Photo credit to Brittany Cunningham.
“…[A]m I my brother’s keeper?” Cain, Genesis 4:9
I wasn’t intending to think about Cain. But here I am, yet only momentarily. I’m more thinking about his attitude. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Lord, You answered, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” That “What have you done?” is ringing ever so loudly in my ears. I wonder if it was ringing in Cain’s ears or if he just crowded it out? Because the fact is that Cain and Abel, and me and every person ever created were created in Your image. You made us in Your image, after Your likeness. That means that we were created to be like You in character and action and belief. We were created to represent You on this earth and over all the earth, one to another. That’s why, Cain, you were supposed to be your brother’s keeper. That’s why I’m supposed to be my brother’s keeper and we each are supposed to be our brothers’ keepers. Because God, You are our Keeper, and we were created to be like You.
“What have you done?” Cain rebelled against the very essence of who he was. “What have you done?” He robbed himself of the glory of who he was created to be. He became something he originally wasn’t. He became deformed in a sense. He despised his own purpose and the purpose of his own brother. Here he was created to glorify God, to walk in His image, to be like Him and he threw it all away for what? A life making his own decisions? A life influencing others to live by their own choices? A life not caring for others and not caring to teach others to care for others? A life not valuing God and returning His glory to Him? A life teaching others to disregard You, Lord, and esteem their own value instead?
And what got me thinking about these things is reading Malachi. It’s only 4 chapters so it’s doable in one sitting. But Malachi, in my simple mind, is about the same kind of thought going on. You, God, are reprimanding the priests, the Levites, who were chosen and appointed to take care of their brothers by representing You rightly before them. But, like Cain, they were anything but their brother’s keepers.
I think of what You invested in each of us. I mean, here You are God of the Universe, Lord of hosts, and it’s not just so You can “lord” it over us even though You have every right to do so. You invite us into this personal relationship with You, the Lord of hosts. You invite us to be Your representatives. That’s what Cain was supposed to be. That’s what the Levites were supposed to be. Not just because You made them, but because You are more than worthy of being represented in loving worship by those You have given life and everything to. It’s not just a mandate. It’s personal.
Here’s what You asked the Levites, “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?’ says the Lord of hosts to you…” Paul, to the Romans, also appealed to his brothers, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This is the relationship we were created for. This is our purpose. But let’s take it a step farther. The King James Version actually uses the words “reasonable service.” This is our rational, reasonable worship back to You, God. This is what makes sense of our lives, when we respond in this way. Anything else is messed up and we have to ask, “What have you done?”
Worshipping You like You require, like You created us to, and like You expect and desire and deserve is logical. Yeah, it’s actually the Greek word logikos. It makes wonderful sense. But just like the Levites in Malachi’s day, we go around like Cain asking, “How have we polluted you?” When all along we despise You and all that You stand for. We disesteem Your character. “Oh, how do I do that, Lord? I love You.” I do that every time I don’t value what You value. I do that every time I don’t detest what You detest.
“’For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering. For My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Does that seem too much to ask of us, to make much of Your name? No, not at all because it’s logical to make You great since You made us in the first place. There’s not a moment in any day when You aren’t great whether we make much of You or not. You ARE great. It’s not just about saying, “God is good,” or putting up crosses, or Jesus’ name on billboards. Your name is all about who You are. It’s the essence of You. You and Your character and all that You are and have been and will be is great among the nations and will be. You created us to proclaim that with all of our lives as an act of living worship declaring with like character the glory of You among all the nations. It’s what You called the Levites, the priests, to, and the nation of Israel, and it still applies to believers today. Peter tells us, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” (1 Peter 2:9) We still have the same life purpose since the beginning of creation. What are we doing with it?
You, God, have not changed. You are still the same and always will be. “…’For I am a great King,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and My name will be feared among the nations.’” Am I doing my part to honor You? I suppose sometimes we want You to give us direct commands like, “Thou shalt!” or “Thou shalt not!,” in order for us to acknowledge something. But the fact is that since You invite us into relationship with You by creating us with this glorious ability to represent You and live in You, why do we need commands to do what we we were naturally created for? Isn’t that an illogical notion?
Malachi refers to something called a covenant with Levi. You, Lord, say, “‘So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared Me. He stood in awe of My name…’” Who hears of the covenant of Levi? But if I go back to Deuteronomy when the sons of Abraham are being blessed, I hear it and read of it. I see the heart of it, this privilege of glorifying You given to men, to mere men! “…[F]or they have observed Your word, and keep Your covenant. They shall teach Jacob Your ordinances, and Israel Your law; they shall put incense before You, and whole burnt-offering upon Your altar.” (Deuteronomy 33:9,10) You gave them a purpose, to be Your image and Your likeness before the nation and before all nations. And blessing would come from that relationship with You. It was more than about offering incense in a container or sacrifices on an altar. It was about the aroma of true worship in prayer and life.
But the problem with the Levites, and Cain, and us is that sometimes, or all the time, we “’have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Whose way am I teaching? What kind of brother’s keeper am I? Here’s the logic: “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” Why are we faithless? Why am I? Why do I choose my own way over what’s logically and inherently good? Why do I choose falsehood over truth? Why do I choose the unnatural over the natural. Why do I rebel against who I was created to be and what I was created to be in You? Why do I trade in the glorious for the inglorious?
You warn, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” Guard that breath of life itself that God has placed in you. Protect it. Pay attention to it. This purpose of yours, follow it through. This life of worship you were created for, live it. Don’t settle for false worship. Don’t be mislead by the lure of divorce. It’s not logical. It’s not what You were created for. We were created to be united with the One who created us. Everything in our life ought to resemble that purpose. Anything less is illogical.
When will I delight in that purpose? Because if I don’t, if I rebel against my purpose, then Jesus will come “like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord…” I was created to “fine” like You. Have I lost my “fineness”? Do I have to be “re-fined”? What is my worship like? Is it anything like You require? Is it anything like what You deserve? Is it anything like what You demonstrate before me in Christ?
“‘For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed…Return to Me and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” I’m the one who changed from my original purpose, not You, O Lord. You have remained the same. I’ve robbed You of Your glory by desiring to be who I wanted to be or have life as I want it, when You created me for something more sublime. But You don’t give up on us. Thank You, Lord! You tell me, “‘Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Is this just for Israel? No, if I return in full faith and give the worship You deserve and require, I will see You be glorified in me and around me. Who do I think the devourer is? Is it just another nation? No. Peter tells us that we need to be “sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” ( 1 Peter 5:8) If I want You to rebuke Satan in my life, then I have to live in Your image and be made into Your likeness. I have to enter that covenant relationship on my part. I have to worship with all of me the way You require. And what of the vine and bearing fruit? John shares Your own words, Jesus, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
This is such good news for me. I can live out my original purpose. I can be my brother’s keeper by honoring You, Lord, first in all I do. My life can be all about worshipping You with every part of my being. I can rejoice with my brethren and bring other brethren into Your kingdom. I can be restored like those in Malachi. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name. ‘They shall be mine,’ says the Lord of hosts… ‘But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall…’” I can receive healing. I can go out into the world rejoicing like a calf leaping from it’s stall. My name is written in His book. I can esteem You with all my life. I can live out worship in spirit and truth. And You will turn my heart to be my brother’s keeper when my heart is turned to You.
Lord, You promise to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers,” when we start accepting our true purpose in You. I want my relationship with You and under You to be the most right thing in my life so that You will bring every other relationship into right perspective. I’m not just realizing today that You created me and each of us to be our brother’s keeper, but I am realizing that I need You to make me so much more than I have been. Help me to be so committed to Your required worship that it becomes natural. Let me so delight in You that I feel the way You feel and I see things the way You do. Help me to think about You and Your ways so much that You inhabit my every thought and it comes out reflected in my life. Continually remind me that I am my brother’s keeper. Why? Because You are my keeper and my brother’s keeper and I was created in Your image and in Your likeness. This is who I am and anything less is unnatural.