In today's reading we the beginning of sin and the consequences of that sin. Not only are Adam and Eve removed from the paradise they have known but they are also removed from the face-to-face presence of God. The perfect relationship between God and His good creation is irretrievably broken and there will be nothing humans can do to fix it We need to keep in mind that this first sin didn't affect just Adam and Eve. It affected all of creation. Paul writes in Romans 8:22 that all of creation groans. He means that all of creation awaits the glorious liberation from death and decay that sin has caused. That will have to wait until the perfect time when God sends His Son Jesus. But that is hundreds of years down the road for God's people. And the ultimate liberation for all creation comes with Jesus second coming.
God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and they had two sons, Cain and Abel. Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil. Cain was the firstborn and as such would have received twice the inheritance as his brother. Both boys worked and no doubt Adam explained that God had given them work to do. It was not punishment for sin because we see Adam being told to keep and till the garden. And work in the will of God is a blessing.
Nowhere in scripture do we see Adam and Eve learning to worship God. We do not read of them learning a sacrificial system. But it is clear even though they have been expelled from the garden they keep their relationship with God. And it is clear they taught their two sons about bringing an offering to God in thanksgiving for what God had given them. It also seems there was sibling rivalry between Cain and Abel. But that is not uncommon in scripture. Ishmael persecuted Isaac; Jacob fled home so Esau would not kill him, and Joseph's brothers intended to kill him but instead sold him as a slave.
Over the course of time both boys brought offerings from their work to the Lord. Notice the language used here. Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Do you see the difference? Cain brought something, perhaps because he knew he should. But Abel brought the best he had. Not the leftovers but from the firstborn of his flocks. God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. In fact, God may have sent fire from heaven to consume Abel’s offering. We see this later in scripture as well; Leviticus 9:24, 1Kings 18:38, and 1 Chronicles 21:26. And Cain was angry. God had rejected both he and his offering. It seemed like God liked Abel best. Perhaps Cain thought he worked much harder than Abel. Plowing is hard work after all.
The problem wasn't so much with the offering as with the heart that offered it. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that God loves a cheerful giver. God gives freely and gladly to us and asks the same in return. Cain wasn't rejected because of his offering, but his offering was rejected because of Cain. His heart was not right with God. In contrast, it was by faith that Abel brought his offering to the Lord. That made Abel’s offering much more acceptable to God. It means he had faith in God, and he had a relationship with him. There is a big difference between bringing an offering out of thankfulness vs. bringing one out of duty. It would not have mattered what Cain brought as an offering because his heart was not right with God. In fact, the most costly sacrifices, apart from the submission of our hearts can never make a worshipper right with God.
The Hebrew word used for Cain’s anger here means burning with anger. God tried speaking to Cain, tried to point him in the right direction. But Cain’s anger blinded him. His relationship with God was broken and his relationship with Abel was as well. Perhaps Cain was angry with Abel because of the relationship Abel had with God. But Cain was not willing to get right with God. Cain invited Abel out to the field and there he killed his brother.
What we see next parallels Genesis 3. The way God deals with Cain is the same way He deals with Adam and Eve. In both cases, God asks questions...not to get information but to give them a chance to tell the truth and confess. Both times the sinners were evasive, and they tried to cover up what they had done. And both times God brought their sins to the light and they were forced to admit their guilt. Adam and Eve tried to hide but there was no place for Cain to hide.
Think about Cain’s sin for a moment. This was not a crime of passion. It was carefully premeditated. Cain didn't kill a stranger in defense. He killed his own brother...out of envy, jealousy and hatred. And he did so after he had been to the altar to worship the Lord. Cain killed Abel even after God warned him that evil was crouching at the door. God did not curse Adam and Eve, but He did curse Cain. He was left to wander, doing what he could to eke out a living. Cain regretted his circumstances, but he never repented. He was concerned not with his character but his punishment. But just as with Adam and Eve, God showed mercy and grace. God marked Cain so no one would harm him.
That is the most amazing thing about God. He continues to show grace to His people, even though we continue to sin, make mistakes and messes. This is the unconditional love we know in our Lord.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W