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God's Precise Commitment To Destroy Evil and Preserve Creation

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, you have driven me this day from the face of the ground, and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

Genesis 4:13-15

Cain was guilty as sin, and he knew it. Nevertheless, Cain cried out for mercy and received it. Our God is gracious. God put some kind of fear on Cain so that nobody would dare seek to avenge Able’s life. Many modern people would applaud God’s merciful declaration for the murderer, Cain. But in a short time, God would make a reverse policy decision.

Cain built a city and raised a family. The spirit of murder never left Cain’s family because his descendant, Lamech, boasted about the people he killed and leaned into the gracious policy that God implemented for his father, Cain:

“I have killed a man for wounding me and a boy for striking me,” declared Lamech, “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” Genesis 4:23-24

Lamech sought amnesty under God’s gracious declaration over his father, Cain, but he also went beyond that to weaponize the statement into

a threat toward anyone who might seek vengeance. We see this same thing happening today among criminals whom the media has helped claim victim status, now making demands on society despite their selfish, violent, and rebellious behavior. The criminals speak like the victims.

The policy God implemented on Cain’s behalf was meant to end the cycle of death, but murder increased under this policy because murderers were emboldened. Was God surprised by this policy failure? Of course not. The author of Genesis knows full well the story of the Exodus and the giving of the Law, including the commandments “You shall

not murder” and “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death.” Exodus 21:12. This policy failure with Cain’s family is a polemic for the death penalty and the basis for God’s policy reversal in Genesis 9:5-6

“Surely, I will require your lifeblood; from every beast, I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother, I will require the life of man. Whenever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” Genesis 9:5-6

Mercy only allowed man’s arrogance to reach extraordinary heights, even leading men to try to exalt themselves above God because “they got away with murder.” God’s wisdom in the Law is displayed in the story of Cain and God’s policy reversal on murder.

“So Yahweh said to Himself, “I will never again despise the ground on account of humanity, because the inclination of the human heart is evil from its youth. I will never again strike every living thing as I have done. Never again, for all the days of earth, will seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, cease.” Genesis 8:21-22

Despite the overwhelming judgment God rendered on earth due to the wickedness of man, man was still wicked. Therefore, God concluded that destroying the earth through a flood is not the solution to the problem of evil. God vowed that He would not punish the earth again for the wickedness of man. Another solution must be imagined.

To think about God thinking this way is unthinkable to many of us. God is sovereign and all-knowing. Certainly, God doesn't explore wisdom or make decisions and learn from His mistakes! God can't learn anything because God knows everything! God cannot make mistakes because He is perfect. These are the facts.

Nevertheless, God does relate to humans in a human way. Jesus, even after His resurrection, ate fish and bread as though His body needed it because God chose to live in a body that needed food. Similarly, God chose to communicate in a human way through the author of Genesis. God was pleased to allow Genesis to present Him as having developing thoughts as humans do. Still, the listener is expected to know that this is a mode of storytelling, and one should not conclude that God lacked knowledge or intelligence. Genesis is written to help the people of God develop thoughts and draw conclusions, and how could wisdom be better displayed than by communicating it as the thought pattern of God Himself?

Genesis is not trying to present a God who has no foresight. Instead, the author of Genesis addresses human questions, particularly Israelite questions, through a story-telling mode. The story of the flood addresses one of mankind’s standard proposed solutions to the problem of evil: “Kill the bad guys, and all will be well.” The reality, Genesis 8:21-Genesis 9 says, is the problem of evil continues to run in the bloodlines of humans even after you’ve boiled man down to the best of the best. Noah, that “righteous man,” is found drunk and naked by the end of chapter 9, and his son, Ham, takes advantage of him. Evil is so pervasive that though Genesis 9 begins with blessings after a drastic reset of humanity, the chapter ends with cursing. Everything in Genesis 1-11 sets the stage for the appearance of Abraham (or “Abram”) in Genesis 12 and the covenant that would define Israel as the people of God with a special vocation to rescue the world. Genesis was written to tell generations of Israelites their identity and vocation.

The flood story is a polemic against those who think God should fix the world by destroying all evil people. Genesis 6-9 says on God’s behalf: “Been there, down that, and it didn't work.” Just like the policy reversal on murder, God also reverses policy on how to deal with evil: Destroy everything? Nah. It doesn’t work, and God says, I don't want to do that again. I will never do that again because I love my creation.

One of the interesting facts about these policy reversals is that they seem to turn in on themselves in disposition. God becomes more severe when dealing with murder but more patient when it comes to mankind’s rebellion in general. And what is the guiding principle behind God’s policy decisions? The preservation of the creation project. The lenient stance of murder allowed for cities to be built on bloodshed and ever-increasing violence, which is destruction for humanity and every living thing. Confronting evil through obliteration is also bad for the creation project since it nullifies it completely. God is motivated by His love for humanity and the preservation and continuation of the creation project.

Genesis 8-9 reminds me of Jesus' parable about the tares and wheat, addressing the question: “God, what are you doing about evil? Why don't you render judgment?”

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. And when the wheat sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also became evident. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; while you are gathering up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” Matthew 13:24-30

When you might ask, will the harvest ever finally take place? Jesus said that, in the days of His ministry, the harvest had already begun. Those responding to His message were the good fruits plucked and preserved for the life of the age to come. The rest are destined for destruction. We live in the days of the harvest today as people hear the Gospel and get plucked from the corrupted world and brought into the new creation. You can see and recognize these people through their changed natures. They bear the fruit of the kingdom. They are harvested.

How do you know the good wheat? You will know them by their fruits. But the fields with the tares still stand because God is patient, not wishing for any to perish, and some of those tares will become wheat. How tragic would it be to swing the sickle too early? The covenant God made with mankind and the earth in Genesis 9 demonstrates His intention to preserve and rescue creation from evil without destroying it in the process.

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