The Bible is a bloody book. There’s a lot of violence in the Bible. And what is confounding to a great many people is that God Himself is sometimes the agent of violence.
The question we are dealing with today is this: if God wants us to be peaceful, loving, non-violent people, then why does God seem to commit violent acts Himself? Why does the Bible have these stories of God’s wrath.
That’s the question we will explore in our message today, ‘Killing Man.’ And our exploration begins at the origin of violence, when…
Man Created Violence
To understand what violence is, I want you to see where it comes from. When we talk about violence, we inevitably mean murder, which is the furthest extent that violence can go. Violence begins as anger and progresses until it becomes murder. And murder is taking God’s authority over life into their your hands.
Job knew this. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away…” (Job 1:21, ESV).
And he said, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4, ESV).
Job makes it clear that the breath of life comes from God and God alone has the authority to give breath. And God alone has the authority to take away the breath of life.
So, when a person’s heart is consumed with anger and they become violent, that is in some way an expression of their desire for God’s authority. And when a person takes the life of another because of a violent heart, he usurps God’s authority over life and death.
I want to make sure you heard me correctly here. The issue is not whether there is a justified time to take life. The issue is murder, flowing from anger and a violent disposition.
When a person takes the life of another because of a violent heart, he usurps God’s authority.
Let’s read the story.
The man Adam knew his wife Eve intimately. She became pregnant and gave birth to Cain, and said, “I have given life to a man with the Lord’s help.” She gave birth a second time to Cain’s brother Abel. Abel cared for the flocks, and Cain farmed the fertile land.
Some time later, Cain presented an offering to the Lord from the land’s crops while Abel presented his flock’s oldest offspring with their fat. The Lord looked favorably on Abel and his sacrifice but didn’t look favorably on Cain and his sacrifice. Cain became very angry and looked resentful.
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful? If you do the right thing, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do the right thing, sin will be waiting at the door ready to strike! It will entice you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
The Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
Cain said, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s guardian?!”
The Lord said, “What did you do? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. ~Genesis 4:1–10, CEB
The ancient reader of this story knew something that is the key to understanding this story. He understood it so well that there was no reason for Moses to explain it when he wrote the story down. It has to do with the context of sacrifice.
So, Cain showed up with a vegetable sacrifice. And he worked hard for it. Gardening is hard enough. Cain was a farmer. It’s a hard life. And he worked and he brought his best. But, the ancient reader knew what the Author of the Book of Hebrews tells us, that:
…Almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22, ESV).
Cain and Abel were offering God a sacrifice for purification and Cain showed up with turnips.
You know the saying, “You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.” Well, you need blood to be purified and Cain didn’t have any, because you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.
Cain didn’t have blood to provide purification, so his offering wasn’t acceptable to God. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness, no purification. So,
Cain became very angry and looked resentful (Genesis 4:5, CEB).
At this point, the Lord gives him this great nugget of wisdom. It’s like a proverb. He says,
If you do the right thing, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do the right thing, sin will be waiting at the door ready to strike! It will entice you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7, CEB).
These are words to live by, aren’t they?
Realize what the Lord is saying here. Humankind rebelled against God and God made a way for us to be accepted back into His presence. God made a way for forgiveness. God made a way for purification from sin.
And here’s Cain with a basket of turnips telling the Lord, the creator of the universe, the author of salvation…the author of acceptance, that his effort is as good or better than his brother Abel’s.
The fact of the matter is, Cain chose to do the wrong thing. He didn’t believe God. And that rebellion festered in his heart so that he became resentful of His brother, who was accepted.
‘Perfect Abel, always does the right thing. He gets accepted by God and I get nothing.’
And anger festers in Cain’s heart until he meets his brother Abel in the field and in the very first act of violence, Cain takes his brother’s life. Cain usurps the authority of God over life and death and takes the life of Abel in further rebellion.
Listen, so many people want to know why the Bible is so bloody if it’s a story about a loving God.
Shouldn’t the story of God be a story of grace and mercy? Shouldn’t the Bible be about love, acceptance, tolerance, and all that?
Well it is, but listen. The Bible isn’t just God’s story. It’s also the story of humankind. It’s your story. It’s my story. And humankind brought violence, hate, anger and resentment into this world. And violence festers in the hearts of every one of us through anger and resentment and manifests at times as murder, as killing, as stealing God’s authority over life and death.
Like it or not, we are by birth less like Jesus and more like Lamech, Cain’s grandson, who boasted:
I killed a man for wounding me, a boy for striking me; so Cain will be paid back seven times and Lamech seventy-seven times” (Genesis 4:23b-24).
Lamech boasted in his violence and he boasted in his condemnation.
And lest you think to yourself, “I’m not like Cain or Lamech.” “I’m a Christian.” “I’m better than that…”
Listen, if anger rules your heart, if resentment dawns your face, then Jesus says, you are guilty of murder and liable to the fires of hell (Matthew 5:21-22).
Humanity invented violence.
God didn’t bring violence into the picture, man did. Humanity invented violence and…
God Hates Violence
Violence contradicts the peace that God created in the garden. Violence contradicts the peace that God has designed for His eternal Kingdom. God hates violence. Let’s look at our next story to see how much God hates the violence humanity created.
When the number of people started to increase throughout the fertile land, daughters were born to them. The divine beings saw how beautiful these human women were, so they married the ones they chose. The LORD said, “My breath will not remain in humans forever, because they are flesh. They will live one hundred twenty years.” In those days, giants lived on the earth and also afterward, when divine beings and human daughters had sexual relations and gave birth to children. These were the ancient heroes, famous men.
The LORD saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil. The LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken. So the LORD said, “I will wipe off of the land the human race that I’ve created: from human beings to livestock to the crawling things to the birds in the skies, because I regret I ever made them.”
But as for Noah, the LORD approved of him…In God’s sight, the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. God saw that the earth was corrupt, because all creatures behaved corruptly on the earth.
God said to Noah, “The end has come for all creatures, since they have filled the earth with violence. I am now about to destroy them along with the earth.
~Genesis 6:1–13, CEB
This is a fairly common story, right?
I imagine that most people, even if you weren’t raised in the church or even if this is your first experience with Christianity today, I imagine you have heard about Noah’s Ark. You know the story…that evil became rampant on the earth and God chose to destroy the whole earth in a flood. But, he saved the line of humankind through a man named Noah by bringing him and two of each animal into a large boat.
And I imagine when we hear this story, we must think that people were doing all sorts of terrible things. They were probably guilty of sexual immorality, and steeling, and they were probably worshipping other gods, and they were doing all sorts of atrocious things. I’m sure that’s true, because Moses writes, “The Lord saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil” (Genesis 6:5, CEB).
Every thought was always completely evil!
But, then when the Lord spoke to Moses, he said something a little different. He took all of that immorality and he tied it up neatly in one simple term. He said, “In God’s sight, the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11, CEB).
Because of violence, God flooded the earth and started over. Because humankind had become so depraved, so utterly sinful, God cleared the canvas, put the earth back under water like on the first day of creation, and he began anew with Noah and Noah’s family.
And some of you are like, “See! God Himself is violent! He should have been more loving. God just needs to be more tolerant!”
Look at the story all-together.
God didn’t repay Cain’s violence. In fact, God protected Cain from being killed by violence if you read the whole story. And life goes on for many generations and humankind gets more and more violent. And God is patient with the people for generations until it get so bad that every thought of every man was only wicked always.
How did it get so bad?
Well, between Adam and Noah, people had begun to consort with divine beings who had rebelled against God, even having children with them.
And they began to worship these beings as gods. And they joined them in their rebellion against the Lord God, becoming immoral in every way and in every way, violent people.
So, when God flooded the earth, he was removing violent, oppressive evil from the land. There was one man that was favorable to God, one man who was acceptable, one man who believed God, and God purified the land for Noah. God loved, cared, and protected Noah, the only human being who was accepted by God.
And this is kind of where I’m at.
People want to say, God shouldn’t have enacted justice on those people; he should have loved them more. But, those statements are antithetical.
See, I really like ice cream. My favorite is chocolate, but I pretty much like all flavors. So, listen, though: if you take raw sewage and run it through a frosty machine, you don’t get to serve it to me and call it soft-serve.
Do you see, that the tolerance people want God to have is akin to eating sewage ice-cream and pretending you like it. We are asking God to allow people to revel in their sinfulness, their hatefulness, their violence and simply look the other way, pretending everything is totally normal in name of tolerance. We’re asking God to eat the raw sewage ice-cream. We’re telling God, you love these people, you have to accept them, you have to let them into your Kingdom even though they refuse to do what is acceptable and good.
And that’s what’s weird about the whole tolerance thing, anyway. God did love humanity. God did offer humanity acceptance. God offered to purify mankind and to save them from their rebellion. The earth didn’t have to be flooded. We saw it with Cain and Abel. The Lord required sacrifice for purification. And all of these wicked people at the time of Noah, they could all have been offering the correct and proper sacrifice to God for purification and repentance of sins.
But, they weren’t.
God loved them and they spit in his face and they chose rebellion.
God’s punishment was justice. It was anything but violence.
And if you aren’t there yet, if you don’t see how God is a loving God who offers acceptance to those who have chosen violence, let’s look at one more story of violence where…
God has Mercy on the Violent
There was a time, almost 2000 years after sin entered the world, and about 400 or so years after Noah, when a man named Abraham walked the earth. Now, Abraham, is a critical figure in the story of the Bible, so there is about a million things to be said about him. But, I want to zero in on one episode in Abraham’s story.
It starts with a fight between nations. We see this in Genesis 14. There was a powerful king of a nation called Elam. His name was Chedorlaomer—I’ll call him Chad. So, Chad makes an alliance with some of his buddies from three neighboring nations, forming an alliance of four nations. And they go to 5 other nations, Shinab, Zeboiim, Bela, and two nations you’ve probably heard many times, Sodom and Gomorrah. So, these five nations all form an alliance to fight against Chad’s alliance.
Now, when Chad attacks these nations, he wins the battle and the 5 nation alliance is forced into servitude of King Chad and his 4 nations. So, these 5 nations, including Sodom and Gomorrah—it’s important that you realize who these guys are—they serve Chad for 12 years. And then after 12 years they revolt against Chad. Here’s what it says.
Twelve years they had served [Chad], but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year [Chad] and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, ~Genesis 14:4–5, ESV
There’s a really important part of this verse I need you to notice. And it’s easy to miss with all these confusing names. I want you to notice the word, Rephaim. So, after the five nations, including Sodom and Gomorrah, rise up against Chad, it says this, “[Chad] and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim.”
You have to realize here, there are no accidental word choices. Paul says, “All scripture is God-breathed and useful…” (2 Timothy 3:16).
So, when Moses writes the word Rephaim when he could have said something clearer like, ‘the armies of the nations’ or something like that, he is communicating something specific. He is communicating something that shows up all throughout Genesis and Exodus, and then explicitly in Numbers and Deuteronomy, and even in Leviticus. And then in Joshua and Judges and Samuel. Actually, the Rephaim are virtually everywhere in the Old Testament. But, you have to know how to find them.
Rephaim: Giants (General Term)
Nephilim: Violent Ones (Specific Title)
Anakite, Emim, Zamzummim: Tribes fathered by Nephilim.
R: Rephaim is usually a general term for Giants, but is also used a few times to refer to the spirits of the giants after they die.
N: Nephilim is a specific title or name given to the first giants that appeared. The word means violent ones and so it became the name given to the first Rephaim.
A: Third are the Anakites, Emim, Zamzummim. These are tribes of people fathered by Nephilim where Rephaim were present in the bloodline. We see the clearest example of this in Numbers 13:33 where the Israelites went into the Promised Land to spy on the people who were already living there, and they reported this:
And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” ~Numbers 13:33, ESV
And there are many other accounts like the story of David and Goliath, where the Rephaim, Goliath stood between 7 and 8 feet tall, towering above David who was probably not much more than 5 feet tall and weighed less then half as much.
When we read about giants, this isn’t hyperbole. They saw giants who were sons of the Nephilim, violent ones, who if you remember from Genesis 6, were the offspring of divine beings who were cast out of heaven, and who continued to defy God by having children with human women.
And God flooded the earth because of the violence on the earth. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a large part of God’s motivation in flooding the earth was to wipe out the Nephilim—the violent ones.
So, fast forwarding back to Sodom and Gomorrah, the Nephilim show back up after the flood and they’re in Sodom and Gomorrah. The rebellious divines continued to have children with human women. The violent ones are back on the earth.
Now, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lived at this time with his family in the city of Sodom. And God told Abraham that he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but that he would allow Lot and his family to escape. So, Lot and his wife and two daughters fled the city.
But, the Angel of the Lord warned Lot that they should not look back and desire the life they had in that wicked city.
So, as they fled, Lot’s wife looked back and, we’re told, she turned to a pillar of salt. She was destroyed, left behind. Only Lot and his two daughters escaped.
What I want to focus on for a moment is the reason that Sodom and Gomorrah had to be destroyed.
We often attribute acts of sexual immorality to Sodom—and we should; Jesus, Peter and Jude all do too. Sexual immorality is part of the story, but it’s not the whole story.
In Deuteronomy 32, God says Sodom is bitter and cruel.
In Isaiah 1, God compares Israel to Sodom saying that, ‘Their hands are full of blood,’ they are, ‘unjust’ and ‘oppressive’ people.
In Ezekiel 13, Sodom was prideful, and took advantage of poor nations.
In Revelation 11, the name Sodom was given symbolically to hell, the place of eternal destruction, because “the beast that rose from hell made war on unbelieving people and conquered them so that their dead bodies lined the streets.”
Sodom literally pillaged and raped other nations so that they could enjoy their wealth. Sodom was a place of extreme violence, war, and blood. And God hates violence. And if you now the story, there is an episode, where Abraham pleads with the Lord not to destroy Sodom because there might be a few righteous people still among them, but God found only Lot and no one else who was righteous.
But, as I said, God is merciful even towards violent, prideful people. And I don’t mean Sodom. I mean he offers mercy to you and I.
Look what Jesus does with these stories in Luke 17. He says,
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. ~Luke 17:26–27, ESV
Before the flood, it was business as usual. Everyone was going on about their days as usual and the flood came and washed them away. Then Jesus says,
Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all. ~Luke 17:28–29, ESV
It was the same for Sodom and Gomorrah. They were going on with life as usual. Everything was normal. When Sodom was destroyed with fire, it wasn’t the pinnacle scene of an epic battle. They were so distracted with everyday life that they didn’t even realize judgment was coming. So, the fire came out of no where.
And Jesus says,
So will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. ~Luke 17:30, ESV
Jesus says, the day of judgment is coming upon the whole world and it is coming at a time when you will not expect it.
Listen, so many Christians are consumed with thinking about the end times. I had a friend come to me a few months ago. And he said the funniest thing to me. He said, “Anthony I’m thinking about coming to Sonrise instead of my church.” I asked him why. He said, “Because our church never talks about the end times. They don’t preach on Revelation or the prophesies about the end and I want to know how it all comes together.”
I had to break the news to him, that I really don’t either. Because the authors of the Bible are not concerned about how it all comes about in the end. The Bible is clear that the end is coming. It isn’t clear how it’s coming or when it’s coming. It’s just not clear. I mean, the biblical advice is pretty simple. You won’t know the day or the hour when the Son, Jesus, will return. Jesus says,
You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” ~Luke 12:40, ESV
Jesus’s advice is not, ‘Study and pray really hard so you can figure out when the end is going to come.’ It’s not, ‘Learn as much as you can about the end so you will see it coming.’ Jesus doesn’t even say, ‘The end is nigh, watch for it.’
Jesus says, you won’t know when the end is coming. You won’t see it coming. You can’t figure it out.
So, just be ready. Be always and continually ready.
And that’s why when telling the story about Sodom, Jesus makes this one simple statement. He says,
Remember Lot’s wife. ~Luke 17:32, ESV
That’s a whole verse. “Remember Lot’s wife.”
It’s an important verse.
Will you memorize it with me?
It’s the easiest verse you’ll ever memorize, except for ‘Jesus wept.’
Okay, say it with me, “Remember Lot’s wife.”
Now, do you remember what she did?
She looked back. God provided her rescue from Sodom. But, she loved Sodom. She was part of Sodom. She was bad news and she loved it. And when God offered her rescue she couldn’t help it. She looked back.
Peter said that the destruction of Sodom should be an example for us of the destruction that awaits us, because we participate in the pride, arrogance, and violence of this world, just like Sodom.
Friends, God is offering you rescue from the flood. He is offering you rescue from the fire and brimstone that rained on Sodom. He is offering you rescue from hell, rescue from the pit. And to get that rescue, we must not look back. Instead, we look forward. We set our eyes on Jesus and we don’t look back.
The author of Hebrews says this:
“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely…” Put aside Sodom. Put aside the world and all the sensual pleasures it offers you. They are violent and prideful pleasures. Jesus is calling you away from this world for far greater things.
“And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…” Run. Persevere through Jesus Christ. Stop looking back to your old life. Stop looking at the pleasures of the world around you. Stop coveting things that God has forbidden. Jesus is better.
“Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” Jesus is the founder of faith and the author of grace. He designed grace. He designed the cross. He decided that he should be crucified on the cross and that he would pay the penalty for your sins, your failures, your brokenness…your contributions to Sodom, your all consuming wickedness, your unfaithfulness. Jesus payed the penalty for all of it. And Jesus is the one who will make us perfect in the end.
“Jesus…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The only righteous man, Jesus, payed the penalty for your unrighteousness and now he waits on the throne for the end.
You are like Lot seeking freedom from the destruction of Sodom.
Remember Lot’s wife. Do not look back to the world behind you, lest you be destroyed when Jesus returns for the destruction of this world.
People want to say there are many paths to God and everyone will find God in their own way. I bet the people of Sodom thought that. I know the people in Noah’s day believed that; they worshiped so many other gods.
[But] if God…did not spare the ancient world…[and] if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; then the Lord knows how to…keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones. ~2 Peter 2:4–10, ESV
If that isn’t a picture of humankind today, I don’y know what is. “Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones.” Peter says, God destroyed the world in a flood and he destroyed Sodom by fire, as an example of what will happen to all of us in the end. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one is righteous. No one seeks God. All are under the wrath of the almighty. God did not spare Sodom or the people of Noah’s day.
And if we know not Jesus Christ, God will not spare us when our end comes.
But, if we know Jesus. Then this is our promise. God has offered mercy to sinful and violent humankind, through Jesus.
For if God…preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly…and if he rescued righteous Lot…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials. ~2 Peter 2:4–10, ESV
Look, I know it’s hard to make the decision to follow Christ. I know it means sacrifice. And I know it means that relationships will change and families will be strained at times. And I know that our sin will wage war with our new life in Christ. But, Jesus knows how to rescue you. He’s worth it. He’s eternally worth it.
And I know that as Christians we still undergo trials. It’s hard at times to keep our eyes on Jesus because the world is constantly showing up in front of us. The pleasures of the world are on our TV’s and computers and phones. The pleasures of the world are in our marketplaces and in our families and in our neighborhoods. And it’s hard not to look upon them. We are tried at every turn. But, Jesus knows how to rescue the godly from trials. Continually set your eyes on Jesus, remember Jesus, read about Jesus, pray to Jesus. He is the only one who rescues.
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