Showing posts with label Cain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cain. Show all posts

24 September 2012

Seven times?

How many times must I forgive a person who wrongs me? We take a look at forgiveness in terms of Cain's murder of Abel, Israel's history, and the teaching of Jesus. There's a pattern, a thread running through all these themes. We see how forgiveness is protective and comes without limits.

Forgiveness at its source
When Yahshua told Peter he should forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22), he was clearly making the point that forgiveness is something that should be seen as having no limits.

But this is not the first time these words are found in the Bible.

All wise and all knowing as he is, Jesus would have been very familiar with the earlier texts in Genesis 4:15 and Genesis 4:24. He intended Peter (and us) to get the deeper message. So what is that deeper message?

Cain - Read Genesis 4:8-26. In verse 8 we see how Cain attacks his brother and kills him. Which is the greater sin, attacking my brother or killing him? Most of us would agree that murder is worse than injury. But is it? We'll come back to that.

Cain's punishment is more than he can bear, he understands he is to become an exile, hidden from Yahweh's presence, and a restless wanderer at risk of death. Even so, Yahweh protects him by placing a mark upon him and decreeing seven-fold vengeance on anyone who dares kill him.

Cain goes into exile but raises a family and builds a city. His descendent Lamech also commits a murder and claims seventy times seven-fold vengeance. Notice in verse 26 that it was after these events that people began to call on the name of Yahweh.

Israel - We can see much in the history of Israel that mirrors these events. The life of Cain is, in a sense, prophetic. Joseph's brothers were jealous, they sold him to Egyptian traders and told their father that he was dead. For all they knew it was true.

The nation passed into slavery in Egypt, hidden from Yahweh's presence. When they were released from Egypt they became restless wanderers at risk of death, but they carried the mark of circumsision and were protected from destruction at the hands of the Egyptians and other nations.

They began to call on the name of Yahweh and worshipped him - first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.

Forgiveness - Let's move on again, to the conversation between Peter and Yahshua. Peter wanted to offer the protection of Cain to his brother, but Jesus requires the protection of Lamech. What is really going on here?

Peter's forgiveness is just like the forgiveness of the Father. It is the thing that protects from vengeance. Peter either forgives his brother, the fault is forgotten and the relationship restored, or he does not. And he needs to treat every repeat offence as if it's the first. And like Peter, we too are called to forgive without limit, without counting. It's what the Father and the Son have done for us, forgiven without limit. How can I do less for my brother, my sister?

It is the word of the Father that he will demand life from anyone who harms us. We have only one enemy - the evil one - and he cannot stand against our Father.

The pattern set by Cain and Lamech (pre covenant) comes down via Israel (Old Covenant) to the church (New Covenant). Cain was offered a mark and a seven-fold protection. Lamech claimed a seventy times seven-fold protection.

Israel (before the Messiah) was given the mark of circumcision and protection through repeated but temporary ritual sacrifice.

In Yahshua we (with Israel) are given the mark of the Holy Spirit and protection through ongoing and indefinite forgiveness. But like Lamech we must claim that protection. In our case we can only do so by believing and confessing Jesus as Lord.

Oh yes... Murder or injury, which is worse? Jesus pretty much equated anger and murder - don't murder, don't injure, and don't even be angry. Anger is the source of murder in my heart just as it was for Cain.

Read Matthew 5:21-22, 1 John 3 and 1 Corinthians 6 for more on this topic.

Did you know? There's a 'Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance' that was formed to promote forgiveness in all situations. The organisation declares that 'Forgiveness is the greatest healer of them all' and 'Without forgiveness there is no future'. They have some great stories about forgiveness.

I'd say that Jesus is the greatest healer and without him there is no future. But Jesus came to open the way to forgiveness, healing, and eternity.

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