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May 30, 2010
Few passages in the Bible give us as dramatic a demonstration of the collapse of morals as do the verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. This historical record of Cain and Abel provides us not only with a shocking view of sin and its results, but also gives us a clear presentation of the anatomy of sin.
Sin had entered the world earlier, of course, with the deception of Eve and the embracing of the deception by Adam, yet the sins of Cain somehow seem to trouble us more than his parents’ sin. This could be—at least partly—because of the nature of his action—it involved murder—and that of his brother! However, the most troubling aspects are his planning, willful disregard for God’s warning, and lack of conscience.
The very letters of our english spelling of the name “Cain” can serve as a mnemonic device to assist us in understanding his sins. This same progression is seen, not only in the life of Cain, but in his descendants who were destroyed in the flood. The same applications can be made for today and all time as well.
“Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15).
The beginning of Cain’s trouble was not an accident—it was conceived in his heart. His gift to God of the “fruit of the ground” was not rejected by God because of some whim. God had obviously given instruction as to the substance and the manner in which sacrifices were to be offered. Many people will argue back and forth about whether his sacrifice was rejected because it was not a sacrifice of blood, but the truth is, no one knows and neither can it be substantiated by “educated” guesses drawn from elsewhere in the scripture. God did not consider it important that we should be privy to all the details, but did offer us insight into the most important difference in the brothers’ gifts—faith. “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). We can know that God had to have given instruction in regard to the gifts from the brothers because of a statement that Paul makes as to how faith—acting in belief—comes about: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
God gave the instruction, the brothers heard, and the brothers acted. Cain knew what should be done and how to do it. He chose his action. It was conceived in his heart. Even if one chooses to believe that at this point Cain didn’t overtly violate some precept of God, there is still this principle to consider, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
There s something else of note in the rejection by God—it was not just a rejection of the gift, but also a rejection of Cain—”but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.” This is a further indication that Cain’s heart was not right—it lacked faith and it had conceived sin. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, How much more when he brings it with evil intent!” (Proverbs 21:27).
Upon the rejection of his gift, Cain became angry, but God spoke to him and gave him advice about how to handle his problem. Cain should have known very well the results of sin—he only had to look as far as his own parents—yet God gave this benefit of His wisdom.
Cain showed his apathy—his indifference—to God’s words of warning and wisdom. He was more interested in Cain than in God. His attitude toward sin festered within him to the point of murder. Christ mentions the importance of controlling these types of emotions, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell” (Matthew 5:22).
Apparently, the lack of faith of Cain and his subsequent murder of Abel, had no effect on his thinking. When asked the whereabouts of his brother, his reply was a callous “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The term “keeper” which Cain uses is “shamar” meaning, “to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life.” Therefore, in asking this rhetorical question, he is not trying to hide his actions from God, but is showing his complete disregard for the life of his brother and in turn his lack of respect for God who gave life.
Paul’s warnings to Timothy remind us of how one who sins has an insensitive conscience when he speaks of the conscience as having been branded with a hot iron. The words in Titus 1:15–16 also come to mind: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”
“N”—No Place with God
God does not tolerate sin. He gave Cain his chance. God had already removed Adam and Eve from the Garden, now Cain is sent away from even this home because of his sin and sinful attitude. Also, as part of his punishment he is informed that the earth will not yield its strength—sad words for a tiller of the ground to hear.
“Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is too great to bear!’” (Genesis 4:13). When examined superficially, the conclusion drawn from this statement of Cain is that he is showing some type of repentance. However, upon further consideration it is clear that his attitude continues to be improper and can have no place with God. Notice, he is never sorry for his lack of obedient faith, never sorry for his anger, never sorry for his actions toward his brother, and never sorry for his callousness toward God. He only regrets the punishment his actions bring.
God does show Cain some mercy in the sense that He gives some protection from others who would render further evil, but still Cain must bear the consequences of his actions—sin sets him in a place away from God: “Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16).
Cain as a teacher
Just as parents teach by example their children, Cain taught his descendants. They lived lives apart from God—without respect for God’s will. Not many generations removed form Cain we find men killing men again (Genesis 4:23).
Generation after generation followed the way of Cain. In the sixth chapter of Genesis we find that even those who had come from “good” backgrounds began to be influenced by those from “bad” backgrounds. The population of the earth continued the sorry decline. “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:5,6). Cain was their teacher. They followed his “C-A-I-N” pattern.
There is a lesson for all in this story of
Cain—not the application of
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.