January 2: Genesis 3-5; Psalm 2
The Bible starts off with pure awesomeness. God brings order to chaos as everything that exists is created. We get to watch as God the artist paints on an infinite canvas, shades of light and dark poured out to become land, sky, sea; God’s voice the brush as planets, plants, and people take shape and live. The first people dwell in what is absolute bliss not just because of the perfection of the Garden, but especially because of their perfect relationship with the Creator.
That was Day One of the Read through the Bible in a Year plan. The second day is quite a contrast. Sin enters the world in what we’ve come to call The Fall, and people are barred from paradise. Soon after comes the first murder. Cain commits fratricide against his brother, Abel.
And then . . . grace.
After God confronts him, Cain expresses his fear that he will be killed for his crime.
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. (Genesis 3:15 – The Message)
That verse always blows me away. God’s grace is always a surprise. You’d think God would snuff Cain out. Make an example of him. An eye for an eye and all that.
But no. God puts a mark on Cain. Not to shame him or to make him a target. But to protect him. To show anyone who might harm him that if you messed with Cain, you’d have to deal with God.
I can’t help but think of the mark I received in baptism. God’s mark. I am as guilty as Cain of rebelling against God. I may not have killed anyone, but I am a sinner deserving of punishment, just like Cain. But instead, in baptism God marked me as God’s Child.
Through all my years of rebellion and even denying the existence of the One who marked me, that mark endured. Instead of letting me go, instead of snuffing me out, God continued to embrace me as surely as he stood by Cain. Yes, God’s grace is always a surprise.
And now, called to be a pastor in God’s church, I pour the waters of baptism on those who come to the font, and then make God’s mark, the sign of the cross, on the foreheads of those who are baptized: “Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ forever.”
(I’m making another trip through the Bible this year, this time using “The Daily Message” as my vehicle for the journey. I won’t be posting every day, but as motivation and time converge I will share some “postcards” from the journey.)