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Life Outside of the Garden | Genesis 4

As preached by Timothy O'Day.

"Trust entails hearing and believing God's promises."

Life outside of the Garden...

1) Requires trusting God.

2) Consists of two paths: hoping in self or hoping in God.

Life Outside of the Garden

Genesis 4

June 11, 2023

I am one of 8 kids. I am aware enough now that this is a big family in our modern era, but this doesn’t change the fact that when I was younger and people found out I had 7 siblings, I didn’t have a good answer to the question, “What was that like?” I didn’t have a good answer because I didn’t know what it was like to be part of another family. Growing up with 7 siblings is the only life I knew and thus it was hard for me to compare it to something else. That is, until I moved out. Then my answer to what it was like to live with 7 other kids became a lot more clear: It’s noisy, messy, fun, and you learn to eat really fast because you may not get seconds otherwise.

When I moved out, you could say that it was the best of times and the worst of times for me. It was great because I had privacy, extended times of silence, and no one messed with my stuff. But it was also the worst because I had to, for the first time, grapple with loneliness. I had lost the world I had known and I wasn’t sure how to live in the new one.

That’s similar to what is happening in Genesis 4. In Genesis 1-2, we saw God create the world and call it very good, then he made man and woman to be with him, in his place, and under his rule. But in Genesis 3 we saw that man sinned an alienated himself from God. Having rejected his rule, Adam and Eve were banished from God’s place. Yet this judgment was one of hope: he promised in Genesis 3:15 that one would come from the woman who would crush the seed of the serpent.

Genesis 4, then, is the beginning of the story of humanity being outside of the garden. When Cain was born, you could say that it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Cain’s birth is perceived by Eve as an answer to the promise of Genesis 3:15. At his birth, she declares, “I have gotten a man with he help of the LORD.” The word here for “man” is one that is used for adult males and not infants. Why does she use this term? Because she is thinking back to the promise given by God in Genesis 3:15. Here is the man who will crush the serpent, or she hopes and believes. But what follows in Genesis 4 shows us why this is also the worst of times. Adam and Eve have yet to live in a world that is dominated by sin. The corrupting effects of sin are setting in and they will experience the horrors of it. Just as you and I cannot quite imagine what it would be like to live in a sinless world, Adam and Eve had not yet grasped what it was like to life in a world under sin. And even if we think we know what it is like, we can learn from this passage even more of how we are supposed to live in a world full of sin. So let’s walk through Genesis 4 and see how it can help us understand how to live life outside of the garden.

Life Outside the garden,

Requires trusting God

Trust Entails Hearing and Believing God’s Promise

Verses 1-7 show us several ways in which trust is displayed. In verse 1 we read that Adam knew his wife Eve, meaning that they knew one another as a husband and wife do, and a child comes from the union. As I just said, at his birth, she declares, “I have gotten a man with he help of the LORD.” The word here for “man” is one that is used for adult males and not infants. Why does she use this term? Because she is thinking back to the promise given by God in Genesis 3:15. Here is the man who will crush the serpent, or she hopes and believes.

And what is required for this trust? The answer is so simple that you might not be able to see it: listening to God and remembering what he has said. Upon hearing this promises in Genesis 3, we see that it remained with her as she gave birth to this child. If life outside of the garden requires us to trust God, then a necessary prerequisite for us is hearing and cherishing his promises. Faith isn’t empty. Faith must have an object. The modern slogan “just believe” or “just have faith” is non-sensical. J. Gresham Machen once wrote, “faith is the opinion that someone person will do something for you. If that person really will do that thing for you, then the faith is true. If he will not do it, then the faith is false.”[1] It doesn’t matter if the faith makes you feel good or if it changes your life. It only ultimately matters if it is true. Life outside of the garden does not require mere trust, but trust in God. And trusting God requires knowing him and knowing him requires listening to him, hearing from his word. Eve heard God’s promise, treasured it, and looked for it to take place because she trusted him.

And what is she trusting? A particular promise. Trusting a particular promise requires you to look for particular things and to hope for them. Eve heard God’s promise and looked for it, and in seeing her child connected him to the promise. As Christians, we have even more specific promises to cherish and for which to live in hope. As you read the Bible, you look for promises. As we turn from the Old Testament to the knew, we see the promise of this child come into fulfillment in the birth of Jesus; we see the promise Isaiah 53, that the suffering servant of the Lord would bear the iniquity of many fulfilled in Jesus; we see the promise of his resurrection fulfilled in Jesus. And so, when we see Jesus promise that if we trust him we will receive his Spirit anther from him that he will come again to judge the living and the dead, we like Eve wait in faith and look for his coming.

What promises are you listening to? What promises do you find yourself cherishing? These are the ones for which you will look. We are all living outside of the garden and it is vital that we hear and believe the promises of God if we are to have true life.

Trust is Expressed through Worship

We read in verse 3 that in the course of time Cain brought an offering to God and, in verse 4, that Abel also brought an offering. And then in verses 4-5 we see that God had regard for Abel’s offering but had no regard for Cain’s. Why? The answer is not that Abel offered meat and Cain offered vegetables, for we see later on in the Mosaic law that God is pleased with grain offerings. We can discern the answer by doing two things: reading these verses carefully and then reading Hebrews 11:4 which comments on this incident. In Hebrews 11:4 we read, “by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.” If you read the book of Hebrews, one thing you should walk away with is that the author of Hebrews is a careful and very good Bible reader. So we could ask, what does he see in Genesis 4 that leads him to say that Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain by faith. Where is his faith, his trust in God, discernible? Look back at Genesis 4:3-4 at what is said of their respective offerings. “Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground” while Abel “of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.” Do you see the difference? Cain brought something, Abel brought the first and the best. Later in the Mosaic Law, we see over and again that high points of worship call for the first fruits (see Ex 13:2,15; 23:6; Lev 27:26; Deut 15:19). He gets the first and the best whether from the field or the flock because it is a recognition that it all comes from him.

The fact of the matter is this: our willingness, or unwillingness, to give is a manifestation of what we truly love and what we truly trust. Abel’s giving reveals his faith in God; Cain’s withholding reveals his lack of faith in God.

Is there something in your life that is “off limits” to God? Has something staked claim of your heart in such a way that you are not willing to give to God because you must give to it? What, if you don’t get it, causes you to dive into anger and self-pity? What, if you do get it, causes you to rage either internally or externally? This is what you really trust and love and it will only ever disappoint you. God, when he is your treasure, will not.

Trust is Expressed through Repentance

After God has regard for Abel’s offering because it was given in faith, we see at the end of verse 5 the result: “So can was very angry, and his face fell,” which is to say that he was enraged and ashamed at the same time. He, the first born and the one celebrated as possibly being a fulfillment of the promise, is bested by his younger brother. Anger is a response we have when we don’t get what we want or we get something that we do not want. James 4:1-2a tells us as much, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” What did Cain want? It wasn’t simply being accepted by God. We know that because we see in verses 6-7 that God confronts Cain in his anger and tells him how he can be accepted. God says to him, “why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” God is saying to him, “It doesn’t have to be this way, Cain. You can be accepted. Trust me and I will have regard for you.” But being accepted by God is not what he wants. If it was, then he could have had it by receiving God’s rebuke and turning to trust him. But instead he murders his brother, showing that what he really wanted was to be first.

Do you see the beauty and mercy in God’s words to Cain? Here is Cain, angry and ashamed, and God speaks to him firmly but also graciously. When he says “Do well,” he doesn’t mean, “be perfect.” He means, “trust me as Abel has.” If he were to do that, he would be accepted, meaning that his conscience would be settled and he would have peace with God.

When you are confronted with the reality of your sin, that is an invitation from God to trust him instead of trusting yourself. Each one of us has pursued sin thinking that it will satisfy, but in the end we are left angry and ashamed. When conviction of sin comes over you—the realization that what you have done is wrong—you might feel like God is pushing you away. But conviction is God helping you see sin for what it really is so that you may come to hate it as you should and turn from it to him. Conviction is God’s invitation to trust him instead of yourself or anything else in this world. What you do when you are confronted by God with your sin is of utmost importance. When God convicts you, you can do one of two things.

First, you can believe him, turn from trusting that sin will satisfy you and turn to trusting that he will satisfy and deliver you from the guilt of sin. What does this look like for you? It looks like turning to Jesus and saying, “Jesus, I believe everything that you have said about yourself. I believe that you are the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who took on flesh, lived a life of perfect obedience (the life I was supposed to live!), died as my substitute on the cross (bearing the wrath of God that I deserve!), and rose again from the grave to conquer death and show that my sin is completely paid. I believe that you are the Lord of all and I joyfully bow my knee before you and leave behind what you call me to leave behind.”

Second, you can ignore him. But hear the warning that comes with this: God says to Cain in the second half of verse 7, “and if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” That is to say, if you do not trust the Lord, then your initial sin will be the least of your worries. To ignore God’s conviction is to willingly sell yourself into the bondage of sin. You might feel like you are in control, but the image of verse 7 says you are like a man walking through a door ignoring the fact that someone is standing just around the corner, ready to jump you and tie you up.

Don’t play with sin. Playing with sin is like playing with cancer. If a doctor told you that you had cancer but then said, “you know, you really won’t feel the effects of it for a few months. Yes, it is aggressively spreading through your body and will ultimately kill you, but you feel fine right now, don’t you? So why treat it? I mean, it’s just a little bit of cancer.” If he said that, you would walk right out and find a doctor who took cancer seriously. Take sin seriously. Don’t say, “It’s a little bit of lust; gossip; dishonesty; bitterness; anger; greed; envy; jealously; pride; sloth; gluttony

What does Cain do? He ignores God and hardens his heart, which leads to the murder of his brother. Like after Adam and Eve’s sin, God questions Cain, not because he lacks knowledge but as a merciful and just way of providing Cain an opportunity to confess. Cain, however, is hardened and hardens his heart all the more by adding lying to the sin of murder when he says that he does not know where Abel is.

Sin begets sin. Self-regard leads to anger; anger leads to murder; murder leads to lying.

Now, before we move on to what is next in this narrative, let me just stop and ask you something: do you feel like it might be too late for you? Are you reflecting on your life and thinking, “Yes, sin has lead to deeper sin and I have ignored God’s warning.” I want you to know, it isn’t too late for you. Conviction is God’s invitation for you to repent and be free in Christ. Do you feel conviction right now? Then don’t harden your heart now. You can confess your sins and find full and complete forgiveness in Christ today. He stands ready to save sinners. He stand ready to forgive. Only the power of God can free you from sin. Maybe you have walked through that door and sin has knocked you out and captured you, but Christ is stronger than the evil in this world and he can set you free. Come to him today. Don’t harden your heart like Cain.

And we must beware of hardening our hearts like him because, as we see in the rest of this chapter, life outside of the garden…

Consists of two paths: hoping in self or hoping in God

Genesis 3:15 was not just a promise that one would come from the seed of the woman to conquer the serpent, but also a warning that there would be enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. This was not speaking merely of enmity between literal snakes and humans. It was speaking to the spiritual struggle that would take place on this world. What Genesis and the rest of the Bible bear out is that your lineage is not decided merely by your physical descent but also by your spiritual alignment. Cain and Seth are brothers biologically, but in a spiritual sense they belong to two different lines. This is borne out in the fact that they receive their own genealogies set next to each other at the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5. What is the reason for this? The reason becomes clear as we look at verses 11-16. There we see the result of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. There we see that God curses Cain. This is an incredible statement and not simply because it is a horrifying prospect to be cursed by God. If you recall from Genesis 3, when God judges the serpent along with Adam and Eve, he does not curse Adam and Eve but only the serpent. He judges Eve by increasing her pain in childbirth and he judges Adam by cursing the ground so that now his labor will be with toil, but he curses the serpent. Cain is the first man to be cursed and in his being cursed he is identified with the serpent, showing himself to be more of his seed and of his line then that of the woman. While Adam would find the ground toilsome to work, Cain is told that the ground will no longer yield anything for him (verse 12). And he was to be a fugitive and a wanderer all of his days, meaning that he would have no place. Having aligned himself with the serpent, he aligned himself with the serpent’s fate of separation from God.

Cain’s response in verse 13 shows that he is horror struck at this prospect, but not repentant. When he says, “my punishment is greater than I can bear,” he is overcome with pity for himself and not sorrow for his sin. His concern is that someone will find him and kill him, meaning that he is overcome with anxiety that he will be murdered just as he murdered Abel. When God says “Not so!” In verse 15 and puts a mark on him, it is his response to Cain’s insinuation that God is being cruel and leaving him as a target for retribution. God, in his mercy, spares Cain’s life and places a mark on him as a signal to all of his mercy.

The Image and Path of Hoping in Self

In this world, in life outside of the garden, the seed of the serpent, though cursed, enjoys the common grace of God. We see this throughout the genealogy of Cain. In that genealogy, there is the blessing of children and life. There is the common grace of subduing the earth, as as tent dwelling with livestock is pioneered, musical instruments are developed, as well as forging metals. These developments are not evil in themselves, but we do see that sin also marks this line. This is seen in several ways.

First, even though God promised that Cain would be protected and that God would execute justice over him, which is what is meant by him being avenged sevenfold, he builds a city. In the ancient world, cities were constructed not a mere hubs but as places of protection. Even upon receiving God’s promise, Cain trusted in himself for protection.

Second, in verse 19 we read that Lamech took two wives, ignoring God’s design for marriage to be between one man and one woman in Genesis 2:23-24. Now polygamy is practiced by the Patriarchs later on in Genesis, but its introduction here is a signal to us that polygamy is a corruption and not a good; something that God endures, not promotes.

Third, versees 23-24 show us that this line uses God’s gifts in order to dominate the weak instead of ruling in subjection to God. Metallurgy and music are developed, but to what end are they used? Verses 23-24 tells us: murder and self-glorification. Lamech sings a song to his two wives in which he says that he killed a man for simply wounding him. It isn’t said, but we can infer that he trusts in his might because he has weapons developed by his son. And in remembering God’s promise to protect Cain, Lamech boasts that he needs no protection. He can avenge himself 77 fold! His vengeance and power are greater in his eyes than God’s.

The Image and Path of Hoping in God

In contrast, verses 25-26 give us a teaser of what will be expounded in chapter 5. Here we see that Adam and Eve have a 3rd son who replaces Abel who is murdered and Cain who is disqualified. Eve names him Seth because, as she says in verse 25, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” Seth carries the meaning of “granted,” meaning that she sees him as a gift from God. Eve’s faith in God’s promise is not shaken. She sees him as faithful even as Cain has been faithless.

How is this line contrasted with that of Cain’s? Here, only one son is listed before the genealogy is explored thoroughly in chapter 5. No accomplishments like cities or inventions are listed. We simply read at the end of verse 26, “at that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” This word “call” carries with it two primary meanings: prayer and proclamation. It isn’t that this line does not ever sin or that they never came up with any societal innovations. It is that they are defined by the fact that they call out to God in hope for deliverance and proclaim the promise that God will deliver. Is it surprising that we see in this line, generations later, the father of Noah say of him in 5:29, “out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” Sinlessness was not passed down in this line: faith was.

How Will You Live Outside of the Garden?

Everyone is living life outside of the garden. And there is a choice before you. You can hope in the work of your hands and promise yourself redemption and vengeance; or you can call on the name of the Lord, whose forgiveness is perfect and complete. If you are considering your life this morning and you conclude that you have not trusted God or that you hoped in the things of this world, seeking to assert yourself, I want you to know that there is hope. Christ Jesus came to bear the curse that you and I deserve because of our sin (cf. Galatians 3:13). To a man, each of us deserve separation from God and his eternal wrath because we have all gone astray; each one of us, like sheep, has gone astray, choosing to satisfy ourselves. Every single person in this world has made himself or herself an enemy of God by choosing sin.

But God, even when we were his enemies, sent his Son to die for us. God the Son took on flesh to live a life of perfect obedience outside of the garden. He went to the cross, bearing the curse of sin on himself, and died by suffering the anger and judgment of God.

Christian, you have great reasons to hope and endure as we wait for his second coming.

If you do not know Christ, you have great reason to hope as you hear of the mercy of Christ. Come to him and trust him today.

[1] Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, 143.


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