Monday, June 14, 2010

Waking The Fallen (2003) "Chapter Four"

[Reprinted as written by Avenged Sevenfold]

(give me your hand,
blood is spilt and man will follow
infernal man, punishment too great to bear)
Conceived and born was one of light
Rain and dark, the other born black night

Raise your head and taste the courage
(the one of light)
Fall from grace, unholy night
I've come here to kill you,
won't leave until you've died
Murder born of vengeance,
I closed my brothers eyes tonight...

Its cold tonight as the clouds turn grey
and from my hands to my brothers grave
You took his side, you took his gift,
feel the power of a fallen man, crestfallen man...

Far away in this land I must go,
out of the site of the One.
A punishment sent from his hand
a hardship no one should know
Now go out of the site of the One,
away in this land you must go.

Where has he gone? What have you done?
A voice commands from high above this earth.
From the soil I hear his blood cry out to me
Murder, liar, vengeance, deceit.

Abel, the one born of light; and Cain, the one born black as night. It didn't seem that way to anyone else. Cain was the firstborn, the son of promise, the one Eve poured all her ambition into, her hopes and dreams, her great expectations. Cain's name meant "The One Gotten by God."

Abel, on the other hand, was a frail little guy, the also-ran, his name meant "nothing." Nobody expected very much out of him.

But Abel loved God, and pleased Him. Cain knew he had to deal with God, but there was no love lost there. Cain was, in a sense, full of himself, so there wasn't much room in his heart for anyone else. He felt entitled to God's respect and favor, so when he not only didn't get it, but Abel became the favored one of God...well, there would be hell to pay.

God had "taken Abel's gift, and taken Abel's side," you see. That was the tipping point for Cain. He raised his hand in vengeance against his brother and murdered him. Now, in death, Abel became a prophet whose voice would cry out from the ground down through the centuries so that even Jesus would talk about it. Cain, on the other hand, became a fallen man, an outcast for all eternity.

At first Cain thought that he had accomplished his dark deed in secret. So he must have felt his hair stand on end when he heard God's voice speak over his shoulder,

God said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?"

He said, "How should I know? Am I his babysitter?"

His insolence is incredible. He lied to God, and there is a hint of sarcasm – in the Hebrew there is a play on words to the effect of, “I don’t know where Abel is. What?! You expect me to shepherd the shepherd?!”

God said, "What have you done! The voice of your brother's blood is calling to me from the ground.

Cain thought he had acted in secret, but God had seen it all. Later the ancient Hebrew writer said "the blood of Jesus speaks of better things than the blood of Abel," The blood of Jesus is crying out before God for forgiveness, crying constantly for mercy, for grace to all who come under it. But the blood of Abel was crying out to God for justice. God continued,

"From now on you'll get nothing but curses from this ground; you'll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. You'll farm this ground, but it will no longer give you its best. You'll be a homeless wanderer on Earth."

God didn’t take Cain’s life, but He did take Cain’s means of livelihood. Cain was a farmer, a man of the soil, who found great pride and satisfaction in his work. But now that he had poured the blood of his brother out on the ground, God cursed him in the area of his strength and sin. The ground was already cursed on account of Adam; now Cain was cursed from the ground. Cain, in other words, had lost his "green thumb." The ground would no longer release its fruitfulness to him; for Adam farming was difficult; for Cain it would be impossible. He would be forced to wander from place to place as the crops failed wherever he went, unable to make a living.

Cain said to God, "My punishment is too much. I can't take it! You've thrown me off the land and I can never again face you. I'm a homeless wanderer on Earth and whoever finds me will kill me."

The extent to which sin had already consumed Cain is seen in how self-centered his response was to God’s justice – complaining, maybe blaming God for the whole situation. In a spirit of bitterness, he thought God was being overly severe. There is no indication that Cain was sorry he had murdered his brother, only regret that he had gotten caught and was now to suffer some consequences. Cain deserved death for taking a life. But even though his punishment was less than he deserved, he still complained about it.

Cain was afraid that other people would treat him as he treated Abel; either his brothers would take vengeance, a life for a life, or he would be killed for being such an obvious outcast, not favored by God.

God told him, "No. Anyone who kills Cain will pay for it seven times over." God put a mark on Cain to protect him so that no one who met him would kill him.

God assured Cain that while human life meant little to him, God valued it highly, and vengeance belonged solely to the Lord. Note that God did not speak to Cain, but to whoever else was there at that point, maybe the extended family had gathered around by this time.

We don't know what this mark was. In the next poem in this cycle the poet suggests it was a tattoo of some kind. It could have been a visible mark, or it may have been some kind of event that confirmed to Cain that God would not allow him to be killed. The point is, even the guilty person is still God's property! God drew a circle of protective love around Cain and said "Yes, he is guilty. He's a murderer -- but he is still Mine, and don't forget it in your dealings with him."

Cain’s mark was not a mark of shame, as though he were branded in the eyes of others as a terrible murderer. It was a mark of grace, as one protected by God, a mark of God’s longsuffering love towards him, giving Cain time to think and to repent. While there is life there is hope, God extends mercy and an invitation to everyone, even Cain.

But Cain didn't see it that way. He saw it as a punishment sent from his hand a hardship no one should know, in the words of the poet.

God first appealed to Cain’s conscience with a question about his feelings. God promised that He would accept Cain if only he would do what he already knew was right. God showed Cain that the root of his problem was sin, and that confessing the sin would set him free from its power. Otherwise, God warned Cain, he would reach a point of no return.

God could have prevented Cain’s crimes, but what God wanted was the development of his character, and the free flow of his love -- which only happens when God permits the exercise of human free will.

Conviction is not a pleasant feeling, that unmistakable sense that I've done wrong, but it’s also a gift of God. The right response is to confess. Be specific in naming your sin...and do it quickly.

But the human tendency is to run away from God rather than try to seek Him out. When killing Abel didn't satisfy, Cain left God forever.

Cain wasn't banished. He could have repented and stayed. But in the hardness of his heart, he chose to leave. Perhaps the poet is right. Perhaps, as is our tendency, Cain made up a different story in his heart to justify his own hardness. Maybe he told himself he had to leave, that God wanted him out of His sight. Maybe Cain projected his own guilty conscious onto God and condemned himself.

Whatever he told himself, he left forever.

Cain left the presence of God and lived in No-Man's-Land, east of Eden.

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