Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, September 20, 2013

28 Stories - Study 2: The Mark of Protection

Fundamental: The Nature of Man

Bible Story 
The young man enjoyed the wind rushing past his cheeks as he ran through the densely packed scrub surrounding the clearing where his family lived. He laughed at the occasional whip-sting of branches that slapped his arms and chest as he dodged through the brush. He made sure his laugh carried well enough to be heard by his brother whom he was chasing, and who was releasing the well timed branches. It was one of their games from childhood.
It felt great to play again. It had been so long since his brother had treated him like a friend. As they matured into men they had become rivals and, at times, enemies. But, today was different. His brother had visited the sheep pens and thrown out the old challenge, “Bet you can’t catch me!”
And the chase was on.
They broke out of scrub-brush and entered one of his brother’s fields. Tall heads of grain waved over their heads as they sprinted through the crop. As they neared the middle of the vast field, everything went horribly wrong.
His brother crouched, spun on his heel and, instead of heading in a new direction, put the full momentum of his spin behind his clenched fist and drove it forward and upward into the face of his younger brother who plummeted toward him.
It was a well-timed attack. Abel had no way of stopping. Cain had the upper hand. Cain’s fist met Abel’s nose with such force that it lifted him high off the ground. Abel’s vision went crazy—stars, rings, pulsing lights. Every blood vessel in his nose burst and a river of blood sprayed in a crescent of red, up and back, following the trajectory of his head and body.
Abel hit the ground hard. The wind rushed from his lungs as his back slammed into the rocky soil. He gasped for air. He tried to see but the blood from his nose filled his eye sockets and flowed down his cheeks. Moments later he heard, more than felt, a resounding crack which seemed to come from inside his own head. Then he heard no more.
Cain fell back on his haunches. The deed was done. The plan had worked perfectly. The gullible whelp fell for it! He actually gave chase, as if they were still children! Ha!
Cain looked down at the stone in his hands, which he had placed at this exact location in the field. It was, indeed, the right tool for the job. Abel was dead. He dropped the stone with a thud next to Abel’s crushed head.
Cain quickly buried the stone and his brother. He stood and ran to the river to wash himself. No one would go looking in the field. He was sure of it. The cool water felt good against his hot skin. The blood washed off easily.
“Cain, where is your brother?”
Cain spun around quickly—guiltily. He knew that voice. God stood on the edge of the river. Cain’s heart skipped a beat. He stammered.
“Where is Abel?” God asked again.
His composure regained, Cain taunted, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
“What have you done, Cain?” God knelt and took a handful of soil, offering it to Cain. “Listen! Abel’s blood cries out to me from the earth! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the earth yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer.”
Cain had thought his secret was safe in the ground. Now his deed hit him with full force. He was caught. And he was cursed! “It’s too much!” He cried to the Lord, “Surely I’ll be killed by anyone who finds me!”
Then God did something that Cain did not deserve. God put a mark across the forehead of the young murderer—a mark that labeled him, not as criminal but as claimed. It was God’s mark of protection. “I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you,” God promised.
Cain brushed his fingers across the new mark on his forehead. Then he turned and ran from the Lord’s presence—as far away as he could get.

My Reflection
Have you ever been so mad at someone that you wished them harm? How would you respond, if after planning an evil end for your hated enemy and carrying it out, God protected you? What impact would that have on your treatment of people who wronged you in the future?

My Story
Read Genesis 3 carefully through two or three times. Take note of the key themes and characters. Rewrite the story in your own words.

My Assurance
While sin has created a chasm between God and humanity, God has a plan. What do these verses tell us about God’s involvement in our lives? Write your response in the space below.

Acts 17:24-28 ~ “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 ~ For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal.

My Commitment
Being created in the image of God comes with responsibility. This call to demonstrate love for each other and the planet is one of the most recurring themes in the Bible. How are you challenged by these verses?

Genesis 1:26-28 ~ So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

1 John 4:7-8, 11, 20 ~ Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . . Since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. . . . If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?

My Outlook
When we see ourselves and the value of our lives through God’s eyes we begin to see others differently. How do these verses help you understand your value? What do you learn about God’s desire for all people?

Romans 5:15-17 ~ But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 51:10 ~ Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

My Response
The following statement is the 7th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

The Nature of Man
Man and woman were made in the image of God with individuality, the power and freedom to think and to do. Though created free beings, each is an indivisible unity of body, mind, and spirit, dependent upon God for life and breath and all else. When our first parents disobeyed God, they denied their dependence upon Him and fell from their high position under God. The image of God in them was marred and they became subject to death. Their descendants share this fallen nature and its consequences. They are born with weaknesses and tendencies to evil. But God in Christ reconciled the world to Him and by His Spirit restores in penitent mortals the image of their Maker. Created for the glory of God, they are called to love Him and one another, and to care for their environment.

*****

Bible Story
The story at the beginning of this lesson is based on Genesis 4.