God chose Abram to start the nation of Israel. He sent him away from his family, away from all that he knew. And He made this promise: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing,” (Gen 12:2 ESV). I will bless you. Future tense. I will bless you. Ah, the concept of blessing. So misused and misunderstood. I really feel sorry for it at times.
We have focused so much on being blessed. We have actually slipped into the same misunderstanding that the nation of Israel did. They focused so much on being the blessed ones that they forgot God had promised to bless them for a purpose. That beautiful conjunction: so that. Actually, I don’t know if that’s a conjunction at all. It wasn’t on Schoolhouse Rock. But it’s found often in the Bible. I first noticed it doing a study of Jeremiah. It’s all through that book. God continually stating His purpose. I did this, SO THAT this would happen. And that’s what He does here. His end purpose is not blessing us. That is a means to an end. He says I will bless you SO THAT you will be a blessing.
The same is true for us today. He still has bigger plans for us than just blessing us. I believe He still wants to do that as well. But He wants to bless us SO THAT we will be a blessing. He wants to show us grace SO THAT we will show grace to others. He wants to forgive us SO THAT we will forgive others. He wants to love us SO THAT we will love others. And by doing those things, we will bring Him glory. Our lives have a purpose. God’s plan for us did not end at our salvation. He wants to bless us SO THAT we will be a blessing.
By the sixth chapter of Genesis, mankind had reached such abominable depths of depravity that God decided to wipe them out. “And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth,’” (Gen 6:13 ESV). He says I will destroy them. Future tense. It’s a promise. Not quite as uplifting as others, but nonetheless, it’s a promise.
God takes our mistakes very seriously. We have learned so much about grace that sometimes we may overlook how God views our sin. And even though God promised He would never destroy the earth with a flood again, it doesn’t mean His feelings towards sin have changed. He ends verse 17 with “Everything that is on the earth shall die,” (Gen 6:17b ESV). And then you see that beautiful conjunction, BUT. Conjunction junction, what’s your function? The whole world turns on that word: but.
“But I will establish my covenant with you…” (Gen 6:18a ESV). In the midst of His response to sin, the destruction of life as we know it, God’s concern was relationship with us. He brought us back to a dependant way of life, walking in step with Him. And I think that is always his goal when He punishes, when He disciplines. He desires us to walk closely with Him. And He takes everything that detracts from that walk very seriously.
Adam and Eve’s first son Cain murders their younger son Abel. God had given him the opportunity to change, but instead it just made him angry. And he responded with rage and violence. But afterwards, God casts him into exile and Cain fears that someone will kill him. “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him” (Gen. 4:15 ESV). God says vengeance shall be taken. It shall be. Future tense. It is a promise.
Unfortunately, I got most of my theology on the mark of Cain from scary movies. I thought it was a mark for a serial killer or some other scary guy. Or girl. I don’t want to be sexist. There’s plenty of scary girls out there. But back to the mark of Cain. I always thought it was something really bad. Pointing out the bad guy. Labeling him as evil. But it’s actually something completely different. It is God’s promise of protection for Cain. It’s not a branding of him as a sinner; it’s branding him still as a son, in spite of his sin. It’s a dad saying even though he has made mistakes, he is still mine, and if you mess with him, you mess with me.
Even in our time of discipline, God still has good planned for us. Even when He lets us experience the result of our sin, He desires our protection. God the judge is never separate from God the lover. He is always both. And I will take the mark of His protection any day.