(This study is an expansion of the worship section in my book, “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality,” Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007)
Don’t you love it when someone invites you to a special event? Doesn’t it make you feel good to know other people think enough of you to want you to be with them? Well, that’s what God does every day – He invites people to be “with” Him and worship Him. This special invitation began thousands of years ago – in an ancient land called Eden (delight).
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:7-9
God created Adam, the first man, and placed him in a garden that was located eastward in Eden. It was an amazing invitation filled with great joy and opportunity. God created Adam to be the head of the human race and to care for and guard the great garden God had given him. God allowed Adam to eat the vegetables and herbs of the ground and fruit of the trees – except for one tree – the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God also created a wife for Adam and brought her to him. God told them to love each other, have children, fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28).
The invitation God made to Adam and Eve and to all their offspring was a personal relationship with the Creator God – a relationship of love and worship. It was pure worship – the created worshiping the Creator. God asked them to do just one thing for Him – obey Him. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Imagine that someone invited you to the most amazing island in the world and told you to eat all the delicious food they had made just for you, stay in luxurious rooms they built just for you, swim in the amazing pool they made for you, and play all the fun games they had designed for you on the island. Then they said, ‘by the way, don’t eat the fruit from this one tree in the middle of the island. That’s not for you. If you do eat fruit from that tree, you’ll have to leave the island.’ Do you think it would be wrong to do the one thing they told you not to do? It’s their island – their house – their food – their pool – their games – their trees. Don’t they have a right to have house rules and expect their guests to abide by them? Of course they have that right. You have that same right in your house.
So, what about God’s rights in the Garden of Eden? God created Adam and Eve and invited them to enjoy a perfect world that met all their needs and held such promise for all generations of humans to come and asked them to do just one thing for Him. How did Adam treat this great invitation from God? How did he express his love for God? How did he worship God? Poorly. Here’s what happened.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 3:1-7
Adam did the one thing God told Him not to do and brought upon himself and the entire human race a great disaster. How did it start? With impure worship. That is Satan’s form of worship. It’s the kind of worship he introduced to the angels in Heaven. Satan wanted to be like God – worshiped and adored. God removed Satan from his high position as worship leader in Heaven and created hell for Satan and the angels who followed him in his betrayal of God. Satan entered the body of a beautiful snake and tempted Eve with the idea of being “like God.” That desire for impure self-worship ruined Satan and the human race as well.
What did God do? He introduced His plan to save Adam and Eve and everyone who would receive His generous invitation of Love and Grace through Jesus His Son. “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15) God introduced human beings to offering worship (Genesis 3:21) – where people brought offerings of obedience and sacrifice to the Lord God. God then expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden so they would not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in their fallen state (Genesis 3:22-24). God kicked them out so He could save them.
Life became very hard on the east side of the Garden. Adam worked the land and Eve raised their children – and they were slowly dying. They had lost their immortality. The incorruption that was part of their original nature was corrupted by sin. Adam and Eve experienced cell-death every day of their lives. They slowly became older and lost their strength. They had to deal with pain, injury and disease. They knew good and evil and were experiencing the ravages of sin in their hearts, minds and flesh. But they still had a relationship with God. He didn’t give up on them and they didn’t give up on Him. Adam and Eve loved God and worshiped Him in a new way that was based on making sacrificial offerings to Him – all pointing to the day when the Son of God would be their Sacrifice (Genesis 3:15).
God told Adam he would die if he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – and Adam soon found out how terrible death could be.
“And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Genesis 4:3-7
Cain’s type of worship is one of the worst kinds – mixed worship – where there is an outer appearance of worshiping God, but inside the person is really worshiping themselves (self worship). They have an outward form of godliness, but deny the true power of God. People who saw Cain bring his offering to God probably thought Cain was doing a godly thing – worshiping the One True God. But God sees the heart – He knows what we’re thinking, feeling and wanting. God did not “respect” (Hebrew sa ‘ah– turn the eyes toward or away from an object, depending on usage) Cain’s offering. God saw it, but looked away from it. He did not express favor toward Cain’s offering the way He had expressed favor toward Abel’s offering. We are reminded in 1 John 3:12 that Cain’s works were evil, while Abel’s were righteous.
God gave Cain the opportunity to turn from mixed worship to the true heart of offering worship and promised Cain that He would accept (Hebrew s’ et – honor) him. God also warned Cain that sin was crouching at the door of his emotions and will, ready to take control of Cain He told Cain that he had to rule (Hebrew masal – rule, govern, have dominion, gain control) over sin and control his nature. So, how did Cain respond to this wise and loving counsel from God?
“Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” Genesis 4:8
The sin nature not only led to death – it also led to murder. What a terrible thing to happen to Adam and Eve and their family. Cain’s sin of stealing the worship that belonged to God and killing his brother out of intense jealousy led to the destruction of the moral fabric of the first family. Everyone in Adam’s family learned the tremendous power of sin to steal, kill and destroy – which is Satan’s way of stealing the worship that rightfully belongs to God (John 10:10). God created people to worship and glorify Him and have a personal relationship with Him. Sin stole that from every person who has ever been born and will be born – but more importantly sin stole that from God.
Cain’s sin split the human race into two primary spiritual camps – those who followed the Lord and those who didn’t. Let’s look at each line and see the heart of their worship.
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.’ And Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech. Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah. Then Lamech said to his wives: ‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” Genesis 4:9-24
God didn’t say that Cain would be hidden from His Face, but that’s how Cain saw it. He moved even farther east from Eden to distance himself from his father and mother. Cain fathered a son and the line of Cain began. We see no hint of any connection to God – no worship, no offering, no prayer. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Cain lived, but his contemporaries lived an average of 900 years and personally knew several generations from their line. That means Cain would have had lots of time to share his side of the story of how God had treated him. Cain built a city and called it after his son Enoch. Cain was a proud and ungodly man. He had rebelled against God before and would continue to rebel against Him. That was Cain’s ultimate legacy to his family – pride and rebellion. God had promised to protect Cain, but Cain trusted in his own strength and built a fortified city for protection. Lamech was born in the fifth generation from Cain and was also filled with a proud, rebellious and ungodly spirit. He took for himself two wives in further rebellion to God’s creative purpose. Lamech bragged about killing a man and said he would be avenged seventy-seven fold – a demonstration of continued rebellion against God Who had said He would avenge Cain sevenfold if anyone killed him. Lamech’s sons developed skills that would lay the foundation for worldly arts and business that would have nothing to do with the will or purpose of God. The line of Cain was too proud to worship God.
What would happen to God’s promise of a Seed Who would destroy the seed of Satan? Cain was the firstborn, but was far from the will and blessings of God. The line of Cain was arrogant, proud and rebellious – an example of the power of sinful flesh. Could the Seed come from Cain? It could not because sinful flesh with its proud and rebellious spirit has no place for God and is therefore no match for Satan. Even though Adam and Eve were devastated at the death of Abel and the loss of their relationship with firstborn Cain, they still believed in God’s promise of the Seed. Eve became pregnant again and gave birth to a son. She named him Seth (placed, appointed) because God had appointed another Seed for her instead of Abel “whom Cain killed.” Eve spoke prophetically and looked to the future when God would provide the Seed Who would destroy Satan’s hold on humanity.
So, what of the line of Seth? What kind of people were they in comparison to the line of Cain? Adam and Eve raised Seth to believe in God and worship Him. It was quickly evident that the Seed could come from the line of Seth. “And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.” What a powerful statement about the way Seth’s line would live – “then men began to call on the name of the LORD.” The name Enosh means “mankind in its frailty and weakness.” Seth had learned well from his father and mother that the human race was mortal and weak and in need of God’s great help. Seth learned that God wanted people to worship Him with a humble attitude. It was in that humility that men began to “call on the name of the LORD.” The word “call” is the Hebrew word qara and means a calling or crying out for something. The word was used in the Old Testament for a solemn calling of the name of God – invoking of His Name, proclaiming His Name. The name Seth and his family called upon was the LORD (Hebrew – YHWH). It demonstrated their dependence on God because of their weakness. The beginning of the line of Seth realized their frailty and weakness in a world filled with sin and approached God with humble worship.
The children who came from Adam and Eve lived for many centuries, but they eventually died – just as God had said. The cells of their body finally stopped living and death overtook them. Adam died at the age of 930. Seth died at the age of 912. Enosh died at the age of 905. Cainan died at 910. Mahalel died at 895. Jared died at 962. Enoch was 365 years old when God took him. Hebrews 11:5 tells us that Enoch pleased God and the Lord took him away so that Enoch would not experience death. Methusaleh died when he was 969. Lamech, the father of Noah, died at the age of 777. When we look closely at the birth record of Seth’s family in Genesis 5, we can determine that the number of years from God’s creation of Adam to the birth of Noah was 1,056 years.
A lot of people were born during those years and few of them loved God and worshiped Him. In fact, by the time Noah was 500 years old, God determined to destroy the human race because of their great wickedness – “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5-8) God told Noah to build a large, 3-story ark that would be big enough to carry him and his family, a great number of animals, birds and insects and enough food for all of them to stay alive during a catastrophic flood that God would send to destroy everyone not in the ark. God sent the flood when Noah was 600 years old – just five years after the death of his father Lamech at the age of 777.
The flood covered the earth and all flesh on the earth died – “So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.” (Genesis 7:23-24) God caused a wind to pass over the earth and the waters of the flood subsided. (Genesis 8:1) The flood began in the “six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month.” (Genesis 7:11) The ark rested on the mountains of Ararat “in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month.” (Genesis 8:4) The waters continued to decrease until the tenth month when “the tops of the mountains were seen.” (Genesis 8:5) The earth was finally dried in the second month, on the 27th day of the month, in the 601st year of Noah’s life. (Genesis 8:14) Noah and his family and all the animals had been in the ark for one year and ten days.
“Then God spoke to Noah, saying, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’ So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark. Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.” Genesis 8:15-21
God started new with Noah and his family. The first thing Noah did after getting everyone and everything off the ark was to build an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings to God. The Lord smelled the offering and it was a soothing aroma to Him. This was renewed worship and began a great time of restoration between God and the human race. The Lord blessed Noah and his sons and their wives and established new laws concerning what they could eat and what would happen to anyone who killed another person.
“Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.’ Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” Genesis 9:5-6
Noah lived another 350 years after the flood, which means he lived long enough to see his family quickly fall away from worshiping God. God knew this was going to happen because He knew that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Genesis 8:21) Even though God said He would never again destroy life with water, He had already determined to greatly shorten the lifespan of human beings – from more than 900 years to just 120 years (Genesis 6:3). Noah lived to be 950 years old, but his three sons died at the age of about 600. Their children died before they reached their 500th birthday. Within just five generations from the end of the flood, people were living to be less than 300 years old.
It was during the third generation from the end of the flood that big trouble erupted in the human race. Noah had a great-grandson named Nimrod who was a proud and arrogant man. His name in the Hebrew language means “rebel.” Nimrod led the human race to travel from the east to a plain in the land of Shinar (part of ancient Mesopotamia including modern Iraq). It was there that God dealt powerfully with the rebellious spirit of mankind.
“Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.” Genesis 11:1-8
I wrote about this in a lot more detail in “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality” (Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007), but a primary point is that humanity’s rebellion against God just made things much worse for people. The human race had been one race with one language and one physical appearance. They were also unified in purpose – the worship of self. They built a tower that inched its way toward the heavens. They wanted their name to be great rather than God’s. They wanted to restore themselves rather than obey God and restore the earth. They were searching for the long lost Garden of Eden and their former immortality. They didn’t want to scatter around the earth – they wanted to reach into heaven and forever. God had the answer for their mortality problem, but it wasn’t going to work their way. He put a stop to their evil plan by taking away their unity. He confused everything that had made them one.
The sons and daughters of Noah scattered in every direction. Their language and physical appearance were different, but their hearts were still deceptively wicked. Nimrod, who had been the rebel leader, built an empire on the foundation of self. He was the strongest and most vicious of Noah’s descendants, so he was able to stay close to Babel and build his kingdom of self.
“And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).” Genesis 10:10-12
Based on the number of years of his contemporaries from the line of Shem, Nimrod lived to be more than 400 years old. That gave him plenty of time to build what became known as Mesopotamia – the Cradle of Civilization. Nimrod’s empire included some of the most powerful kingdoms of the world – including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians. Nimrod is mentioned often in ancient literature as a god-like being who was worshiped and held in high regard by pagans. It was the beginning of idol worship. This worship of man-made gods would go on to plague the world for thousands of years. It also became the plague of the people God chose to restore true worship and carry forward the line that would one day bring forth the Seed that would destroy Satan and sin.
(You can read more about our ancient ancestors – including Noah and Nimrod – on pages 14 – 17, 474 – 483, 496 – 507, and 510 – 521)
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
LOVED READING THIS. I ALWAYS WONDERED WHY PEOPLE STOPPED LIVING SO LONG. NOW I KNOW WHERE TO LOOK FOR THE ANSWER. SOME PEOPLE USE THE LONG LIVES MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE TO SUPPORT THEIR ARGUMENT THAT THE BIBLE IS NOT TRUE. I HAVE JUST MAINTAINED THAT I DON’T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND IT TO HAVE FAITH THAT IT IS TRUE…HOW MUCH BETTER TO BE ABLE TO POINT TO THE ANSWER. I’M SURE OVER THE YEARS I HAVE GLIDED OVER THIS SCRIPTURE WITHOUT REALLY “HEARING” WHAT IT SAID. THE WAY YOU HAVE PRESENTED IT WAS SO VERY CLEAR.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this, Joe Ellen! God has given us the information we need to know how to deal with so many of the serious questions people have about life and death. You can read more about this and many other subjects in my book, A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality. You can check out a copy from the church library or I can get one for you at a great discount since I know the author personally : )