Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: Cain

Scripture: Genesis 4:1-16

With Adam’s and Eve’s sin, a break between the natural and the supernatural occurred. Now man could no longer approach God freely; sin had created a wedge separating the two. But God didn’t abandon His creation. As if to emphasize this, the next recorded encounter between God and man, after God drove man from Eden, happened between God and Cain—the world’s first murderer.

In that encounter, God challenges Cain to do right, even warning him of sin’s nearness. But Cain doesn’t listen and murders his younger brother Abel. This triggers a second encounter with God, wherein God confronts an unrepentant Cain concerning the murder and then metes out punishment upon Cain.

Observations: God approached Cain and talked with him.

That fact may not seem significant at first glance, because we are so familiar with the story. But think about it: God approached not the godly Abel, but Cain, the brother who wasn’t in a right relationship with God. After all, offerings were intended to bridge the gap between God and man. God’s rejection of Cain’s offering meant the gap remained unbridged. In addition, the fact God rejected Cain’s offering shows Cain was acting in willful disobedience, whatever the particulars may be (see v. 7, where it is said Cain knew what was right). Cain then compounded this disobedience by reacting to the rejection with murderous anger.

Still God approached Cain. Despite Cain living in willful rebellion against God, God came to Cain and spoke directly to him, even knowing Cain would reject His words and murder his brother. What grace, what mercy! Unfortunately, despite such a lavish display on God’s part, Cain went through with murdering Abel and showed utter contempt for God (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”), only repenting when he heard God’s punishment for him.

Significance: Many times we see God’s interaction as limited to the godly, to people who “deserve” to be intimate with God. And when we extend such this thought to the logical conclusion, we decide that if someone who’s living in willful disobedience has an encounter with the supernatural, they encountered the supernatural of the Satanic variety.

Although the godly’s direct encounters with God outnumber the rebel encounters in Scripture, Cain’s meeting with God debunks the idea that God’s encounters are limited to the godly. For in reality, sin divides all of us from God, both the godly and the rebel. None of us can approach God. God, on the other hand, can approach whomever He pleases.

So when dealing with the supernatural, we must consider more than the recipient of the supernatural. While it is more likely for God to approach the godly and Satan the rebel, it is not impossible for God to approach the rebel or “ungodly” as well. Yes, we must “consider the source” when we deal with the supernatural, but this cannot be our only determining factor when deciding the supernatural’s origin. Which is where the rest of Scripture comes in.

This passage also debunks a second common fallacy: It is easy to think that if unbelievers witness a miracle or have a supernatural encounter with God, they will repent and turn to following God. But an encounter with the supernatural may not change anything. In fact, it may even drive the person to greater rebellion: Cain had a direct encounter with God and even talked with Him. Yet despite that, he went out and committed fratricide. In short, neither the miraculous nor the supernatural can change a heart. (Also see Luke 16:31.)

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