Our world seems to be filled with never-ending conflict. The questions behind these disagreements often center around who is in charge and who gets to choose the outcome. Who is really in charge, and who has the authority to impose their rule on others? What do the ancient prophetic scriptures tell us about rulership? And where does Messiah fit into all this?
In Genesis Chapter 4 we find the account of Cain and Abel bringing sacrifices from their fields and flocks unto the LORD. The animal sacrifice brought by Abel was found to be pleasing in the sight of the LORD, but the offering of Cain was not. Verse 5 explains this for us:
But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect and Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
The LORD replied to Cain’s anger with this response in Verses 6 and 7:
Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?
And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
The word rule is the Hebrew word Mashal which has the conventional meaning to rule, to have or make dominion, or to reign. Will Cain be the one to demonstrate rulership?
Here a fascinating picture is displayed by the LORD for us. The Hebrew word for lieth caries the idea of a four-legged animal with all four legs folded into a crouch in preparation to spring in a surprise attack. Cain is at risk of sin catching him unawares.
The LORD explains that Cain is to rule over the sin that is lying in wait for him, or the implication is that sin will rule over him instead. How is Cain to exercise his rule over sin? For that we need to examine the content of the ancient pictograms for the word Mashal. Mashal is spelled Mem Sheen Lamed.
Mem is the picture of waters that may be chaotic and destructive like a tsunami or gentle like a stream in the desert that brings life . It is also the living waters or the Word of God that brings life.
Sheen is the picture of teeth and means to consume, to press, or to destroy and is the one letter that God uses to identify Himself.
Lamed is the picture of the shepherd’s staff and means to control, to have authority, or the voice of authority.
What do these pictograms tell us about the word Mashal or rule? Do they direct us to the ultimate ruler?
This summarizes the content of these three letters:
God is identified as the voice of authority that through His word brings life.
Now we can see where Cain went wrong. Remember the LORD said:
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.
Where was Cain’s heart? Was the desire of his heart to be obedient to God’s instructions for him? Most likely not, for in the very next verse which is Verse 8 we are told this:
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
Because Cain chose not to submit to the rule of the LORD, he fell victim to the sin that lay in wait for him and instead fell under its rule. In Psalm 19 verse 13 David warns against this very circumstance:
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sin; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
The word translated dominion is again Mashal. David is praying to the LORD and coming under the rule of the LORD in order to prevent sin from having dominion over him! David does not want to make the same mistake that Cain made.
Does anything in Mashal direct us to Messiah? Remember, each Hebrew letter is also a number. Each of the numbers carries a meaning that is determined by how these numbers are used throughout the scriptures.
Mem is the number 40 and means trials or testing that will be followed by renewal.
Sheen is the number 300 and refers to a divinely appointed time that is connected to the children of promise.
Lamed is the number 30 and points to the blood of Christ or a blood sacrifice.
The 40 tells us there will be trials and testing that will occur at the 300, the time appointed by God for His children, that will be followed by renewal that can only come through the freedom from sin that results from the 30, the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He is the one who must rule.
The Rabbi Paul summarized the work of Messiah in a letter to the church at Ephesus. In Chapter 1 verse 7 of this letter Paul wrote this about Jesus:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, accordion to the riches of his grace.
There is one final thing to note about the word Mashal. It has a homonym that has the exact spelling and pronunciation but is translated as proverb or parable. This definition seems unrelated to rule and to take dominion, but is it?
Consider that to submit to the rulership and authority of the wisdom of the proverbs in the scriptures leads precisely away from the bondage and rulership of sin. God’s council giving victory over sin is still available for each of us in His word.
Who will Mashal or rule in your life? Will you continue to be a slave to sin and let it be your master, or will you enjoy the freedom that Christ has offered in His blood sacrifice at the cross and let Him rule instead?