Now we will trace humanity’s journey from the garden to the larger world. We are also observing the trajectory of evil and how it manifested itself in our earliest history. Before we follow our First Parents as they make their way in the world, let’s review what their disobedience brought in to creation.
Death enters in to stay: Adam was instructed by God directly: “…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) Not only would will Adam and Eve die, their spirits will die as well. The covering for their sin required the death of innocent animals. The blood poured from a multitude of sacrificial animals as we travel through the Old Testament. This blood was a visual reminder of how death was not part of the original creation and how blood must cover sin, to restore fellowship between a holy God and His fallen children.
Not only will disease and old age take away the lives of Adam’s descendants, but Adam and Eve witnessed the death of their son. The first act outside the Garden was murder.
Toil enters in to stay: The earth was abundantly fruitful until Adam sinned.
Before Adam: “and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface…” (Gen. 2:6).
After Adam: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” (Gen 3:18) Thistles and thorns dominated the landscape and no longer would the earth gladly yield its harvest to man. Famine stalked the land; poor harvests meant death for many people. Death came to plants as well: blights, rusts, and molds withered and destroyed them. The ground itself was “cursed” because of Adam’s sin. Adam’s descendants will live precariously from it, never sure if the harvest will suffice. Death will always be one bad harvest away.
Pain enters in to stay: Eve will scream in childbirth, so that even in the giving of new life, her cries will be a stark reminder of sin and its curse. Her descendants’ babies will occasionally die. Husbands will stand helplessly by as some wives bleed to death after labor.
Eve will be “ruled over” by her husband, and her descendants will walk under the controlling hand of the men in the world--stifled, suffocated and sometimes killed. Some men will rule with love. Some will rule with hate.
Displacement enters in to stay: Humans sense this creation is not quite right. We have an ancient memory of a golden age, a time when the planet didn’t seem so hostile to us. We have been trying to get back to Eden since the day we left. We are wanderers and try to desperately recreate home. We feel unsettled as a species, always searching for security and safety. Adam and Eve wandered and their descendants did so as well, ever restless in spirit.
Adam and Eve’s Family
We meet Abel and Cain. Both are toiling: Abel manages the flocks and Cain tills the soil. The death of sheep provides food and clothing to Adam’s family and the earth’s abundance comes only from work: “Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” (Gen. 4:2-5)
Interesting. Abel is honoring God by bringing Him the best from the flock—the firstborn. Look at the faith this takes: I give the firstborn to God with no guarantee that second-borns will appear. I am trusting God and His goodness to bring forth multiple generations and thus the firstborn is His. If nothing appears after that, then I am still honoring God.
Look at Cain, however. He is the firstborn son, and clearly knows what he has to do: bring an offering. (If the younger brother knows this, surely the elder knows it.) What does he bring? Not the first fruits, but “some of the fruits of the soil.” “Some”--not the best, not the first of the harvest, but “some.” Cain, like Adam listening directly to God, was instructed on what to do directly by his father.
Cain, listen to me: Yes, we toil, but what is yielded first belongs to Him as an acknowledgement that this is His creation and He still provides for us, even though we don’t deserve it. We deserve only thistles and thorns, but He still allows the cursed soil to bring forth grains to mill, berries to pick and kale to pull. We are blessed even in the midst of the curse. So, don’t forget: Give the best to God and trust Him for the rest.
The next thing that entered into creation to stay was rejection of God’s very words: Cain, like his father, heard what he should do and yet chose to disobey. If God looked “with favor” on Abel’s offering but not so on Cain’s, then clearly Abel was being obedient and Cain was not. Cain followed his own logic and thought his offering was acceptable.
We create our own version of how things should be, rebelling against God’s very words. The serpent’s words of “Did God really say?” will echo throughout our history, leading us to create thoughts and actions we approve of and that consequently we will act upon.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 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” (Gen. 4:6-7)
Listen to Me, Cain: I know that your offering seems right to you, but I have expressly told you what to offer. Your brother’s is living proof of that. This logic, this rebellion, this sin, will destroy your relationship with Me. Like your parents, who could eat any fruit but one, you can make an offering aligned with My instructions, and I will continue to fellowship with you. Ignore My words and sin will consume you. Hear My words and you will walk in freedom.
Result? Did Cain run and get the right offering? Did he decide that fellowship with his God was the most important aspect to his existence? That God’s very words were life and he wanted to remain in that life? No.
Now murder entered into creation to stay. Cain lures Abel into a field for the sole purpose of killing him. The Garden of God’s presence was replaced with a field of dirt and spilt blood. The wet grass of the Garden showed God’s footprints as He passed. The field of dirt will show two sets of footprints and then only one.
Cain’s response will echo chillingly throughout our history: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Our First Parents’ sin was against God Himself; their descendants will sin against God and each other.
Listen carefully to the first cry of a mother of a murdered child.
Look ahead and see the Holocaust reflected in that blood-soaked dirt.