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  • Title: Too Much, Too SoonBy: Ray C. StedmanScripture: Genesis 4:17-26Date: Unknown date in 1968Series: Understanding SocietyMessage No: 3Catalog No: 323

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    Too Much, Too Soon

    by Ray C. Stedman

    In this present series in Genesis we are likeexplorers who have traced a mighty river to itssources and who are now beginning to grasp thecharacter of the land in which they live. We havealready traced in this chapter the causes of war,crime, and prejudice to their roots in the hearts ofmen who refuse to be honest before God. In thisstory of Cain and Abel we have a kind of humancameo of history, a microscopic picture of the en-tire scope of human history. That, of course, iswhy the Bible is always so contemporary; it dealswith elements of human life that never change.

    Today we will take a closer look at what iscalled culture or civilization, and especially thepart that city life plays in the shaping of humansociety. This is introduced for us in Verse 17 ofChapter 4:

    Cain knew his wife, and she conceivedand bore Enoch; and he built a city, andcalled the name of the city after the name ofhis son, Enoch. {Gen 4:17 RSV}

    In an earlier series we indicated that we havearchaeological proof of this as an actual occur-rence, for archaeologists have found that the wordenoch is the earliest word for city in any humanlanguage. In the ancient area of the Tigris and Eu-phrates Rivers, the oldest inhabited cities known toman were called enoch. This was much as we referto San Francisco as the city, so they called thisfirst town, the city, enoch.

    It is interesting that it was Cain who built thefirst city and generally turned the family into thestate. He thus introduced the social and politicalproblems that in this 20th century are screaming atus for solution. It is very suggestive that the firstcity was built by a condemned murderer.

    Now, it is clear from the 21st chapter of Reve-lation that it was ultimately Gods intention formen to live in a city. The dream of the city whichGod intended for man runs throughout the whole ofScripture. Remember, we are told in the book ofHebrews that Abraham looked forward to the citywhich has foundations, whose builder and maker isGod, {Heb 11:10}. So, from the earliest dawn ofhistory, men were looking forward to the coming ofa city. You will find references to it in the Psalmsand other places. But everywhere in Scripturethere is a contrast drawn between the city of Godand the cities of men.

    God withholds his city and it has not comeeven yet. He withholds it for a very good reason:He is waiting until men are ready to live in a city.God first goes about solving the fundamentalproblem of humanity its self-will and defiance ofauthority and then he puts men together in theclose life of a city. But we have reversed that.Man, in his arrogant pride, has assumed that he isquite able to live in close relationship with his fel-low man and has clustered together in citiesthroughout history. The result has been all theviolence, intrigue, social injustice, and long unend-ing record of bloodshed which history records.

    Here is the supreme mark of the fallen man,clearly evident in this passage: He wants every-thing now! That is the trouble with man as he istoday; he wants everything, right now: Instant lux-ury, instant comfort, instant relief, everything, now!To accomplish that, man ignores the problem ofevil. He treats it as though it were nonexistent,dismisses it with a wave of his hand, regards it asmerely trivia and goes ahead to build his city onthe ground that is already red with the blood of hisbrother. That is the story of history.

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    Now, it is a most imposing city he builds. Thetechnical brilliance of man is evident even this earlyin the history of our race:

    To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad was thefather of Mehujael, and Mehujael the fa-ther of Methushael, and Methushael the fa-ther of Lamech. And Lamech took twowives; the name of the one was Adah, andthe name of the other Zillah. Adah boreJabal; he was the father of those who dwellin tents and have cattle. His brothersname was Jubal; he was the father of allthose who play the lyre and pipe [It is fromthis we get our word, jubilee.]. Zillah boreTubalcain; he was the forger of all instru-ments of bronze and iron. The sister ofTubalcain was Naamah. {Gen 4:18-22}

    Even the names here are highly suggestive. Asyou study your Bible, learn to look up the meaningof Bible names. Sometimes there are differences ofopinion as to what they mean, depending upon theroot from which the name was taken, but thesenames are very significant: Irad, for instance, means the city of witness,

    i.e., in this context, witness to the glory ofman. Already the idea of the exaltation ofman is coming in and it will culminate soon inthe tower of Babel, erected to the glory of man.

    Mehujael means smitten of God, which is

    suggestive, perhaps, of a rather defiant attitude:God has smitten, yes, but were going to makea success of this anyway, is mans attitude.

    Methushael is most contemporary; it means

    the death of God. You can see how far backin history that idea goes!

    Lamech means strong or powerful, and

    again reflects clearly the boasting of man in hisfallen state.

    Jabal means traveler; Jubal, trumpeter; and Tubalcain, metalworker especially with

    regard to jewelry and ornamentation.

    Now that is most remarkable. We have here all

    the ingredients of modern life travel, music andthe arts, the use of metals, the organized politicallife, and the domestication of animals. All of this isadmirable and progressive, and, as we have indi-cated, ultimately intended for man. Nothing thatfallen man longs after was to be denied him, as faras God was concerned, but it was to be when manwas ready for it. The whole tragic story of civili-zation is that man insists on it anyway, before he isready for it. You know how often in history wehave said that the story of some human event wastoo little, too late, but here it is obviously toomuch, too soon.

    These things look impressive, and it is desir-able to have these comforts, luxuries, and ad-vances, but what this passage so clearly brings be-fore us is that it is all built on shaky ground. I donot think I could put that any better than to quotethe words of Helmut Thielicke. In a study on thisvery passage, he says:

    The strange thing is that the closer wecome the more clearly we see the red threadthat runs like a pulsing, bloody artery throughthe myriad figures of the world. This moth-erly earth, on which even the greatest of menwalked, on which they erected cities and ca-thedrals and monuments, has drunk the bloodof Abel. And this blood of the murdered andabused appears in stains and rivulets every-where, including the greatest figures. Cain,the great brother and progenitor of man-kind, betrays his mysterious presence.

    Somewhere in every symphony the tone-figure of death is traceable. Somewhere onevery Doric column this mark is to be found.And in every tragedy the lament over injusticeand violence rings out.

    That is what we are trying to forget. We pointboastfully at our great skyscrapers, our manicuredgardens, our beautifully public avenues and parksand say all this is the mark of human ingenuity,human ability. But we cover up and try to ignorethe tragic areas of abuse and privation, of darknessand injustice, of violence and intrigue that go alongwith mans accomplishments. But see how honest,upright and frank the Scriptures are. They make usface right up to this. The account goes right on tointerject two more elements that must be includedin an evaluation of human culture.

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    Lamech said to his wives:Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken to

    what I say:I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-seven fold.

    {Gen 4:23-24 RSV}

    In this passage you have the first mention ofpolygamy in the Bible. Someone has said that po-lygamy has its own punishment it means morethan one mother-in-law! But perhaps there is noteven that here, for we know from the story of Cainthat Lamech may have actually married sisters whohad the same mother. Whatever the case was, atleast here is the beginning of polygamy.

    It occurred to me that perhaps he was simplytrying to do research into the nature and characterof womanhood, studying it from A to Z, from Adahto Zillah!

    If you will forgive me that, well come back tothe text and note that, whatever this is, it marks theunfailing accompaniment of civilization a sexualexcess coming in which is openly tolerated. Ittraces back to this early Cainite civilization.

    The second element that is always present andnecessary to properly evaluate culture is reflectedin this oldest song in the world. Notice that theseverses about Lamech are put into poetic form.They represent an early song, a kind of taunt onLamechs part, in which he is justifying his vio-lence. He boasts to his wives, Listen to what Ihave to say: I have slain a man for wounding me.Evidently, a young man had assaulted him and, inself-defense, he says, I slew him. He boasts ofthis to his wives and justifies it, saying that if Godavenged Cain sevenfold for taking the life of hisbrother without any justification whatever, then,surely, I will be avenged seventy-seven fold forhaving acted in self-defense.

    Here we have the first clear instance of a pat-tern that has repeated itself a thousand times overin human history the justifying of violence on theground of protection of rights.

    Now there is a picture of civilization: Technical brilliance, producing comforts and

    luxuries;

    The substitution of the state for the family; The trend toward urban over rural life; The increasing toleration of sexual excess; and The passionate vindication of violence on the

    grounds of the protection of rights. Sound familiar?

    Has human nature changed in the thousands ofyears of history recorded since Cain? Not a bit.

    Does this sound familiar?

    Our youth now loves luxuries. They have badmanners, contempt for authority. They showdisrespect for elders and they love to chatterinstead of exercise. Children are now tyrants,not the servants, of their households. They nolonger rise when elders enter the room. Theycontradict their parents, chatter before com-pany, gobble up their food, and tyrannize theirteachers.

    So said Socrates, 425 BC!Well, what is the problem? It reduces to the

    clamant cry of the human heart for everything,now! Men do not want to get ready for anything.They do not want to face the fact that perhaps theyare not ready yet, that they need certain changes inthemselves first before they are ready to move intoclose companionship with one another and live to-gether. It is a refusal to acknowledge the glaringproblems of human life.

    It is manifest in the superficiality of our lives,the fact that we make trivial things sound like theyare horribly important. Have you been listening tothe toothpaste ads on the TV recently? If you be-lieved the ads, you would think that a certain brandof toothpaste could change your whole life. Thoseads are intended to be taken at least in a quasi-serious way. The things that do change life wetreat as mere trivia, only for religious people, thosefew people who cant keep their minds off the mys-tical. They are the ones to whom this change oflife, this born again experience, makes its appeal.

    How clearly the Scripture puts its finger on theproblem of human life this refusal of human be-ings to be healed first before they begin to claim theblessings God intends for the race. The cleansingof grace must come first, and then the seeking of

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    Gods city. This is why man has never been able tofind what he has sought for in city life, because heis forever building his cities upon ground that is redwith the blood of his brother.

    A father told me recently of the struggles of hisson. It was the old, old story of the prodigal sonwho felt that what his father taught and believedwas boring, uninteresting, and useless. Life madeits adventurous appeal to him and he succumbed tothe lure of new things and exciting adventures andrelationships and refused to stay with his family.He got involved with drugs, women, and evilfriends, and, finally almost wrecked in health andbroken in spirit, so tortured and tormented withinhe was on the verge of suicide he realized whatwas happening to him, and, at the last moment,repented, came back, and found peace of heart andgrace in the fathers house. The father said to me,I dont know why it is that he had to learn the hardway.

    Well, why is it?It is because men refuse to face the facts about

    life. For those who refuse to face the facts, there isno other way to learn than by hard experience, thegrinding tribulation and tumult of having to livewith facts we will not recognize. But it is not nec-essary. Even this early in the human race it wasnot necessary.

    Notice Verses 25 and 26 here, which close thischapter:

    And Adam knew his wife again, andshe bore a son and called his name Seth, forshe said, God has appointed for me an-other child instead of Abel, for Cain slewhim. To Seth also a son was born, and hecalled his name Enosh. At that time menbegan to call upon the name of the LORD.{Gen 4:25-26 RSV}

    Once again these names are most suggestive: Seth means appointed. Eve said, I will call

    him Appointed because God has appointedanother son to take the place of Abel.

    When the man of faith is taken out of theworld, Gods work does not end; he raises upanother. I have been so impressed by the epi-taph on the tomb of John Wesley, in Westmin-ster Abbey in London. I stood before it someyears ago, and I have never forgotten it: God

    buries His workman, but He carries on Hiswork.

    And here too the work of God is goingforward. He appoints another son, anotherman.

    The name of Seths son was Enosh, whichmeans mortal.

    Here is suggested very clearly the idea thatin the midst of this Cainite civilization, with itsproud refusal to recognize the canker eatingaway at the heart of humanity, and its desire toachieve the luxuries and comforts that God de-signs, but on a false basis, there were yet thosewho recognized their mortality, and, thus, theirdependence upon God.

    There were those who took Gods ap-pointed way, and, as the account goes on tosay, they began to call upon the name of theLORD. They recognized that God must healour hearts before we can have all the thingsthat our urges cry out for, that the cancerwithin us must be dealt with before we can be-gin to live.

    This has been the story of the Scriptures frombeginning to end. All the way through, the Scrip-tures have been at pains to point out to us that thereare only two ways to live. Jesus said so. There isthe broad way, which many are taking, which looksso logical but which leads to destruction; and thereis the narrow way, which begins at the point wherean individual...