Wandering

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HOME FOR CHRISTMAS Series
“Wandering” (Genesis 4:10-16)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called Home for Christmas, and together we are exploring the biblical theme of home through four words: 1) banished, 2) wandering, 3) longing, and 4) home. Last week we looked at the word banished. In the beginning God gave us a beautiful home with him in the garden, but we were banished from that home because of sin. Just as Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, so we too are separated from our true home with God and completely dependent on God’s grace to return.

This week we want to look at our second word – wandering. We will be looking at a number of Scriptures throughout the message this morning, but we will start right here in Genesis 4 with the wandering of Cain. (Read Genesis 4:10-16 and pray.)

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Refugees, asylum seekers, the homeless – there are many ways to be without a home in this world, and all of them are debilitating and disorienting. Even those who have never been without a home in our society still struggle with a sense of roots and place. Over 28 million Americans move every year, and according to a study conducted by the United States Census Bureau, the average person in America will move 11.7 times in their lifetime.

Jesus knew what it was like to be homeless. He left his home in heaven to come to earth. He was born in a manger. Threatened by King Herod, his family escaped to Egypt when he was still a child. Even as an adult Jesus knew what it was like to be without a home. He was a wandering evangelist who often had no place to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20)

Last week we saw how we were banished from our original home with God because of sin. Now, as the biblical story continues, we learn that we are not only banished – we are wanderers as well. One of the things we learn from the book of Genesis is that sin is progressive. Genesis 3 records mankind’s first sin. Genesis 4 records mankind’s first murder. It doesn’t take long for sin to start its downward spiral. And as a result of sin, we are all wanderers on this earth.

We are going to look at several examples of wandering in the scriptures this morning. We will look at Cain as an example of wandering as punishment for sin. We will look at Israel as an example of wandering due to lack of faith. And then we will look at Christians as wandering sinners found by God who are now citizens of heaven and wanderers in this world.

I. Cain – wandering as punishment for sin

So first, let us look at Cain as an example of wandering as punishment for sin.

   A. Cain became a restless wanderer after murdering his brother
      – Genesis 4:10-12

Cain kills his brother Abel, and God punishes him by making him a restless wanderer on the earth. Look at Genesis 4:10-12: The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:10-12)

Sin is not only progressive. The consequences for sin are also progressive. Adam and Eve are banished from the garden because of their sin. Cain becomes a restless wanderer because of his sin.

This is the way it works for all of us. Just like Adam and Eve, we are all separated from God because of our sin. And just like Cain we all become wanderers from God because of our sin. We don’t just sin once and get over it. We continually wander from God and his commands.

And we are not only wanderers. We are restless wanderers. Have you ever felt that sense of restlessness in your soul? Banished from our true home with God because of sin, we are restless. We are spiritually homeless, seekers of asylum, disoriented; we are refugees.

St. Augustine once wrote: “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Cain became a restless wanderer after murdering his brother. And we also are restless wanderers in this life until we find our rest in God.

   B. God showed Cain grace even in his wandering
      – Genesis 4:13-16

Cain became a restless wanderer after murdering his brother. And yet the Bible tells us that God showed Cain grace even in his wandering. Look at Genesis 4:13-14: Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:13-14)

Cain cries out to God in anguish. Notice he doesn’t protest his innocence or argue that God is unjust to punish him in this way. He simply looks at the magnitude of the punishment and cries out to God in despair: “This is more than I can bear. Without a home and apart from your presence, I will be at the mercy of others just like me, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

But God says to him in verses 15-16: “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:15-16)

We often think of the mark of Cain as part of his punishment, but the mark of Cain was really a sign of God’s grace. God put the mark on Cain to protect him from others like himself. Cain became a restless wanderer after murdering his brother. But God showed Cain grace even in his wandering. And God has grace for you and me, also, even when we wander from him and his commands.

II. Israel – wandering due to lack of faith

Which brings us to our second example this morning. Cain is an example of wandering as punishment for sin. Israel is an example of wandering due to lack of faith.

   A. Israel wandered forty years in the desert due to lack of faith
      – Numbers 32:13

Israel wandered forty years in the desert due to lack of faith. Look at Numbers 32:13: “The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.” (Numbers 32:13)

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, he led them straight to the promised land. God had promised to go before them. The land was theirs. God had given it to them. They just had to go forth and conquer.

But they lacked faith. They didn’t believe God would help them conquer the land. And as a result, they ended up wandering forty years in the desert. An entire generation perished in the desert because they did not trust God. Here God had provided a home for them, and they chose wandering instead due to lack of faith.

   B. Israel wandered from God’s commands and forgot their resting place
      – Proverbs 4:25-27; Jeremiah 14:10, 50:6

Eventually Israel entered the promised land and made their home there. But even in the promised land they continued to wander spiritually. The Bible tells us they wandered from God’s commands and forgot their resting place.

We read in Jeremiah 14:10: This is what the Lord says about this people: “They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the Lord does not accept them; he will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.” (Jeremiah 14:10) And again in Jeremiah 50:6: “My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place.” (Jeremiah 50:6) Cain murdered his brother and became a restless wanderer. The Israelites wandered from God’s command and forgot their resting place.

God tells us in Proverbs 4: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. 27 Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27) There is peace and rest for all who follow God’s ways. But when we wander from God’s commands, when we fail to restrain our feet, when we stray from God’s path, we also forget our resting place.

Faith is more than just believing God for salvation. Faith means trusting God every day of your life. Israel wandered forty years in the desert due to lack of faith. Israel wandered from God’s commands and forgot their resting place. Israel is an example of wandering due to lack of faith.

III. Christians – wandering sinners found by God

Let’s move on to our third example now. Cain is an example of wandering as punishment because of sin. Israel is an example of wandering due to lack of faith. Christians are an example of wandering sinners found by God.

   A. We were all wandering sheep, lost without a shepherd
      – Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:5-6, 11-16

The Bible tells us we were all wandering sheep, lost without a shepherd. We read in Isaiah 53:6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

God describes us this way in Ezekiel 34:5-6: “So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.” (Ezekiel 34:5-6)

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt lost and alone? Do you ever feel like no one is searching or looking for you? What a terrible place to be. It’s bad enough to be lost, but I can’t think of anything sadder than being lost and no one is looking for you.

People, that is all of us before Christ. We were all restless wanderers because of sin. We have all wandered from God and his commands. We have each turned to our own way. We were isolated, lost and alone, and no one was even looking for us.

No one that is, except God. When no one else was looking for you, God came searching. Back to Ezekiel 34, look at verses 11-16: “So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep…. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” (Ezekiel 34:11-16)

   B. Jesus is the good shepherd who came looking for us and found us
      – Matthew 18:12-13; John 10:11-15

How did God come looking for us? He sent his Son Jesus into the world at Christmas. Jesus is the good shepherd who came looking for us and found us. Jesus says in John 10:11-15: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15)

Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. Jesus lay down his life for you, which means he will never abandon you, he will never leave you alone. No matter how far you wander, when Jesus is your shepherd, you always have someone looking for you.

Jesus said in Matthew 18: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” (Matthew 18:12-13)

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Christians aren’t better than anyone else.
We were all wandering sheep, lost without a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who came looking for us and found us.

IV. Christians – citizens of heaven, wanderers in this world

And as Christians, we now become a new kind of wanderer. As Christians, we are citizens of heaven and wanderers in this world.

   A. We are in the world but not of the world
      – John 17:14-17; 1 Peter 2:11

The Bible says we are in the world but not of the world. Jesus prayed this about his disciples in John 17: “Father, I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:14-17) As Christians we are in the world but not of the world. We are in the world – this is where we live. But we are not of the world – we don’t belong here anymore.

We read these instructions to us as Christians in 1 Peter 2. Peter writes: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) Peter says that as Christians, we are aliens and strangers in the world. Like Jesus, we are strangers in a strange land. We are in the world but not of the world.

   B. We are citizens of heaven waiting Christ’s return
      – Philippians 3:20

As Christians we are wanderers in this world, but we are also citizens of heaven waiting Christ’s return. Paul writes in Philippians 3:20: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)

We don’t belong to this world anymore, but we have a new home with God in heaven. And we eagerly await Christ’s return to bring us there. As the old hymn says: “The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” As Christians, we are citizens of heaven and wanderers in this world.

CONCLUSION: In the beginning God created a beautiful home for us with him, but we were banished from that home because of sin. As a result of sin, we are all restless wanderers from God. We are all lost and wandering sheep in need of a shepherd.

God sent Jesus at Christmas as the good shepherd who came to find his lost sheep. You need to put your faith in Jesus in order to find your way back home.

When you put your faith in Christ, you become a new kind of wanderer. Instead of belonging to the world and wandering from God, now you belong to God and are a wanderer in this world. You have a new home in heaven, and you eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ who came at Christmas to bring you home.

© Ray Fowler

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