Today’s Reading: Genesis 4:1-8:12
(Just for you today Brenda, I love you! J )
I’ve been marveling lately at John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. No longer servants, but friends. For so long, well, OK, all my life I’ve been told Jesus is our friend, Jesus friend of sinners, but I’ve never really felt like his friend. Maybe I’ve never seen myself as his friend but rather more as his favored servant. But right here, in this verse Jesus himself tells us that when we love, when we ourselves are friends of sinners then we transform from servant to friend. And that we are called “friend” because of the secrets that he shares with us.
What secrets? You might be asking, well the secrets of the universe of course! They’re all here, right in the Bible, we just have to open our eyes and read them!
Just this morning when I opened my Bible to read (for the first time in a longer while than I would like to admit) I could hardly get past the first paragraph! Ruach (the Holy Spirit) was so anxious to share this new truth with me that he wouldn’t let my eyes get past the first line break before I just HAD to go back and read it again. And I did, I read and read and read that first paragraph until I noticed the things I was lingering on the longest. Like a supernatural finger pointing me in the direction he wanted me to go, right there on the page I couldn’t stop reading “Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.” (Genesis 4:2) Now normally when these verses are taught the person teaching them loves to focus on the offerings that these two are holding up to God and how God rejects Cain’s and accepts Abel’s. Then they talk about WHY God did this. Now, I’m not necessarily refuting those age old claims that God rejected Cain’s sacrifice because it wasn’t a firstfruit… however, what if the rejection came from something deeper?
Like I said before, it wasn’t the verse about the offerings that God was emphasizing to me this morning; it was the verse before that. He was emphasizing to me what these men did. The last thing that happened in this story was that these men’s parents had been tossed out of the garden of intimate fellowship with God and were told, among other things, “cursed is the ground because of you;” (Genesis 3:17) and what was it that Ruach pointed to this morning? Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was a worker of the ground. Friend, the ground had just been cursed! It’s no mystery why Abel’s offering didn’t please God! It reminded him of the curse he had just pronounced over it! This truth was so overwhelming to me this morning that I was glad I was sitting down.
Just last night I was listening to a sermon about rest and how when we work God rests, but when we rest God works!!! Which was something else that stood out to me in this verse from today, while Abel kept, Cain worked. When we rest and allow God to work we are showing God how much we trust his work to be good work. We are showing him, ourselves and those around us how much we are choosing to trust God for in our circumstances. God is trustworthy, but how far are we willing to trust him? His word says, taste and see that He is good, how much have you tasted of his goodness? And right here, immediately after THE curse has been handed out God gives us an illustration of two people, one keeping sheep and one working the cursed ground. They are themselves a story, but also an illustration for us today. We have a choice; we can live as a keeper of sheep or a worker of the curse. As a keeper of sheep (a symbol of God’s children) we love the sheep, God’s children. We do whatever each situation calls for to love His people with zeal and vigor. From the day the curse was handed out Satan has done his best to place as much focus as he can on work. He has stolen relationship from us and replaced it with religion, a work based format where in order to show God how much you love him you have to DO something.
If I have learned anything from God over these past few years it has been that there is NOTHING that I can do that pleases him more than simply recognizing how much HE loves ME! I have had countless times when He himself has told me to stop working so hard to please him and he has even sent messengers to come and tell me to stop working so hard to please him and I still will often times slip back into that pit of working to please him. Guess what, working, trying, doing, they simply remind God of the curse; while resting, choosing to believe, and just being who God made you to be, reminds Him of Jesus and grace and forgiveness from the curse. But you know what, even more importantly than reminding God of grace and forgiveness, it reminds us of His grace and forgiveness. Choose to rest and believe that God didn’t make you to be perfect; he made you to be the person that you are right now. We wouldn’t dream of scolding a toddler for stumbling while learning to walk would we? Yet we do this to ourselves and each other all the time! We hold ourselves up to standards that we could never achieve! We expect ourselves to run when we’re still just learning how to crawl or walk! We expect ourselves to obey all the rules that religion has created over thousands of years when the only rule that God is asking of us is to be nice to each other. And while religion and Bible teachers have been saying that as part of their teaching, they tend to tack on HOW to be a good friend, HOW to be a good neighbor when honestly, if you have good friends surrounding you, do you really need to be told how to be a good friend back?
For example, my friend who loves me and the rest of our group of friends dearly, had scheduled a surgery that was going to leave her bedridden for several days. She has a large family that would need taken care of during that time. She didn’t need to ask us to help her, in fact she didn’t want us to help her, but did that stop us from making her a huge dinner that would leave her with plenty left over for a day or two? Of course not! Did anyone need to tell us what to do to be a good friend to our friend in need? No! Because of all the times she loved us by being there just to talk, the spirit moved within us and because she first loved us we wanted to do something, anything to help her and show her that we love her too.
We are no longer servants who are expected to serve or work; we are keepers of the sheep, friends to one another when we obey the one commandment that has always been foremost to God, Love. Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself, all the rest of the “rules” of religion are contained within this one choice; the choice to love. Love is an action, it is a decision, it is a verb. Today take action! Hug someone you love, tell your friends that you love them; they are the face of God in this world. Their love for you is God’s love for you. What they do for you is what God does for you. Make a list today of some of the things that a friend, any friend, has done for you lately. Something they’ve said that really meant a lot, or something they did that made you smile write it all down and thank God for each of those moments where He used that person in your life to change you, shape you, mold you and make you into the work in progress, the toddler learning how to walk in this unstable world filled with rules and expectations, where it’s Father only has one rule, one expectation be who I made you to be; YOU.