you are here, these events will be a ring on the trunk of your life and recorded in history when you are cut down and no longer exist in this world. They do not keep you from thriving in Christ today and showing your strength as you overcome the winters of life to see what next spring will bring to your overall growth. By the grace of God we can be healed and made whole and continue reaching upward toward heaven.