Cain and Abel Painting by Laszlo Mathe

Today: Psalms 3; Matthew 2:19-Matthew 3; Genesis 4:17-Genesis 6

Psalm 3

When David penned the third Psalm, he was surrounded by enemies who were trying to destroy him. His own son was leading them. How heartbreaking to be hated by his own son! How easy it is to be swept away in the contentious mood of today, especially on social media. I have watched lifelong friends reject each other and families split apart over differences of opinion. It grieves my heart to see. Hate is hurled around in cyberspace with careless abandon, vicious little word bombs intended to wound and destroy. I wish we could all just be nice to each other!

This is nothing new. Hate and murder introduced itself to the human race very early on, to the very first two children ever born to mankind. Only four humans existed and already blood was shed.

Have you ever noticed that God tried to warn Cain before he did the deed? God admonished Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face gloomy? If you do well, will your face not be cheerful? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7) Wouldn’t you like to quote this advice to a few people on Facebook? (hint: don’t do it…)

Just like his parents, Cain chose to ignore God’s instructions and listened instead to the voice of sin. And the first drops of human blood were spilled upon the ground.

Blood has been flowing ever since… conflict and bloodshed will continue until Christ returns. It is the reality of our cursed human condition. Fortunately for us, most of the weapons aimed against us these days are just words. But wishing for everyone to “just be nice” is only a delusion. Troubles are certain in this life. No amount of money, good connections, or wile can avoid them. I’d much rather walk through my troubles with the God of David at my side. He is our only real shield from the barbs of life. He is our glory, the lifter of our heads, our sustenance. Only in God is true salvation.

Matthew 2

And the blood continued to flow…

Satan’s first attempt to assassinate the Messiah was via Herod’s horrific genocide of all male children two years or younger in Bethlehem. The Christ child survived after God warned Joseph in a dream to flee with his young family to Egypt. Jesus entered this world as a helpless child, dependent upon his earthly parents to carry him to safety. But the collateral damage was tragic and many innocent children were slaughtered. He’s still at it, that wicked liar. He never quits. He perpetually lashes out at us, Christ’s beloved bride, in his attempt to wound the blessed Messiah. We are caught in the middle of an epic war of the ages between good and evil. The good has ultimately won the victory but not without much blood and casualties.

Matthew 3

Jesus’ first act in the book of Matthew is to be baptized. The perfect Christ had no need of baptism. John the Baptist knew very well who Jesus was and tried to refuse. Can you image? Baptizing God?  But Jesus insisted upon it… his first public act as our holy example, to “fulfill all righteousness.” John baptized with water, but he proclaimed that Jesus would baptize us with “the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

Long before we bought our 34 acre property in Southeast Missouri, it was irresponsibly clearcut. Mountains of dead unwanted trees were left to rot in a field behind where our cabin now sits. Initially we had no idea what to do with the inaccessible acres of twisted trees filled with rattlesnakes and rats. Our conservation agent suggested that we use controlled burns to clear the area. That sounded rather scary, but we took a class to learn how and then proceeded to burn our way down to the bare ground. We were surprised how quickly and completely fire could clear and cleanse the land. The result is a beautiful field of rich fertile soil.

We are like that field… twisted and rotten with sin… infiltrated with snakes and rats. Give us more of that unquenchable fire, LORD! Burn off all the useless chaff of our lives. Make us useful, fertile land where your good fruits may grow strong and plentiful.

"The Baptism of the Christ with Dove" painting by Daniel Bonnell