Back to Our Knees
“And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.”
I was conversing with some older saints across a buffet table recently, discussing some of the challenges of 21st century Christianity. They had experienced some disappointments of late and commented on certain difficulties that Christian testimony faced in coming days. Being young and impetuous I had a to-do list of solutions that I was waiting to share - until an older gentleman counselled: ”it’s time we get back to our knees”. My solution in light of current difficulties was self-centred, his was God-centred. I thought of activity, he thought of prayer.
This seems to encapsulate what is going on in Genesis 4 - “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (v26). They got back to their knees.
Earlier in the chapter we read how Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and built a city called Enoch (dedicated) (v17). This was a city with God on the outside and dedicated to the pride of man. Cain was making life under the curse (v 11) as comfortable as possible. Instead of seeking repentance, he had turned his back on God.Things quickly get worse as we read of polygamy, materialism, entertainment, man centred industry and more murder (v 19-24). Cain’s descendants, capable though they were lived without God and never called on his name. Life was cheap and morality was up for grabs (v19,23), there was no fear of God and the whole scene was dark. Ultimately everything was under the condemnation of God - 4000 BC doesn’t sound too different to 2000 AD.
What should our reaction be when we see godlessness all around? I can’t think of a much better answer than that of my friend - “back to our knees”.
The reaction in Genesis 4 is also very similar. Cain’s ungodly line (v19-24) is juxtaposed with Seth’s godly line (v25-26). It is not that Seth was born after Cain’s descendants but rather the narrative lists Cain’s genealogy and then contrasts the Sethite line in order to teach us spiritual principles. Seth is not mentioned in chronological order but in moral order because he was different to the wicked.
First we read Eve’s appreciation of God’s intervention - “God has appointed me another" (v 25, DBY). “What Cain (human wickedness) took from her, that has Elohim (divine omnipotence) restored.” In grace God raised up a godly seed to fulfil his own promise (Gen. 3:15). Seth called his son Enos (frail mortal man) and it is only after this significant juncture that “people began to call on the name of Jehovah” (v 26, DBY). “In this name (Enos), the feeling and knowledge of human weakness and frailty were expressed (the opposite of the pride and arrogance displayed by the Canaanitish family); and this feeling led to God, to that invocation of the name of Jehovah which commenced under Enos.” In other words, when this godly line felt their complete need and at an end of their own resources they began to pray. As they felt the tide of spiritual wickedness surrounding them, they were led to the Lord. They realised that in themselves they were powerless and weak. Wickedness without and impotence within cast them on the Sovereign of the universe. Their call was likely one of dependence and contrition as they invoked afresh the name of the eternal God. It was no cry of lukewarmness and lightness but one of deep spiritual need. May we also with burden of heart and longing of soul petition the throne of God with renewed fervour and zeal in light of current circumstances.
This seems to be the pattern of God’s people in the past:
David: “the floods of ungodly men made me afraid ... In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Ps. 18:4-6)
Solomon: “the Lord appeared to Solomon ... and said ... If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:12-14)
Asa: “And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.” (2 Chr. 14.11)
As failure marks us and the wicked surround us, may we also get back to our knees.