Cain

What Bible Story Has CSI’s Fingerprints All Over It?

If the CSI crowd delves into Bible stories, I bet there’s a knowing gleam in their eyes when they cross the yellow crime scene tape that hangs in the middle of Genesis 4. The murder case is pretty much a no-brainer. The victim is one of a total human population of four. That certainly narrows down the suspect list. He was last seen heading out into the field with his older brother. And we know there’s been bad blood between them. It’s an open-and-shut case. What I think would pique the interest of the CSI folks is the interrogation of the perp.

God: “Where is Abel, your brother?” Cain: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” God: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.”

If there’s a verse in all of Scripture that could be chiseled in stone above the offices and labs of Crime Scene Investigation units, this is it: “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” Our blood has loose lips. It’s no good at keeping secrets. By analyzing the pattern of blood stains at a crime scene, investigators can recreate the events that led up to the murder. And the blood itself tells our inner story, everything from our DNA to our diseases. Our veins conceal secrets of which we ourselves are not even consciously aware. If Abel’s blood is spilled all over the ground or if a mere speck had been lodged in the fabric of Cain’s shirt, that blood cries out. It has a voice and it will speak to whomever is willing to listen.

The Lord certainly listens. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. And the spilled blood of his saints is a language to which God is all ears. The martyrs of ISIS may be led to the slaughter as silent as lambs, but the lips of their severed veins utter words that pierce heaven’s veil. He hears them as he hears babies slaughtered in utero, teens with slit wrists, and soldiers whose homecomings are never to be.

But not only does the Lord hear bleeding bodies; he hears the bleeding hearts of children who feel rejected and unloved, lonely women whose hearts have been fissured by the infidelity of men, men whom the world has wadded up and thrown into the garbage heap. The voice of the blood from their broken hearts cries out from alleys and empty beds and dead-end lives. And that voice travels upward, to the Lord who is all ears, all heart, all the time.

The author of Hebrews says that the blood of Jesus speaks a “better word than the blood of Abel,” (12:22).  The well-known Lenten hymn would have us sing,

Abel’s blood for vengeance, Pleaded to the skies, But the blood of Jesus, For our pardon cries.

But I think the poet may be mistaken. What if Abel’s blood not for vengeance but for pardon pleaded to the skies? Cain’s little brother is a model of fidelity, whose faith was manifest on earth and witnessed from heaven at the altar. Like the crucified messiah, Abel the martyr pleaded for heaven to forgive Cain, for he knew not what he did. And since the life is in the blood, that blood continued to cry out to God, even as Abel’s body lay lifeless in the dust. It sought not vindication but mercy, forgiveness for the crime of which he was the victim. The blood of Jesus speaks a “better word than the blood of Abel,” for it speaks in a superior way. It grants in full that which Abel’s blood only gave in part. For the blood of Jesus finished the prayer for mercy that the blood of Abel began.

The blood of Jesus refuses to be silent. It speaks on your behalf. It is your voice, your advocate before the Father’s throne. The blood of Christ says that you are his brother. He has adopted you into the family so that you are a child of our Father in heaven. So do not think, even for a moment, that your wounds are unknown to the Lord. If even the hairs on your head are numbered, then certainly so are your scars. The voice of your blood, your hurts, your losses, cries out to God, for your voice merges with the voice that once cried out, “Father, may these children be with me wherever I am…sanctify them in the truth…forgive them…it is finished….” Your blood mixes with Christ’s blood, your hurts with his pains, your losses with his death, your all with his all, so that in one mass crimson choir the voice of Jesus and all who are his rises unified to the Father and reverberates in his throne room. He hears; how could he not hear those who are his very heart? He acts; how could he who is love not act in love for his saints?

The Lord who is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. He is near you, he will save you, for you are in Christ, whose blood cries out for mercy, at all times, for you.

The Bible Story That Goes All Wrong

I wasn’t wearing fig leaves for underwear, but I’d just as well have been. That day I felt more like Adam than I ever had before, or since. The forbidden fruit, far from digesting, sat like a rock on the bottom of my gut. The man who stood before me was my boss. I was in his office to come clean, to tell him what I’d done. I’d lied to him before, lied to his face. And I was afraid. O dear God, was I afraid. I was afraid of him. I was afraid of myself. I was afraid of the truth. I tell you, I was afraid of damn near everything. Most of all, I was afraid of how he would react. I soon found out. I told him what I’d done. How I’d lied. How I’d broken the commandment. How I’d listened to the serpent, plucked the fruit, and loved the taste of it so much that I’d gorged myself. I had prepared himself for his anger. I knew it was coming. And I deserved every bit of it. If he had wagged his finger in my face, shoved me out the door, and told me to get the hell out of there and never come back, I wouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, I think I would have been a little relieved. At least then, I would have convinced myself that I’d paid for a tiny bit of my sin by suffering such rejection.

His reaction was totally wrong. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. When I’d finished confessing, he didn’t start yelling. Out of his mouth came words like forgiveness, grace, Christ, clean slate. He was saying all the wrong things. This isn’t how bosses are supposed to speak. They’re supposed to hammer out words like deserve, punishment, consequences, disappointment. He didn’t. He shocked me by being gracious to me. He spoke as a father would to his son. And this son, who heard those paternal words of grace and absolution, would, to this day, relive that moment time and again as one of the most defining moments of his life. That day, instead of getting what I deserved, I received nothing but love.

I may have walked into that office wearing fig leaves, but I walked out clothed in the skin of the Lamb of God.

The story of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to go, either. It’s all wrong. When God enters the garden that infamous day, he’s supposed to march in with an iron hand and a tongue pulled back, ready to lash. After all, he had given his children everything; they wanted for nothing. Yet these stupid, selfish people do what stupid, selfish people always do: they go and ruin it all. What they needed was punishment—swift, complete, merciless justice. They had it coming. That’s the way things were supposed to go.

But they don’t. In God’s first question to fallen humanity, he asks, “Where are you?” And in that question—merely one word in Hebrew—is packed a whole theology of who God is.

Where are you? God wasn’t seeking information; he knew where they were. He was fully aware of what they’d done. He was also fully aware of the fallout from this fall. Yet he asks, “Where are you?” Just as he will later ask murdering Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” or hating Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry?” or persecuting Saul, “Why do you persecute me?” In these questions is the answer. The answer is a confession, a repentance, an embrace of the forgiveness offered and bestowed by the God who seeks and saves the lost.

The story of Genesis 3 doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to, the way I expect it to, because God works contrary to my expectations. I expect wrath and he pours out mercy. I expect judgment and he speaks absolution. I expect the end and he gives me a new beginning.

The Lord does indeed go on to tell Adam and Eve that things will not be in this world as they were before. There will be pain in childbirth. There will be thorns and thistles and sweat on the brow. When I left my boss’s office that day, there were still pains in my life; I still bear the scars of the thorns and thistles. But I bear something better, too, as did our first parents. I bear a promise from the God who is love, that in love he has provided a Seed who crushed the head of the lying viper, a Seed who sucked up into his heel the death that I deserved, that he might pour into me the life that I don’t deserve.

That promise makes all the difference. It is the promise that God in Christ does not desire the death of a sinner, but that he turn from his evil way and live. It is the promise that God does not deal with us according to our sins, but is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

I hope one day that God asks me, “Chad, where are you?” I know what I’ll tell him, “Father, I am right here, in your Son, Jesus Christ. That’s where I am.”