Monday, September 18, 2006

Seventy-Seven Times

The Fall Quarter (which lasts as long as we want) class is entitled “What Does God Want From Me?” It is a survey of the Bible, but it’s more than that. Rather than a standard survey that looks at the main stories, we are looking at what Scripture tells us about God, about ourselves, and God’s desire for us. It should be a good study.

This past Sunday we surveyed Genesis chapters 1 – 4. One of the things often buried in standard surveys is the decedents of Cain. In particular, Lamech, the last descendent mentioned. Lamech, in the final position, is pictured as the worst son of Cain. He marries two wives and is recorded to have said:

Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: For I have slain a man for wounding me, And a young man for bruising me: If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold. (ASV)

Lamech thinks he’s the biggest, baddest dude on the block. “I’ve just killed someone for wounding me. Let me tell you, if you think Cain is going to be avenged seven times, I will be avenged (read: I will avenge myself) seventy-seven times!”

In short: Nobody better mess with me!

Perhaps this brings to mind a passage in Matthew 18:

“I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.”(ASV)

Jesus here is teaching about forgiveness; that we should be ready to forgive others as many times as it takes. As many times as they ask. As many times as we are hurt, whether they ask or not.

Do you see the contrast? Lamech’s pride leads him to an arrogant and boastful claim that he doesn’t take any guff from anybody. And you don’t want to test it.

Jesus on the other hand, turns Lamech’s seventy-seven times on its head. Rather than seeking to avenge ourselves, we learn to humble ourselves. We replace our pride and arrogance with care and love for others. We forgive seventy-seven times because that is the kind of people we are.

It has always been so. Lamech was the epitome of Man when we nurture our pride. Jesus’ admonition pictures God-like Man as he was made to be.

That is our calling. That is our being.

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