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THE CHALLENGE OF A WICKED CITY

(SERMON #38 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, March 8, 2008

“And 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 bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech. And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah. And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” (Genesis 4:16-24).


This section of Genesis gives a brief overview of the rise of civilization. It is divided into two parts: (1) the descendants of Cain and (2) the descendants of Seth. To illustrate what happened to these two people-groups I will give you the story of two American families, which both arose in the eighteenth century.

The first family was that of a man named Jukes, who lived in the time of the First Great Awakening, but was not affected by it and, thus, did not become a Christian. Dr. A. T. Pierson said,

      There has been careful [research] into the history of one family known as the Jukes, and it is conspicuous as a long record of pauperism [poverty] and profligacy [vice and crime], imbecility and insanity, prostitution and drunkenness.
       A total of 1,200 descendants have been traced of this… family tree. Some 400 of these were physically self-wrecked. 310 professional paupers [beggars]. 130 convicted criminals. 60 habitual thieves…and 7 murderers, while out of the whole 1,200 [descendants of Jukes] only 20 ever learned a trade, and half of those learned their trade in prison (Dr. A. T. Pierson, “The Jukes Family,” quoted in Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, Assurance Publishers, 1979, p. 961).

The second American family descended from Jonathan Edwards, the great preacher and theologian of the First Great Awakening, who was the son of godly parents. He was the son of a godly pastor, and before him, his mother’s father, Dr. Solomon Stoddard, was also a pastor. Edwards became the associate pastor at Dr. Stoddard’s church two years before the old man passed away, and succeeded him as pastor when he died. When we trace the history of Jonathan Edwards’ descendants we discover that 400 of them excelled as Christians. Edwards’ descendants included 14 college presidents and 100 professors. Another 100 of them went on to become ministers of the Gospel, missionaries and theological teachers. More than 100 of them became lawyers and judges. Also, among Jonathan Edwards’ descendants 60 became doctors, and another 60 went on to become authors of high rank, or editors of newspapers.

In fact, almost every important industry has had as its promoters one or more of the offspring of Jonathan Edwards (paraphrased from Paul Lee Tan, Th.D., Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, Assurance Publishers, 1979, p. 962).

From a comparison of the Jukes family, with its horrible history of vice, crime, poverty and sin, and the Edwards family history of godliness and success we see a graphic illustration of the evil that Mr. Jukes passed down across the generations to his sadly ruined descendants, and the godly usefulness for Christ that Jonathan Edwards passed on to his descendants.

In future years the story of your family will be told. Will it be a sordid mess you pass on to future children in your family, in generations to come, or will you pass on to your descendants a godly heritage?

You hold the legacy of these yet unborn children in your hands. If you come to Christ, are converted and live a godly life, they may well turn out to be important men and women in the cause of Christ. But, if you fail to be converted, and turn away from Christ and the church, it is quite likely that your offspring will turn out to be a sadly wicked group of people who live out their lives without accomplishing any good for God’s kingdom. You literally hold the heritage of your children and their descendants in your hands. If you fail now to become a real Christian, they will inherit from you a dismal background. That is a plain fact, and a very sobering one in these dark days of apostasy and wickedness. It is your responsibility as a young person today to come fully to Christ, and live for Him at all costs. If you do, your children and their offspring will have a far greater chance of being converted and becoming productive Christian people in the future, when you are gone. Those are plain facts, proved again and again throughout history.

So, I say, think! What you do with Christ today will have an enormous effect on generations as yet unborn, for either good or evil.

Thus it was with the family of Cain and the family of Seth. Their history is recorded here in the fourth chapter of Genesis. Let us trace the family of Cain.

It started out bad. Its “patriarch” was Cain, a man who withstood the counselling of God, demanded his own way in life, and ended by going

“out from the presence of the Lord [to live] in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16).

This is the first important thing we learn about the rise of Cainite civilization. It was apostate. Cain had gone out from God’s presence. This does not mean that God wasn’t omnipresent. The Bible teaches that God is present everywhere. What, then, does it mean when it says that Cain “went out from the presence of the Lord”? (Genesis 4:16). It means that he removed himself from the means of grace. He left his family. He left the preaching of his father, Adam. He left the fellowship of his redeemed family. He left the people through whom God was unfolding His plan for mankind. And I think it also means that he stopped communicating with God in prayer; and also, that he utterly rejected the Blood sacrifice, which is implied strongly in both the covering of Adam and Eve in skin, and the knowledge he had obtained about this from his father, that such a blood sacrifice was needed if one were to be pleasing in God’s sight.

This gave the civilization begun by Cain a bad start, separated as it was from his family who had been restored to salvation by faith in the preincarnate Christ. In short, we can say that Cain started his family, and the civilization that grew from it, by leaving God out of the picture, by neglecting God and leaving Him out of their lives. By doing this, Cain’s family, and the civilization that grew out of it, swiftly moved into a state of godlessness. The Cainites were not idolaters, but they were certainly humanists, placing man at the center instead of God.  They were much like the secular humanists of our time.

The second major feature of Cain’s civilization was that it turned from agriculture to city building. God had told Adam that he was to earn his living by agriculture both before the Fall and also afterwards, when God repeated to Adam that he was to make his living from “the herb of the field” (Genesis 3:18). Thus, the Cainite civilization, by building cities to live in, contradicted God and rebelled against His plan to live by working in the fields. Instead of obedience to God, Cain and his descendants

“builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch” (Genesis 4:17).

By naming the city after his son Enoch (a different Enoch from the one in chapter 5) Cain was further showing his rebellion against God, for the name Enoch means “commencement” or “beginning,” and probably means the beginning of a new way of life, in which God was not at the center. Dr. DeHaan said,

This is the first mention of cities in the entire Word of God. When God created man, he did not place him in a city, but in a garden; cities were built by wicked men, and have ever since been the symbol of wickedness and corruption. In the concentration of populations in our cities, sin develops at a rate utterly unknown elsewhere…It was the first great city-building boom in all history, and was followed by all the evils which are peculiar to the urban districts of city life in every age (M. R. DeHaan, M.D., The Days of Noah, Zondervan Publishing House, 1963, p. 41).

It is interesting to note that the descendants of Jonathan Edwards lived in small villages, and most of the families earned their living, or at least a great part of it, in agriculture, in farming. Yet the Jukes’ family must have lived in much larger cities than the farming community inhabited by Edwards and his offspring. The crime, profligacy and sin related to the Jukes family sprang up in cities.

Yet today many Christians live in large cities. In fact the early Christians started out as city people, living in Rome, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and other large cities. It was from these early Christians that the paradigm shifted, and Christians learned to live in cities of the Roman world, and yet live their lives separately from the pagan people who surrounded them. They took a new view of city life, based on Christ’s words, “I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19). The churches that Christ built were a new thing in the world. Christ and His Apostles deliberately built local churches in the very heart of the great cities of the Roman world. But, unlike Cain’s civilization, the churches built by Christ and the Apostles were not man-centered. They were Christ-centered. They were congregations of people who joined themselves together to be a light in these darkened cities, and as such they remain to this hour, in great cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, Saigon, and other godless cities. Especially in the Third World, New Testament churches are a counter-culture, spreading the light of the Gospel. Our church is located in the heart of the civic center of this great and wicked city of Los Angeles. We do all we can to make our church a counter-culture, a refuge from the world.

So, our message today is not “get out of the city.” No! Not at all! We say, “Evangelize the city, just as those early Christians did.” Make the local church the very center of your life – and evangelize! Bring lost and dying men into the fellowship of our church. Be kind and hospitable to them, and lead them to know the riches of redemption in Christ Jesus, and the joy of being part of a local church like ours! Do it!

The glad evangel now proclaim, Through all the earth, in Jesus’ name;
This word is ringing through the skies: Evangelize! Evangelize!
To dying men, a fallen race, Make known the gift of Gospel grace;
The world that now in darkness lies, Evangelize! Evangelize!
   (“Evangelize! Evangelize!” by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, 1889-1986;
      to the tune of “And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

The city Cain built fell deeper and deeper into sin – into polygamy, a fixation on music, and unprecedented violence, which we see in Genesis 4:19-24. I believe there is a real parallel between the city built by Cain and the great secular cities of the world today. Jesus said,

“For as in the days that were before the flood…so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).

Jesus was telling us that the wickedness of the city Cain built would be a picture, or a type, of the sinful cities of our day, just prior to the Second Coming of Christ, and the end of this age.

But our message is not to flee away from the city and try to find a safer place to live out in the country! Oh, no! The command of Christ was to go into all the world, especially the big cities. As the early Christians of the new dispensation did, so should we. Like them, we will not leave our post. We will not desert our call from Christ,

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

We must not retreat from this wicked Cainite-like city, but rather to challenge it with the Gospel, and draw men and women into our local church, where they will find a refuge from the sin-dominated humanism of this city. As old Moody said, “Love them in!” Evangelize! Evangelize!

Give us a watchword for the hour, A thrilling word, a word of power,
A battle cry, a flaming breath That calls to conquest or to death.
A word to rouse the church from rest, To heed the Master’s strong request.
The call is given, Ye hosts, arise, Our watchword is, evangelize!

The glad evangel now proclaim, Through all the earth, in Jesus’ name;
This word is ringing through the skies: Evangelize! Evangelize!
To dying men, a fallen race, Make known the gift of Gospel grace;
The world that now in darkness lies, Evangelize! Evangelize!

(END OF SERMON)
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