Our series, Who Is God and Who Are You, comes from the first 11 chapters of Genesis where God is revealing himself, explaining us, and telling us why the world is the way it is. Chapter 4 recorded the history of Cain and Abel, in particular, showing us that one of the reasons the world is a mess is because of anger left unchecked. Anger is dangerous as it can lead to all kinds of sins. In our text today, God is going to show us why we need God and why we need his grace.
Wicked Lineage (4:17-24)
After Cain is sent away from the presence of the Lord (4:16), the rest of chapter 4 records the lineage of Cain. What becomes immediately obvious is that the lineage of Cain continues the wickedness. In verse 19 we read that Lamech had two wives. Throughout the Old Testament scriptures, having more than one wife leads to home problems. Such an action is presented as a negative to the reader. The wickedness of Lamech and the line of Cain is further seen in verses 23-24. Listen to what Lamech says.
“I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:23–24 ESV)
Lamech says that someone injured him so he killed him. This act violates God’s law. The punishment is supposed to fit the crime in God’s economy. We do not get to kill someone just because they threaten us or hurt us. This is unjustified murder. But Lamech goes further saying that he will execute vengeance on anyone who comes against him. So what Cain has done is that he has passed on a legacy of wickedness. His rebellion to God has continued for generation after generation after generation.
We need to think about that kind of legacy regarding our children. What spiritual legacy are you leaving your children? It is easy to leave a legacy of rebellion to God. Living your life contrary to the will of God will start your children on the path living contrary to God as well. How you live your life will set the tone and direction for your children and how they live their lives. This is what Genesis 4 is recording: the messy legacy that Cain left.
Righteous Lineage (4:25-5:32)
Adam and Eve have another son and his name is Seth. Through the lineage of Seth we see people calling on the name of the Lord (4:26). Chapter 5 then records the lineage of Seth as a righteous lineage in contrast to Cain and his wicked lineage. This is a terrible chapter break but it directly connects to what is happening in chapter 4 with Cain and Seth. Notice the important statement made in Genesis 5:3 that confirms this picture. Adam “fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” Remember that God created humans to bear his image (Genesis 1:26). God wants his people to be fruitful and fill the earth with his image. That is what is happening. Adam had a son named Seth who accepted in being made in God’s image and lived life in that way. Just as Genesis 4 records the children that came from Cain who were following his wicked legacy, Genesis 5 records the children that came from Seth who were following his righteous legacy.
We see this pointed out in Genesis 5:22-24 where we read about Enoch. Verse 22 says that Enoch walked with God. Verse 24 says the same thing. Enoch walked with God. Then something amazing is stated. Enoch avoided the death experience that is the destiny of all humans because of his devotion and faithfulness. He walked with God and God took him. God overruled death for Enoch. The righteous lineage continues as we come to Noah. Noah’s father says about his son, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29). Noah is put forward as a figure for the reader. The hope for the world is relief from this curse. We need one who is going to bring relief from the curse of sin. Noah is going to be the rescuer who gives relief to the world, according to his father.
Before we continue I want us to see that just as you can set a legacy of wickedness for your family line, you can also set a legacy of faithfulness and righteousness for your family line. Your faith will set a direction for your children that allows them a greater opportunity to develop their faith in God. We are seeing a picture of two lineages. We are seeing a picture of two possible paths. We are seeing a picture of the line of righteousness and the line of wickedness. In fact, this reaches back to the curse in Genesis 3. There are going to be those that are the offspring of the woman and those that are the offspring of the serpent. This truth is now being seen. Cain’s line is the offspring of the serpent, killing people for harming them. Seth’s line is the offspring of the woman, made in the image of God, walking with God, and bringing relief to the world. This is the very important picture to see as we enter into Genesis 6.
Another Fall (6:1-8)
Before we read the first eight verses of chapter 6, I want us to see that we are still in the middle of the genealogies. Notice how Genesis 6:9 continues the genealogical record of Noah. But we need to stop and see that a problem arises in the first eight verses of chapter 6. Verses 1-2 tell us the problem. The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive and took them as their wives. Now there are some pretty wild explanations about what this means. But we have seen that two chapters have been describing two lineages: the lineage of Cain which is wickedness and the lineage of Seth which is righteousness. Seth is born to Adam in the likeness of God and his lineage are calling on the name of the Lord. But rather than keeping the righteous lineage separated from the wicked lineage, the righteous lineage (the sons of God) see that the women of the wicked lineage (sons of man) are beautiful and they intermarry.
The result of this is given in verse 5. The wickedness of human was great on the earth and every intention of the thoughts of their hearts were continually wicked. We will talk more about this in a moment. But I want to see this statement because it is very important. Some think the “sons of God” are angels. But what do angels coming to earth and being married to humans have to do with the great wickedness on the earth? It is not an explanation. However, the righteous line of Seth no longer caring about righteousness and marrying wicked women because of their looks does explain the explosion of great wickedness on the earth. Wickedness is overpowering the righteous. This crossing of these lineages leads to continual evil. So God states in verse 3 that God must shorten the lifespans of humanity because God is not going to live with sinful humans for long periods of time. This is also the time when we see these mighty warriors and men of valor on the earth (6:4). The point is clear: the sons of God (Abel’s line) and the daughters of humans (Cain’s line) were not to be marrying and having children. God’s wrath is coming because wickedness is prevailing over the righteous.
The wickedness was so overpowering that we read stunning words in verse 5. Every intention of their hearts was continually evil. Wickedness is running rampant now. As bad as this is, it is the heart of God that is truly difficult to read. Verse 6 tells us that God regretted making humans. What humans were doing were grieving God’s heart. This is another picture of the heart of God. God loves his creation. God loves humans. He loves them so much that seeing their extreme wickedness broke his heart. The world is full of wickedness and it hurts God. So there is only one option left. Since people do not want to walk with God and live as people who bear his image, God’s response is in verse 7. God will wipe out humanity from the face of earth along with all the animals of creation. The world is doomed and rightly so. Judgment should come across all the earth. No one is doing right. No one is walking with God. The result is the wiping clean off the earth of its continual wickedness.
But verse 8 ends this scene with a subtle, but important statement. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Rather than immediately destroying the world, there is one who will find favor in God’s eyes so that deliverance can be accomplished. Remember what Noah’s father said about this child when he was born? Genesis 5:29 records that his father said that one would bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands. There is going to be a rescuer. There is going to be one who will bring relief to the world. There is one who will find favor in God’s eyes and he will save the world. Noah will find favor with God and through him accomplish deliverance.
So why do we need grace? We need grace because we have not walked with God. We need grace because we have not been righteous. We need grace because we have been overpowered by wickedness. We need grace because we have followed our wicked thoughts and desires. We need grace because we have not followed what God said. We need grace because we thought we were smarter than God and decided to live life how we wanted to. We need grace because we are already condemned. Listen to how the words of the apostle Paul mirror God’s assessment of the world in the days of Noah.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. (Ephesians 2:1–3 CSB)
We followed our desires and our inclinations and because we acted just like the line of Cain, we are under wrath. So we need grace. We need someone to find favor with God so that we can enjoy God’s grace. I want us to notice something about how Luke records the lineage of Jesus. In Luke 3:23 we read Jesus’ lineage and it is easy to get lost and bored in genealogies. But I want you to see verse 38, the very end of the lineage. “…the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”
Jesus is from the lineage of Seth, who is in the image of God, the very Son of God. Jesus will find favor in God’s eyes for us. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father said of the Son, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Jesus is the one who will bring relief from the curse of sin and be the rescuer of the world. In the face of a wicked world who are full of evil, Jesus comes and through him we can receive grace. Jesus’ righteousness is why we can have God’s grace and mercy. Through Jesus we are brought into his family line. Those who enjoy the blessing of God’s calling can anticipate victory over the curse as they walk with God. Now we can be like Enoch and walk with God without fear of death. Rather than grieving God’s heart, we can be people who is not ashamed of, a people who hunger and thirst for righteousness rather than wickedness and sin.
We need grace. Grace is available through Jesus, the lineage of Seth, the image of God, the Son of God, the one who will give us relief from the curse of our sins. Now you choose what will be your legacy. You choose which lineage you will belong to. Will you belong to the lineage of Cain, leaving a legacy of sin, wickedness, hurt, pain, wrath, damage, and doom? Will you belong to the lineage of Seth, leaving a legacy of righteousness, hope, healing, grace, mercy, life, and relief? What will be the answer for your life? What will be your life legacy? What will be your outcome when you stand before the Creator and give account for your life? Did you follow Cain and his descendants? Did you follow Seth and his descendants? Did you follow the Satan? Did you follow Jesus? We need grace. Let us live for and leave a legacy of grace.