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By: Larry Shaffer
This is a deeply sad chapter. It’s the story of Cain. Yes, the sin of Adam and Eve was a sad story but theirs was also a story of redemption. We see the picture of redemption in Adam and Eve in 3:21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and His wife and clothed them.” The first shedding of blood was not Adam and Eve but that of a sacrificial animal to cover their nakedness. A foreshadow into God’s sacrifice of Jesus to cover our nakedness, our sin. The first man and woman suffered the consequences of sin but their relationship with God was preserved. This is the story of our lives in Christ. Yes, there are natural, physical and relational consequences of our sins. But there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus. Our eternity is secure in Jesus.
Give me more Abel
That was not the case with Cain. He was the first child born and he is the prototype of a non-believer. Very sad indeed. The entire chapter is dedicated to Cain. I’ve often wondered why God didn’t tell us more about Abel. His story would have been much more inspiring, I’m sure. A brief life but a life lived well. But no, we get a depressing chapter that outlines for us the pattern of life of a doomed rejector of God. One who had every opportunity to do the right thing but didn’t. What is the pattern of the doomed and what can we learn from it?
Hope turned sour
Genesis 4:1, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.’” The baby is born and there is joy and hope. As her first child, perhaps she thought this was the fulfillment of the promise of 3:15; that from her a seed would be born the appointed one to crush Satan. Regardless, there was hope and a sense of blessing upon Eve. She didn’t realize just how deeply her heart would be broken by the life of her firstborn.
Obey your parents
Abel was born shortly thereafter. Perhaps even the second of twins with Cain. As they progressed through childhood, we must assume that their parents told them of the beauty of Eden, their Fall and God’s acts of redemption. We know as well that God communicated with Cain and Abel. They were given guidance, instruction and training by their earthly father and Heavenly Father in how to act and interact with God. So, when it came time to give an offering to God, they should have known what to do.
“So, it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.”
Not either/or but AND
I’ve always wondered if it was the actual offering that fell short or if it was Cain’s heart attitude. Just now as I was writing out these verses, it became clear that it was both. The language makes it clear that for Cain AND for his offering, God had no regard. But He did have regard for Abel AND his offering.
As to the offering, we must believe that the boys were given some instructions of acceptable offerings. There are a few indications here of the differences. First, Cain brought fruit of the ground and Abel brought the firstlings of his flock. The firstlings and the fat portion indicate the best of the flock. Cain, no doubt, did not bring the best of the fruit. Secondly, Abel shed blood to produce an acceptable offering, Cain did not. God had set a pattern by shedding the blood of an animal to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and sin. Most likely, this was the guidance given to the boys for their offerings. Regardless of the particulars, we can most certainly conclude that Cain did not think it important to follow the instructions on offerings. He felt like his effort to throw something together should be enough. Cain questions in his mind why he must show such deference to God. In his stubbornness, he feels he should be able to do what is right according to his own standards and according to what is right in his own eyes.
Sensitive and responsive
The substance of the offering fell short. Next time we’ll look at the issues of the heart. Lord, from Cain we are learning what not to do and how not to think. We are blessed that You gave us a sensitive heart rather than an impregnable heart of stone. Keep our hearts sensitive and responsive to You. Amen!