One act, two attitudes! Genesis 4
It was the days after the fall. Sin had entered God’s perfect world and Adam and Eve were driven out of the paradise of God. As part of their punishment, man had to do painful toil and eat food and the woman had to undergo painful labour for childbirth.
Adam and Eve left the garden but they didn’t lose hope. God in His grace allows them to be fruitful and replenish the earth. They have a baby, a little boy. Eve is excited and names him Cain, a word which meant acquired or possession. Then a second son is born. Eve no longer voices that same hope. She names him Abel which means vanity or vapor meaning temporary.
Soon the story moves forward a couple of decades. The boys grow up and choose different careers. Abel becomes a shepherd, while Cain becomes a farmer, both having noble vocations.
The day comes when the two sons “go to church.” Worship is hard wired into the human spirit. The need to meet God started in the garden. Sin twisted it, but didn’t eliminate it.
Men and women are still driven to worship God.
Genesis 4:3-4 // In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.
Cain and Abel knew that worship is void without giving. So they each brought offerings. Cain, the farmer brought the fruit of his harvest. Abel, the herdsman killed and slaughtered the first born of his flocks. Adam and Eve were probably proud of their sons. Both were doing their religious duty.
Genesis 4:4b-5 // The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
There is a great lesson for us here.
As much as God seeks our worship, God is not pleased with everyone’s sacrifice and worship. God accepts some peoples’ worship but rejects the other.
Many folks ask, “Why did God like Abel’s sacrifice and reject Cain’s?” Over the years, people have told that God expected a blood sacrifice. However, there does not appear to be anything wrong offering fruits as opposed to animal sacrifice. Later, in the OT we find that grain offerings are very appropriate. As a farmer, it seems Cain should have brought the first fruit of his crop as an offering to the Lord. So what was the problem?
1. What is the worship that God accepts?
What does God look at when we worship Him?
a. A worship offered in faith.
Hebrews 11:4a By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. What pleased God about Abel’s offering was not so much that it was a blood sacrifice, but that it was an offering given in faith.
11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God.
11:17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
11:19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.
b. Worship offered in right relationship with God.
When we read the mention of Cain elsewhere in the Bible, we find he was not a godly man. The Book of Jude speaks about Cain: Jude 11 // Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; and they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; also they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
1 John 3:12 // Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
I think the big difference between Cain and Abel is in their relationship with God. We have all come here to worship God. God always inspects the giver and the worshipper before he inspects the gift, service, or worship. It means that it is important that you are in a right relationship with God before you worship or serve him. Otherwise the worship is unacceptable.
c. A worship offered as a man’s best. God always deserves the best.
The book of Genesis gives us the clue about their values.
Genesis 4:3-4a // In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. (Cain offered just the fruit of the land, not the best, not the first fruit. Cain was not so particular, he just discharged his duty.) 4And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Abel gave the fat portions from some of his firstborn. In the process he cut many cattle. Abel went out of his way to worship God with the best. One of the keys themes in the Bible is that God seeks worship that is perfect and costly, the best.
What is our worship?
It is primarily our lifestyle: Romans 12:1 // Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
All what we do is out of our worshipping lifestyle: using of talents, our commitment to God, our giving to God, etc.
2 Samuel 24:24 // I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.
Malachi 1:6-9 // “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ “By offering defiled food on my altar. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty.
Malachi 1:14 // “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.
Psalm 96:9 // Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.
Philippians 2:12 // Continue to work your salvation with fear and trembling.
Our motives matter to God.
Proverbs 16:2 // All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:10 NLT // But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.
Proverbs 21:2 // A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.
Our motives matter to God.
God is not impressed with those who do the right thing for the wrong reason. Jesus looks at the Pharisees: Matthew 15:8 // These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Sometimes people can have very bad motives for doing good things.
Illustration: There is a story about a man who was riding in an auto. The driver slowed down to avoid hitting a pedestrian. Complimenting the driver’s action, he said, “I noticed you slowed down for that fellow.” The driver responded, “Yeah, if you hit them, I will have to go to jail.”
Friends, what are our motives for serving the Lord?
Every so often we need to do a motive checkup and ask ourselves: Why am I doing what I am doing? The lesson from Cain and Abel is that God does care about our motives. We need to be aware that our motives do matter to God and we must not be content with a life driven by only selfish motivation.
As we continue our story, we see Cain becomes very upset and angry.
Genesis 4:6-8 // Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
2. Anger and Jealousy can be destructive
It is certainly not Abel’s fault that Cain’s sacrifice is not pleasing to God. But when God accepts Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s, Cain directs his anger, jealousy, and hatred toward his brother. Now most people are afraid of the law if they actually kill another person. But for Cain, there was no police department to prevent his hatred from turning into murder, so he kills his brother.
Friends, how do we deal with anger?
There is probably no one in this room who has actually murdered someone like Cain did. But I do believe that uncontrolled anger can be very destructive.
A man wrote this letter to his insurance company, “Whenever I get angry, I close my eyes and count to ten. I was driving down the freeway when I remembered how mad I was at my wife. I closed my eyes to count to ten and the next thing I knew there was this terrible crash.”
A woman said to her pastor, “I occasionally lose my temper but it is over very quickly.” Her pastor replied, “So is a gun fired, but think of the death it can cause.”
Anger can also harm one’s health. Angry people die younger than those who are able to deal with their frustrations. Anger destroys relationships. I’ve known people who claim to be Christians who don’t ever speak to each other because of anger that has festered for years.
Friends, some of you may have bottled up anger. It might have been something which happened this morning. Maybe you are mad at your Mom and Dad because they won’t let you go to a friend’s house after church. Or maybe something happened years ago. Perhaps a neighbor, or someone in the church, cheated you or took advantage of you in some way, and you still have a bitter attitude.
Whatever type the anger is, you need to get control of it, and get rid of it.
Ephesians 4:26-27 // “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
That is what Cain did. That is what God warned him about it in Genesis 4:7 // If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.
Uncontrolled anger and jealousy resulted in Abel’s death and destroyed Cain’s life too. Don’t let it happen in your life.
Acknowledge that the attitude is wrong, confess it to the Lord, and ask His help in overcoming this destructive attitude.
Next, we look at Cain’s life after his crime. After he kills his brother, Cain behaved normal as if nothing happened. Remember we can hide nothing from God. Cain’s crime is quickly discovered.
Genesis 4:9 // Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” (Cain refused to admit his guilt.) “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Genesis 4:10 // (God cannot be fooled, however) The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”
The words “to me” demonstrates how seriously God treats first-degree murder. When someone murders a baby, a child or an adult the blood of the victim cries out to God. Sin cannot be covered up from God. It can be hidden from people, but not from God.
3. Sin cannot be concealed.
Hebrews 4:13 // Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Numbers 32:23 // But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.
Luke 8:17 // For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
The Lord then tells Cain the punishment for his crime. Genesis 4:11 // Now you are under a curse….
Now note Cain’s degradation in his temptation. He is jealous. b. Hates. c. Killed d. Lied. e. He was cursed.
Jesus said: Matthew 5:22 // Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister is subject to judgment.
The Lord then tells Cain the punishment for his crime. Genesis 4:11 // Now you are under a curse….
1 John 3:15 // Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murder, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
Genesis 4:11-12 // Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.
4. Sin has serious consequences.
Now sin has many consequences but what primarily it does is it separates us from God.
a. Separation from God. Isaiah 59:2 // Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
b. Sin leads to self-destruction. Lot and his family chose to go to Sodom and Gomorrah. Soon they started living the lifestyle of the wicked city. You know the anger of the Lord rose against them and they were destroyed.
c. Sin leads to eternal death. Romans 6:23 // The wages of sin is death.
Sin has serious consequences. Cain’s sin devastated his life too.
Look at Cain’s response to this punishment: Genesis 4:13 // Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear.” Some believe at this point Cain repented, while others see it as simply an expression of despair. Whatever the case, God chooses to show mercy to Cain. He promises to protect him and not allow anyone to kill Cain. Genesis 4:15 // But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
There has been some speculation about this mark. Some say Cain look like a Neanderthal. The skulls paleontologists say are cavemen, are really the descendants of Cain. I don’t know about that, but Cain is given a distinguishing physical mark so that he will not be harmed.
Friends, today I want you to go back with three important truths
- Offer worship worthy of acceptance.
- Sin has serious consequences.
- God offers forgiveness to all sinners.
5. God always offers forgiveness.
No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, even if you have murdered your brother, if you turn to Jesus Christ, you will find free and full forgiveness.
1 John 1:9 // If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Hebrews 12:24 // …to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
All you have to do is put your trust and confidence in Him. This is perhaps the most magnificent teaching in the Bible and I believe it with all my heart, but it does negate the first truth. Sin has consequences, God forgives, both statements are true. And, as Christians, we need to keep these two truths in balance.