It's not too long after Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden that we read of the consequence and implication of their actions. It's in the story of their two sons that we are given a vital glimpse into the state of mankind's heart after the fall. We see what our new nature looks like, the nature of a broken heart which continues to haunt us today.
After Cain has killed his brother, Abel, God comes to him and asks where his brother is. At first Cain tries to avoid the issue and in particular to take responsibility for his actions. He pretends it's nothing to do with him (a bit like his father did in the garden). Eventually he realises the truth can't be hidden from God and it's then he is told the consequences of that action.
Cain is to become a 'restless wanderer on the face of the earth' (Genesis 4:12) or as the Amplified Version says "a fugitive and a vagabond, roaming aimlessly on the earth, in perpetual exile, without a home, a degraded outcast".
What a tremendously sad outcome! A tragic end to a story which had begun so well.
This is how so many people feel today. It's how we all feel to some extent until we come to the Father. We know deep down, that we are unsettled, we are wandering, searching for something. We wonder if, or where, we belong. We are trying to find home.
The restlessness we feel can only be satisfied and taken away when we allow ourselves to come home to the Father. In Matthew 11 Jesus invites us to do that, to come home. "Come to me and you will find rest". That invitation is set squarely in the revelation of the Father. It is as we receive that revelation in our heart that we can come home and find the rest we yearn for.
When we are restless there is always something more we need to do in order to feel loved and accepted. When we are at rest, there is nothing more we need to do.
If you recognise that restlessness in your heart then I invite you to come home. To come to the Father and allow his love to replace the empty restlessness with the rest of his presence.
The tragedy of the story in Genesis chapter 3 is that it always seems to be blamed on God. Adam and his wife had been given very clear instructions on what they should do and more particularly what they shouldn't do. They made a choice, albeit under the deceitful lure of Satan, and they chose to disobey God.
Before moving on, let me make one very important point. They were able to make that choice because God, the Father, had given them the priceless gift of free will. In giving that gift God took a risk because it is only the gift of free will which enables us to love. Without it we could not love because love is always a choice, it is in our power to love or not to love.
And so at the end of Genesis 3, Father God has to make the painful decision to drive Adam and Eve out of the garden. Too often we view this as an act of judgement, the punishment for sin and a wrong decision. Can you view this not as judgement but rather as a tremendous act of mercy? It was an act, however painful, which prevented them remaining in the garden and being able to eat from the tree of life. The result of which would have been living forever in a fallen, broken state. God knew that was too much for mankind to bear. Death entered the human race to save us from ourselves, or at least to limit the extent of the damage we had caused.
In that moment God did not change, nor did he abandon his plan; the plan he'd had from before the creation of the world. The plan for relationship and family has not been shelved, it continues and is the same plan (the only plan) that the Father has for you and me.
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:6-7 ESV)
It was mankind that chose to walk away from the Father's plan. The Father did not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His plan and desire is the same today as it was in Genesis chapter 1.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6 NIV)
As I conclude this look at Psalm 23, I remind you of the Father's provision whether you're sitting in 'green pastures' or whether you're walking through the 'valley of the shadow of death'. The Lord is always with us.
We are provided for, we are comforted and we can live in his presence. It's his presence which is the only safe and secure place for us to be. We are enveloped by his love; in fact, his love chases us and pursues us until it becomes our resting place.
One of my favourite Psalms is Psalm 27 and in particular verse 4: "One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." This is the homecoming our heart desires and, today, I simply encourage you to pursue this just as you are pursued by love.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:4-5 NIV)
This Psalm is a description of the Lord's provision and his care for his people. We've seen how he provides for us in times of rest, when we sit in a still place, the place of contentment. Now we see how his presence and provision is as real in the turbulent times as it is those of stillness and peace. Right in the shadow of death there is the same provision and presence.
In times like that we can't see so clearly, maybe the path ahead appears hidden. In such times we have the added assurance of his shepherd's staff gently prodding us and steering us into the right path.
It is in moments of pressure and darkness that we experience his comfort. Even with our enemies all around us we can know his abundant provision. What an amazingly secure place to be: right there with all our enemies circled around we can sit, in peace, at a table full of good things. You really have to trust in order to sit down and enjoy a meal when all the turmoil of life is very real around you. That's the overwhelming peace of the Father's presence and it can be very real for you today.