Murdering the Image of God
Genesis 4, Luke 5
Today’s reading takes us back to Genesis again. The book is full of surprises for the interested reader who will pay attention. We’ve learned the glories of creation, the goodness, the majesty of the God who creates, the grace of the God who created us to be in fellowship with Him. We learn of sin. It didn’t take long for sin to take over what God had given to us. Chapter 4 is full of sin; full of murder. By the end of chapter 4, the narrative has run-a-muck. By the end of chapter 4, murder has become the human way of getting things done.
We humans are terrifically good at inventing ways of murdering. There is no one humans won’t kill if given the chance. Old people are targets. The unborn are targets. Poor people are good candidates. The rich are equal opportunities. Humans are also good at finding reasons for murder. In Genesis four, it was jealousy (Cain) or revenge (Lamech), but it doesn’t matter. Murder is murder. Humans find ways to do it, create excuses for doing it, and in some cases stop at nothing to be a part of it.
Murder was on the minds of those humans. Murder became justifiable early. Murder became a subject to sing about and the plot to early poetry (Lamech). Murder became the defining characteristic of the culture at an early stage of human existence. It only gets worse as the rest of the narrative unfolds. Soon single acts of murder against individuals (Cain & Lamech) become full-blown, government funded, and justified, genocides. We call them wars and we are fond of finding reasons for justifying them. We sill inhabit a culture of murder.
The chapter opens and closes with Adam and Eve working hard to fulfill their God given purpose of being fruitful and multiplying (4:1 & 25). But in-between these two attempts to perpetuate the image of God on earth, there is murder, and these are just the murders we are told about by the author. This murder is the enemy’s attempt to ‘strike the heal’ of the seed of the woman, to snuff out God’s prophecy, to rid the world of the Image of God. This is what Jesus said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding on to the truth” (John 8:44). The desire of the murderer is to destroy the image of God, to wipe the earth clean of the knowledge of God. He does this by killing those who bear the image.
I also noted that Cain moved further east. This eastward march is further and further away from the presence of God, further and further away from the knowledge of God, which means further and further away from humanity looking anything like the God in whose image they were created. You see, it is hard to look like that which you do not know and it is hard to know that which you are not around or with or in the presence of. As man moves east, in other words, he looks less and less like God.
I think this is the goal of the enemy, still. He uses whatever means and measures are at his disposal to rid the earth of the image of God: War, violence, destruction, murder, chaos—euthanasia, abortion, suicide. He doesn’t care. He is a murderer, and as we moved away from the presence of God—east—we began to project a new image: that of a murderer, that of the enemy.
But there’s verse 25 of chapter 4. “Adam again knew his wife and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, ‘God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.’” Seth becomes the son through whom the lineage of Adam is traced and perpetuated (5:3-8). Interestingly, 5:3, reads, “When Adam lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.” This echoes 1:26-27 and 5:1-2 and this is the only son of Adam of whom this is said. My point is simply that the image of God was perpetuated through Seth. The murderer thought he had solved the problem of the Seed of the Woman who would crush his head and perpetuate God’s image on earth: Kill one brother, banish the other. Problem solved. But God had other plans, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel.” In other words: In His grace, God’s promise stands true: The Seed of the Woman is still alive.
The murderer did not remove hope. God’s promise holds true: The enemy’s head will still be crushed. In his grace, God provided another son.
Try as the enemy might, he cannot thwart the purposes and promises of God. Verse 25 is a declaration of Life and grace; it is a picture of resurrection. Abel, in a sense, was resurrected in Seth. The Seed was preserved. The enemy was thwarted. God’s purposes remain. In his grace, God has provided another Son.