Plain Papers to Dwellers on Earth: No. 1 - Where Dwellest Thou?

Hebrews 13:14  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Such was the question once put to that heavenly Stranger, who had not where to lay His head in this world. Is it not, however, a question we may ask each other? Where do you dwell?
We read in the Bible that there are two places, and two classes of people, the dwellers in these places. Heaven and earth are the two places, and we are each and all dwelling in one of thorn..
But you will perhaps say, How can any one be dwelling in heaven whilst he is still alive down here? In scripture the Christian is spoken. of as a " stranger and a pilgrim " on earth, and in Heb. 13:1414For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:14) it is said, " For here have we no continuing [or abiding] city, but we seek one to come."
It has sometimes been illustrated thus. Christian is like a man in business; he has his office and his home. He goes to his office daily, but he dwells at home. So with a believer, his home is in heaven; his heart, his treasure, his all is there; but he is still on the earth at work, left here to be for Christ in this scene. I should like, however, to illustrate my subject, by taking three characters from the word of God, and drawing an analogy between them, and the two classes of people mentioned above.
CAIN.
This is the first example I take. No doubt you are familiar with his history. He was the first man ever born into this world, and he was a tiller of the ground, whilst Abel, his younger brother, was a keeper of sheep.
They each brought an offering to the Lord. Abel, acknowledging that he was a sinner and deserved only death (for " The soul that sinneth it shall die." Eze. 18:4, 204Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)
20The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:20)
), brought a lamb as a substitute, which Jehovah accepted in anticipation of, and in virtue of, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the holy, spotless Lamb of God, upon the cross, nearly four thousand year after. (John 1:2929The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29); Isa. 53:77He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7).) Cain, on contrary, did not see his need as a sinner, but brought of the fruit of the ground which Jehovah had cursed (Gem iii. 17), and thought to be accepted. We know he was not, for he tried to approach God in his own way, instead of in the only way God could be approached, which is through death.
And here let us pause for a moment, dear reader. How are you seeking to approach God? In your own way or in His—which? In John 14:66Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6), Jesus says: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me." It was " By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." (Heb. 11:44By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. (Hebrews 11:4).) And it is through faith in Christ alone that we are saved, and " Without faith it is impossible to please him." (Heb. 11:66But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6).)
Think of that impossible! What, will not good works please Him? Dear reader, by nature we have none. Isa. 64:66But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6) says, " All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Cain, no doubt, brought of the very best and finest of the fruit of the ground. One could scarcely think he would dare offer to God what was not the very best of its kind; but it would not do, there was no acknowledgment of his state as a sinner before God, there was no faith, neither was it God's way of approach to Him, and so it was worse than useless.
Because his offering was not accepted, Cain vas angry, and God in His infinite mercy condescended to speak to him, and point out to him that the way of approach was still open; for the right reading of Gen. 4:77If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. (Genesis 4:7) is "a sin-offering lieth at the door." He could still do as Abel had done, and bring a lamb, then he, too, would have been accepted. But Cain would not thus take his true place as a sinner in the sight of God, needing the death of a substitute because he deserved to die himself.
There are, alas! many people who think as he did, for it is a difficult thing for man to confess himself to be lost, ruined, guilty, and good for nothing. He thinks there is still some good in him; but the only way to get rest and peace is to believe first what God says about him, as in Rom. 3:9-20, and then accept His way of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sinners on the cross, as the rest of Rom. 3 explains. It is only for sinners that Christ died; He Himself says, "I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:3232I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32).) And again, " The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.'
Then Cain becomes a murderer, and in 1 John 3:1212Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. (1 John 3:12), we read it was " Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." When God speaks to Cain a second time he requires Abel's blood at his hands (Gen. 4:99And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? (Genesis 4:9)), and then follows the punishment. He might have had access to God, and been happy if he would; but now he goes forth from the presence of the Lord, and we never read that he gets back there again.
And here again, if Abel's blood cried for vengeance, what of the blood of Christ, " which speaketh better things "? (fhb. xii. 24.) Is God unmindful of the death of His Son? And will He not require His blood, too? At whose hands? Oh, you say, Pilate, the Jews, and the Roman empire did it. Dear reader, if you are an unbeliever, you, too, are guilty, for you belong to and are part of the world that put to death the Son of God. And unless you believe in Jesus and arc cleansed from sin by His blood, that precious blood, which speaks of mercy now, must be your judgment hereafter.
Having said this in explanation of the events which led up to it, I have come now to the part where Cain becomes a picture of the dwellers on earth mentioned before. Cain goes forth from the presence of the Lord, and mark! it says he dwelt in the land of Nod. Then we read, he built a city and called it after the name of his son Enoch. (Gen. 4:16, 1716And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. 17And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. (Genesis 4:16‑17).) Then there are those who dwell in tents and possess cattle, who are rich; there are musicians, and artificers in brass and iron amongst his families and generations; in short, he and his do their best to be happy away from God. All their interests, their treasures are on the earth—it is their dwelling place, and they have no hopes, no desires, no expectations beyond.
Are there any now who are thus trying to be happy away from God? who think of nothing,,desire nothing, but to be rich, to enjoy life as it is tailed, and to settle down here, looking for nothing beyond? We know there are many who, like Cain and his posterity, have before them for their end and aim, to make this earth a pleasant dwelling place; but, mark, it was after Cain had, gone out from the presence of the Lord.
Cain's first wrong stop was self-will——-he would not, as we have said, approach God in God's appointed way; for " without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:2222And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22)), and it is self-will all through.
Perhaps you are thinking there is no harm in doing the best you can to get on in the world. What does scripture say? Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:1515Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15).) And again, " Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God." (Jas. 4:44Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4).) And the Lord Himself said when He was down here, " No man can servo two maters;.... ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:2424No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24).)
So if you are a believer, though you are in the world you are 'not of 'it, and should live a blameless, godly life, " that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:1616Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16).) And perhaps by your consistent life they may be won from their evil course to follow Christ also.
If you are an unbeliever, alas! you are part of that world, and there is but one way of escape. It is to do as Abel did, acknowledge yourself to be a sinner before God. And "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
And what becomes of Cain and his posterity? In Gen. 6:5, 65And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (Genesis 6:5‑6), we read: " And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earthy, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented. the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." Then, in verse 11, we further read that " The earth also was, corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence." Cain had been violent towards his brother, now the earth is filled with violence.
God brings in judgment, from which, again, there is but one way of escape—God's way. Noah, a just man, finds favor in God's sight, and he is told to build an ark; for there was a terrible flood coming on the earth, and there was no safety but in the ark of God's providing.