Two Brothers – Part 3

Cain had already arrived and sat staring into the whirling pools of the shallow water near the rock. His face was contorted with anger as he stared into the water. His heart was so heavy that he thought that it was going to fall out of his chest into the river. He had never felt so depressed or oppressed before in his life. Just as he was considering what to do next, he heard a voice. A voice he had never heard before, but he had no doubt about whose it was.

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked him. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.”

Cain stood staring at the sky for what seemed forever and then collapsed on the rock in a heap. He knew the Lord was right. But, there was something in him that would not accept it, that the wrong way against it. Pride had entered into his heart and would not relinquish it. Even for the Lord.

“Cain! Cain?” Abel shouted as he reached the spot where the two boys had spent so much time in their younger years.

When Cain heard that, he jumped up and turned quickly in the direction of his brother’s voice. “What? Haven’t you had enough of being the perfect one? Did you have to track me down to gloat?”

“That’s not why I came. I was worried about you. I had never seen you run from anything before in your life. I just came to see if you were all right, that’s all.” Abel stood next to his brother and tried to put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!” Cain shouted as he shoved Abel away. “I don’t want your sympathy or your sniveling superior attitude.” He began stepping toward his brother and pushing him violently away back toward the edge of the rock away from the river. Then he suddenly stopped and sat down on the rock.

Once he had regained his balance, Abel stood and stared at his brother for a few long moments and then said, “What is it Cain? We used to tell each other everything. We used to be best friends. But, the last couple of years…it…it seems like I don’t even know you anymore! What happened? Is it something that I have done? If it is, tell me. Let’s work it out. You’re my brother and I love you!”

Cain looked up at his brother with a thoughtful look on his face. He started to speak, “I…I…”, but nothing would come out. Then a thought occurred to him and Abel could see that something flashed across Cain’s face. Something that contorted it for just a moment into something horrible and disfigured. Then Cain’s face softened and looked like his brother again. The brother that he loved.

Then Cain said, “You’re right Abel, let’s talk about it and work it out. You know that section of the lower field that you brought your sheep across? Let’s walk over there and see if we can’t figure out a path for you to use regularly.” He stood up walked toward his brother, stretched out his arm and put it around Abel’s shoulder. They began walking toward the lower field together talking and laughing like the old days.

Once they reached their destination, something seemed to change in Cain. He got quiet suddenly. He stepped away from and behind his brother. He stooped as if to pick up a clod of soil to examine it, but picked up a rock instead. He then swung that rock in the direction of Abel’s head. The rock collided with Abel’s head and Abel slumped to the ground in a heap. Blood began to seep into the ground.

Cain stood over his brother’s body. Then he quickly dug a shallow grave with his hand out of the soft earth. He quickly buried his brother and then began to wander back in the direction of the river. He didn’t know where else to go. He walked slowly at first and then he began to run. Finally, he ran as fast as he could until he reached the rock again.

His chest was heaving and his heart racing. His mind also was racing, thinking trying to figure a way out of, out of…what he had done. He was a tangled knot of emotions. Angry, sad, fearful, defiant, happy, confused and dazed. Into that fog came the voice he had heard just an hour or so ago.

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Two Brothers – Part 2

The day had finally arrived for their Harvest Offering. At the end of the season, the family brought together offerings to the Lord to thank Him for the bounty that He had provided for them. Each member of the family brought the best of what their labors had produced. Adam and Eve both brought their offerings first. Then it was the boy’s turn.

Cain hurriedly brought a basket overflowing with items that he had grown this season. Each one had been selected with care. Adam noticed that, even though the basket was overflowing, the produce was among the ripest, very ripe. Some were almost beyond use. He also noticed that the basket was one size smaller than last year. He was not pleased with what his son had done and decided that he would talk to him about it after the ceremony. His oldest son was quickly done with his portion of their ceremony and backed away from the altar.

Abel’s gift was from the best of his youngest lambs. They were without blemish of any sort. Some of them had already been sacrificially killed to prepare for this offering. He slowly and carefully placed them on the altar, along with the choicest fat. He took his time, making sure that everything was just so. He seemed to be talking to himself as he was working at the altar. When he was done, he bowed his head down low and backed away slowly.

Adam approached the altar slowly. He carried with him a torch and lit the wood that had been carefully arranged on the altar and the offerings were consumed. Almost. After the flames had leaped high into the sky and the smoke curled up toward the heavens, there was one item left on the altar that was left mostly untouched by the flames. It was Cain’s basket.

The rest of the family looked first at the basket and then at Cain in disbelief. Cain stared at the basket. His eyes then dropped to the ground. He then turned and ran toward his fields as fast as he could go. Eve started to go after him, but Adam held her back. “He needs to sort this out for himself, Eve. This is between him and the Lord.” Adam said.

Eve turned to her husband, looked into his eyes, and said, “Adam, what happened? Why was his basket not burned with the rest?” Adam responded, “Sweetheart, did you look at that basket? It’s smaller than last year and the produce was all past the peak of ripeness. He didn’t offer the Lord his best and the Lord rejected his offering. He needs to look into his own heart and be honest with the Lord about his motivations and his heart.”

“But, Adam, did you see his face. I have never seen him look so hurt and rejected before. His pride was severely damaged here. I’m really worried about him.” Eve countered. Adam responded, “I think that maybe his pride may have been the issue. It needs to be taken down some. This will be good for him. It’s a lesson he needs to learn. He’s just doing it the hard way.”

Eve looked at her husband and said, “Adam, I don’t see anything wrong with taking pride in who you are or what you do. I’m going to talk to him. I can bring him around. I always have.” Adam took her gently into his arms and said, “At least wait until he comes home for dinner tonight. He’ll have calmed down by then.” “All right, I’ll wait,” she said and nestled into his embrace. Adam looked around for Abel and saw him walking off in the same direction that his brother had run and thought that maybe a brother-to-brother talk was long overdue. Maybe Abel could reach his brother in a way that he had not been able to lately. He turned toward the house with Eve by his side and, together, they walked home.

Abel knew just where to look. Cain always went to the same place when things were tough and confusing. The two boys had spent a lot of time there together when they were little. It was a rock overlooking the river and shaded by a number of trees. Abel headed out across the fields toward the river in search of his brother.

Two Brothers – Part 1

Two Brothers

By: God

Adapted by: S.C. Mathisen

 

A long time ago, far, far away, back during the time when people were pretty new on this earth, there were two brothers. They were, in fact, the only two brothers that had ever lived up until that time…and they were adored by their parents.

Both Adam and Eve were overjoyed with the birth of each one, but the first one had been something special, especially to the mother. Eve was so pleased when Cain was born that she proclaimed that she had gotten a man from the Lord! He was hers! She was so…proud, of herself and of him. Always. Not much later, the second son was born. His name was Abel. Eve was very excited about Abel too, but…it just wasn’t the same as it was with Cain. Adam saw this and tried to focus more of his attention on Abel. They became very close as he grew to manhood.

The two boys seemed oblivious to what was going on with their parents. They were the best of friends. They did everything together. While Eve doted on Cain, Adam spent time with both of the boys. He worked with Cain in the fields and with Abel as he cared for the livestock, especially the sheep. Gradually, as they grew older, the boys took over the tasks on their own. Eve was full of pride for her little family.

Life was good.

Until…

“Abel! You and your sheep tramped through my fields! Again!! Can’t you control them? I have had to replant that whole lower field twice in the last two weeks.” Cain shouted and looked hard into his brother’s eyes.

“Cain, you know that you planted over the only path between my pastures and the river. How else am I supposed to get them to the water? We don’t really have much choice. Our sheep deserve water just as much as the crops. You planted that whole area and it would take most of a day to go around it. I chose a path for them that would affect the crops the least. You should be grateful for that.” Abel replied (as calmly as he could, looking straight back into his brother’s eyes).

Cain returned the stare. The veins on his forehead and neck began to swell, he slowly balled up both of his large hands into fists so tight that his knuckles were turning white and then turned quickly and walked away muttering oaths in his anger. Abel watched his brother walk away with great sadness in his heart.

The two brothers were much like twins in stature. They were both young, muscular and bronzed from the sun. Even though Cain was the older of the two, but you could not tell it from looking at them. In temperament, however, they could not have been more different. Abel was calm, measured and even tempered. Cain, on the other hand, was impatient, often unsatisfied with life in general and occasionally given to fits of violent temper. Working the ground to grow their food was not the easiest job. He often resented it. He resented his brother having only to tend the sheep & other livestock.

Their father had decided that this fall, they would each make an offering to the Lord. The offering was to give thanks for the food, the land, the sheep and all that they had.

Adam did not often speak of the time before the boys were born. The time in the Garden. When he did speak of it, there was a heavy sadness and melancholy in his voice. There seemed to be a great burden of regret.

He did, however, take great joy in his two sons and loved them deeply. And so, it hurt him deeply to see them face each other off like that. He wanted to step in. He wanted to take them both in his arms and, and… Well, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to yell at them, hug them or just knock their heads together. He just wasn’t sure what to do. He suddenly missed the cool, evening walks with the Lord. He yearned for them. His regret again seemed to wash over him and threatened to overwhelm him. He, too, turned and headed off. He was going to find Eve. Perhaps she knew how long this had been going on between the two boys.

Creation: The First Day

Creation: The First Day

By God

Adapted by S. C. Mathisen

Sometimes teaching the Bible to small children can be as humorous as it is rewarding. Picture, if you will, one veteran Sunday School teacher teaching the story of creation with a group of early elementary students. In this group, there is one particularly precocious student who is the youngest son of the pastor.

“Hey guys, remember we were going to start going through all the stories in the Bible? Well, today is the day we are going to start. We’ll be talking about how God created everything. The Bible tells us that it took God seven days to create the whole world. Today, we are just going to talk about the first day….”

Stanley interrupts, “Whoa! Mr. Mathisen, do you mean God created everything? Are you sure you mean absolutely, completely, positively, everything in the universe, EVERYTHING? They told us in school that it might have been something called a big boom or bang or something.”

“Yes, Stanley, I mean everything. If we look in the Bible in Genesis Chapter One, we can read all about it.

“It says here that: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.”

“Whoa!! What does that formless mass stuff mean? It sounds like what I get when I play with Play-Doh.”

“Well, Stanley, you’re not too far off. Let’s imagine for a minute with our eyes closed that we are floating in the air except that it is totally dark and there is nothing there at all. Then God creates something, but He hasn’t given it any shape yet. It’s just a blob like your Play-Doh. Only you can’t see it because there is no light. God hasn’t created that part yet. So there you are, floating in empty space with nothing but a blob of Play-Doh. Oh yes, it also says that the Spirit of God is there with you. So you’re not all alone. Just like today when we are never alone because when we have Jesus in our hearts, He is always with us. Isn’t that fantastic, Stanley…Stanley…(louder) Stanley!”

Stanley, coming back to earth, “Oops sorry, I was having fun floating with God’s Spirit.”

“OK, Stanley. Let’s go on. So the next part says, “Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.””

“Ooh, ooh,” injected Stanley, “we had a lamp like that once. All you had to do was clap your hands or make a loud noise, and the light came on. It was so cool!”

“I’m sure it was Stanley, but God didn’t have a lamp or electricity to plug it into or anything. The only thing that God used was His Word. The only other thing there was the blob and His Spirit.”

“And me, remember I’m floating there.”

“That’s right, and now you can see because God created light.”

“Right!! WOW! How cool!”

“Now let’s see, what comes next? Oh yes. “And God saw that it was good.” This is important because we need to remember that everything that God creates is good. We can use the good things that God created for sinful purposes.”

“Do you mean like a rock or my baseball. I can use it to play catch with but not to throw it at my sister?”

“Exactly Stanley. When you play catch with it, it is being used for good. When you do something bad with it, you are using it for evil. That is one of the choices that we get to make every day. Anyway, let’s get back to the story.”

“That would be good, right?”

“Right, now, where did we leave the story? Oh yes, God created the light and called it good. Next, we have: “Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Together these made up one day.” Let’s just imagine watching God take all of the light and moving it to one side so that the light and darkness are not mixed up.”

“That’s not what I do with my Play-Doh. It gets all mixed up and looks ugly after awhile. I can’t separate it anymore. I just throw it away.”

“That’s part of what makes God so wonderful Stanley. He can do things that you and I cannot do. But we can also see here that created the first day separated it from the night, and that was His work for the first day.”

“What happens next? This is a pretty interesting story.”

“That’s all for this week. Make sure that you read the story at home and come back next week for the second day.”

Eber and the Tower – Part 6

Back at the home of Eber, there was a single knock at the door before it burst open in a sea of splinters and a dozen or more soldiers rushed in and began capturing all of the farmers at the meeting.

The commander of the guards approached Eber and said, “Be especially careful with this one. The king is particularly anxious to see him in the morning.” Turning to the rest of his troops the commander shouted, “All right get these rebels out to the wagons for their trip to prison and don’t be gentle about it!”

Adah and the other wives tried to get to their husbands only to be shoved away by the soldiers. Eber shouted to his wife, “Pray Adah, pray…the Lord will hear and protect us.”

Adah could only cry and slumped to the ground outside their home as she watched helplessly. The wagons, surrounded by torch-bearing soldiers, were driven back to the city. She felt as though she had not only lost her husband this night but both of her sons as well.

Several friends got her up and helped her inside. After a few moments of weeping, Adah sat up straight in her chair, dried her tears and said, “All right ladies, it’s our turn. We must intercede for our men and children before the Lord, and keep at it until they return to us.”

With that she slipped out of her chair, down to the floor on her knees and began to pray, the others doing the same. “Lord of heaven and earth, creator of all that is, God of Adam, Noah and Enoch, hear our humble prayers…”

# # #

The next morning in the royal chambers King Nimrod dressed in his finest royal robes and spoke tersely to the commander of his royal guard.

“Do you have them all assembled for me to address?”

Bowing low to the king, his commander replied, “Yes Your Majesty, all of the farmers are present including that troublemaker Eber.”

“What about the sons of those rebellious farmers? Are they present as well for me to make examples of?”

“Yes, your majesty, including the two sons of Eber.”

“One of them tried to cooperate with us did he not?”

“Yes your majesty, but it did not work. His father still continued to form a rebellion against your demands.”

“Well then, he didn’t try hard enough, did he? We shall make an example of him first.”

“As you command, sire.”

# # #

“Eber, where is the Lord now that we need Him?” one of the neighboring farmers asked him as they stood assembled in the courtyard awaiting the arrival of the king. “Now, not only am I at risk of losing my life, my son has been captured as well. Does the Lord not hear our cries or feel our pain?”

Eber stood silent for a moment whispering yet another plea to the Lord in his deeply troubled heart.

“Good friend, He hears our cries and feels our pain. But we must hold true and believe. We are standing in obedience to Him against King Nimrod whose only desire is to defy the living God. Great Grandfather Noah had a saying, ‘God is faithful, just you wait and see.’ I suggest that you be patient my friend. Wait and see what the Lord will do.”

# # #

As they stood in the courtyard opposite their fathers waiting for the appearance of the king, Peleg whispered to his brother, “Joktan, what is going on with you? Why won’t you talk to me? Tell me what you were doing with those guards last night? They didn’t have you tied up. You were sitting playing a game with them at the table. It didn’t look like you were their prisoner.”

Joktan stood silently refusing to answer his brother.

“Joktan! Talk to me! We risked our lives to rescue you!”

Joktan finally whipped around to face his older brother, “Well, it sounds like you have it figured out, don’t you? I was working with them to get Pop to see the light. You weren’t supposed to rescue me. Pop was supposed to see the light and sell the hay to the king. Everything would have been fine, but no you had to play the hero and try to free me.”

“But supporting the tower is wrong! Joktan, Pop says that the Lord wants people to scatter around the whole earth, not stay in one place. King Nimrod wants to build this tower as a tribute to himself and as an affront to the Lord. He thinks that he is more powerful than the Lord. That’s prideful and wrong!”

“Says who? Pop? He’s just basing that on some old stories about Great Great Grampa Noah that were passed down. Those things aren’t true. They’re just stories that people tell. I don’t believe ‘em. I believe in the king. He’s the one with the power to help us or to hurt us. I am on his side, and he’s gonna thank me for that before this is all over. You’ll see.”

“Joktan, I don’t believe what I am hearing you say. Are you rejecting everything you’ve been taught?”

“Yes, now be quiet, here comes the king. You’ll see how right I was to side with him. You’ll see.”

Eber and the Tower – Part 5

Please forgive the gap in story sections. Between the holidays and getting my editing business running again, I have been very busy. Here we go!

# # #

Just as Eber was preparing for his meeting and Peleg went out to meet his friends, Leban and the foreman were plotting with some of their men.

Leban stood up and spoke to the men.

“I have heard that our leading citizen Eber is calling a meeting of the farmers in the valley tonight at his home to convince them to resist the king’s demand for all of their hay. Gentlemen, the king has told me to make sure that this resistance fails. We have Eber’s oldest son Joktan in our custody, supposedly as a hostage, to convince his father to go along. Actually, Joktan is a willing participant in this ruse and is on our side. I want some of you to go to that meeting at Eber’s farm tonight and remind the farmers why they should go along with us. I suggest that you take a wagon and kidnap a son from each farm to help convince their fathers to go along. The king may also send out some troops to speed things up. I hear that he wants to bring things to a head tomorrow. “

# # #

Peleg left the house just as the moon was rising and arrived in the hayfield. He and a group of about ten boys were ready to go and rescue Joktan. After some talking and organization by Peleg, they headed off for the tower construction site quickly and quietly. The plan was to create a disturbance outside to draw the attention of the guards, get inside the shack, overpower any remaining guards and rescue Joktan.

# # #

At Eber’s home, there was much talk. After an hour or more, Eber finally convinced most of them that they should stand against the king in obedience to the Lord. They were frightened, but Eber promised them that the Lord would help them stand against the king. They elected Eber as their emissary to the king to deliver their refusal. Just as they were taking the final vote, there was a loud knock at the door.

# # #

When Peleg and the other boys arrived at the construction site, Peleg sent some of them around the north side of the tower while he and the others went around the south side so that they could approach the shack from both sides. The two forces each stopped around fifty yards from either side of the shack and waited while Peleg crept up to the shack to make sure that Joktan was still inside and safe. As he crept up underneath the window, he could hear voices very clearly inside the shack and one of them was Joktan’s. He wasn’t sure, but it sounded like they were playing some sort of game. But, it was clear that they were not expecting an attack of any sort. Peleg signaled the boys to begin the rescue.

The ones from the north started whooping and hollering while running past the entrance of the shack toward the south pausing just long enough for the guards to come out and follow them.

The boys from the south circled around the west side of the shack, pounding the outside with sticks. As they did that, Peleg and a couple of the larger boys rushed in through the front door. Once inside Peleg found Joktan sitting at the table with a couple of guards playing a game.

Peleg closed the door and said to his brother, “Come on Joktan, we have the place surrounded. Let’s go!” The other boys had no trouble overpowering the two guards and tying them up.

Joktan stared at his brother, clearly surprised he said, “Peleg, what are you doing here?”

“We’ve come to rescue you brother, me and all of our friends in the valley. Now come on, let’s go before those other guards get back.”

Joktan looked hard at his brother and said, “Peleg, I’m not going back with you.”

“What? What is wrong with you? You told me to go home and tell Pop. I did that. He told me not to come back after you, but I got our friends together and did it anyway. We have risked a lot to get you out of here, and you are coming home.”

“No, you don’t understand…I…I…”

At that moment, a lot of shouting and yelling started outside the shack. The door burst open, and a dozen of the king’s soldiers entered capturing Peleg, Joktan and the boys that were inside.

The soldier’s commander pointed at Joktan and Peleg and said, “You two are going to spend the rest of the night in prison, the king wants to see you in the morning, and he is not happy.”

Joktan and Peleg looked at each other and began to protest to the commander, but he just ignored them as their arms were bound and they were hauled off roughly by the soldiers.

Eber and the Tower – Part 2

Then he ran as fast as he could toward him and executed the best flying tackle in the history of the world. He hit Peleg so hard the two of them went tumbling head over heels together for about ten yards and ended up in a jumbled pile of heads, arms and legs.

“What on earth did you do that for, Joktan?”

“You just about got your head knocked off by a load of bricks older brother. Now, pay attention to what’s going on around you.”

“Uh, thanks, I guess I got distracted by the tower. I never noticed all the men working on it before. There must be hundreds of them. I never got close enough to see them before. They looked like ants to begin with.”

“And you two troublemakers are gonna get squished like ants if you don’t get out of here.”

The two boys turned around at the sound of the voice to see a very large man standing over them. Joktan recognized him as the construction boss Leban. He had the foreman standing with him, both men looked very upset.

“But, we were going to work for you today!” Joktan sputtered.

“You may have thought you were, but we can’t afford anymore accidents around here. There are some people in this valley that don’t want the king to have this tower built and we don’t want to give them any cause to try to stall this project. So you two little boys head on home and don’t come back. Do you hear me?”

Peleg wasn’t sure what to say, but Joktan jumped up and said, “Wait a minute, you can’t kick me out. My father is an elder of this town and…”

“Look kid,” the construction boss said leaning directly into Joktan’s face, “we have a lot of work to get done before the king comes to inspect our progress and we don’t need two troublemakers in the way. Now, get out of here and don’t come back!”

Joktan became angry and even as Peleg was pulling him away from the two men he shouted over his shoulder, “Our father was one of the original settlers in this valley and he won’t take it lightly for you to treat us this way. You’ll hear from us again.”

The construction boss laughed and said, “Sure, little boys you go home and tell your Daddy.” The two men laughed heartily as they turned toward the construction site and walked away.

# # #

When the boys got home, they found their parents in a very animated discussion.

“What are we going to do Eber? We can’t just disobey the King! They said that we had to sell them most of our crop of hay to make more bricks for the tower.”

“I know, I know…but I can’t just go along with it either. We need that hay to feed our livestock. Also, I’ve been praying about this tower and I believe that it is being built as an intentional insult to God by the King.”

“Why would King Nimrod do that?”

“Because he thinks that being the mightiest warrior of all and being our king makes him greater than God!”

“So because of that the Lord told you not to cooperate?”

“Not directly. But Nimrod’s tower and city are the products of disobedience of the Lord’s command to great grandfather Noah. The Lord told great grandfather to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Like I said before we’ve been doing the first two all right, but now people are intentionally disobeying the third. I just can’t go along with it.”

“What will they do when you refuse?”

Eber shook his head and said, “I don’t know, wife, I just don’t know.”

Adah took her husband’s arm and headed back to the house.

The two boys had stopped behind a haystack to listen to what their parents were saying. After their parents started back to the house, Peleg leaned his back against the stack, slumped down to the ground and said, “Wow. Pop’s in a real pickle here. Who do you disobey, the Lord or the King?”

Joktan looked irritated and said, “It seems simple enough to me. You obey the king. He’s the one with the power to hurt you.”

Peleg looked up at his younger brother in amazement, “But obedience to the Lord is always the most important thing Joktan. How can he disobey the Lord? He’s more powerful than the king.”

Joktan shook his head and looked at the shrinking figures of his parents as they walked across the field toward the house.

“I’m not so sure about that, if the Lord didn’t want the city of Babylon or the great tower built, wouldn’t He stop it…if He could?”

Peleg stood up quickly and looked his brother in the eye, “What do you mean, ‘if He could?’ Don’t you think that they Lord could stop it from being built if He wanted to?”

“I don’t know. I know that we’ve heard all the stories from our parents and our grandparents about the great flood and all about Father Adam and Mother Eve but I haven’t seen Him do anything. I’m not so sure that those stories are any more than that – just stories. Now, the city and that tower are real. There is no denying that. I think Pop’s wrong this time. He should sell the hay.”

Peleg just stared at his brother. He couldn’t believe his ears. He was so stunned by what he heard, he couldn’t say anything back.

Joktan turned and headed for home.

Peleg slumped back down to the ground and closed his eyes in prayer.

“Lord, my brother is bent on disobedience. Help me to stand with you.”