So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden … Then Cain founded a city, which he named Enoch, after his son.—Genesis 4:16-17, NLT
The story of migration—mandated by the human mission in Genesis 1:28 but spoiled by sin—takes on a sad new dimension as the disoriented Cain migrated eastward. He left behind the truest of human homes—the presence of God—banished because of his sin in murdering his brother. God declared that he would be a nomad and a wanderer, a truly sad fate for a farmer whose pride had been the fruit of his land. His punishment would mean that he would never own farmland again. In his search for refuge and in rebellion against God’s pronouncement of judgment for his sin, he chose to found the first city mentioned in the Bible.
Perhaps the majority of immigrants today have left rural areas to move to cities. Urbanization has become one of the most important trends in today’s world. Despite Cain’s sin and rebellion, his family flourished in Enoch, the city he named after his son. He and his wife had many other children. Jabal became a herdsman like his Uncle Abel had been. Jubal became the first musician. Tubal-Cain forged tools of bronze and iron. Cain’s family became agents of human progress and to the fulfillment of the human mission.
The pioneering psychologist Sigmund Freud suggested that guilt was the mother of all civilization. Cain’s family—marked by his guilt—certainly made a mark in the advance of human civilization. Maybe Freud was right. Guilt may motivate us to achieve something and to prove ourselves.If you have left the farm to seek refuge in the opportunities offered by cities, you may feel homesickness for the beautiful parts of agricultural life. You may feel regret for mistakes in your past or feel cursed for your sins. You may have left God behind as well. Perhaps you feel a deep sense of guilt and a need to prove your worth to God and humanity.
Working hard to achieve goals and to prosper has value. But as Mark 8:36 says, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” No matter what prosperity one may gain through hard work as a migrant to the city, true peace will only come when we find our way back home—to the presence of God. You may not be able to go back to the place you came from, but you can go to God in prayer here and now.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.