4 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.’ 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
It’s a common occurrence to hear of someone who seemed to be in the faith give it away when God does not treat them the way they think they deserve. Eve has not given up on God. She hasn’t turned from him in bitterness at her punishment. As Job says, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” [Job 2:10], a statement made in the light of his wife’s encouragement for him to curse God because of his terrible plight. It’s a great reminder for us about the reality of life in the fallen world. As the old hymn says,
“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
count your blessings see what God has done,
count your blessings name them one by one
and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
Eve sees that God is still blessing her in the birth of her sons, despite the pain of childbirth. God is her helper. The extraordinary thing about our God is his constant gracious involvement with his rebellious creation, although as we will see next week, it doesn’t mean that we can presume on his grace. For Eve, God is a reality and she has to accommodate her take on her circumstances in the light of that reality, and the fact that her very continued existence is an act of grace. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” [Job 2:10]. If only we could keep this attitude when things go wrong for us!
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 But Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So, Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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.’
We come to the issue acceptable and unacceptable worship. Abel’s offering was acceptable but Cain’s wasn’t. What was going on? Heb 11:4 gives us some clues. “4 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.” It seems that difference was that Abel’s sacrifice was “by faith.” And somehow Abel’s was not.
The Bible is very clear and definite that worship of God must be in the form and in the way that God has revealed. We see that in the law about sacrifice, feasts, temple, priesthood, food laws, cleanliness etc. It is not up to us to decide how we will honour God. Even the best intentions do not cut it. In Romans 8 Paul says of his fellow Jews “I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” [Romans 10:2-3; see also Romans 1:18ff]. God has revealed how he wants us to worship him – it arrogance to ignore that and to decide for ourselves how and who we will worship, no matter what our motivation. We don’t know how Abel knew what right sacrifice was but it is clear that he did, as did Cain.
That, however, wasn’t the last word. God says to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” It’s not as though God is arbitrarily choosing one and not the other. Cain can put it right. God warns him that he is close to rebellion and sin’s desire is to rule over him, but he must resist it.
Instead of repenting and presenting an acceptable sacrifice, instead of resisting sin, he allows himself to be ruled by it. That is the state of all of us without Christ. Eph 2 says that we “Followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” [Eph 2:2].
Isn’t that the way thing are still? People come up with their own ideas of what God is like and what he requires of us. Is your worship of By faith? Faith shows itself in obedience. Jesus said, "If anyone loves Me, they will keep My word.” [John 14:15].
What is acceptable worship? It is acceptance of Jesus Death for us and living to please him as a result. [Romans 12:1].
Lord, thank you for the opportunity to turn to you in repentance. Help me to live out my faith to your glory. Amen
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’[d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’
10 The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’ 13 Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’
15 But the Lord said to him, ‘Not so;[e] 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. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod,[f] east of Eden.
It seems unbelievable, does it not? A man kills his own brother out of what seems to be jealousy. Of course, we don’t know what else has gone on in Cain’s mind in the years leading up to this, but no matter what the circumstances his callous and belligerent response to God’s question show that he has a real hardness of heart. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Could there be a much more awful response? What has happened to God’s good creation? What has happened to the image of God?
Things have really gone downhill. First Adam and Eve rebel against God by doubting his goodness, and now their oldest son murders his younger brother. What pain that must have caused his parents. Abel’s blood calls out to God for justice, and God must do what is just and right, for he is a holy God. As Francis Schaeffer says, “If he (God) shrugged his shoulders and walked away, there would be no moral absolute in the universe.” [“Genesis in Space and Time” pg. 113].
The punishment was exile from the good land and from God’s presence. Only now with extreme hard toil will the land produce for Cain. Furthermore, he will be a vagabond. Cain is distraught, not by his sin but by God’s punishment. There is no remorse, no repentance.
Notice, however, the grace of God. Cain is worried that he will be killed for his deeds, so God puts his mark of protection over him. God is still involved.
How different would things have been if Cain had admitted his sin when God asked his question in v 9. How different if he had repented. It may not have avoided the punishment but it would have led to forgiveness [1 John 1:8-9].
We are rightly horrified at what Cain has done but we do good to remind ourselves of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:22 “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
This is because it is not the sin that is the point but the rebellious heart from which the sin comes [Mark 7:20-23].
What a wonderful saviour we have. We are just 4 chapters into Bible and we see the problem of man and the God who refuses to give up on us.
Gracious Lord, thank you for the promise of forgiveness and the gift of repentance. Amen
16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.
19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of[g] bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
23 Lamech said to his wives,
‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.’
With these words the Bible deals with and ends the consideration of the descendants of Cain. It’s a not a pretty lineage. Lamech is not an attractive character at all. He sums up what it is to rebel against God. He refers to his ancestor Cain and says, in effect, “A man injured me but I got him. I killed him. I’m bigger and badder than my ancestor Cain.” Not only has he murdered but he takes pride in his sin. He is also the first bigamist, just 7 generations from Adam and Eve and God’s great plan for marriage, “A man shall leave his mother and his father and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” It should not amaze us that when people abandon God there is nothing to restrain them from a descent into depravity. As a culture we have all but abandoned the concept of marriage as God intended it, and we hear of the so-called wisdom of “try before you buy” in terms of choosing a life partner. We have taken God’s symbol of his gracious covenant, the rainbow, and used it to support a view of marriage that is contrary to the Bible. We glorify revenge in our movies and TV shows. There is a push to legalise bigamy. There is even a religion that claims to be Christian (but which by any definition is not) that secretly promotes bigamy while officially toeing the Government line. We kill many thousands of unborn children in abortions every year, and in some jurisdictions we allow them even up to and including the third trimester and that is seen as “enlightened”. We are encouraging our sexually confused teens to change their gender. Now there is much in world that has produced change for the good, but when we call good that which God calls evil we have crossed the line.
The response of God’s people should be to grieve for our culture, not get on our moral high horse and look down upon those dreadful sinners. We should be careful to criticise the culture but not demonise people. Paul says of his nation, “I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit – 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel.” [Rom 9 1-4]
Is there anguish in your heart for your fellow Australians? Do you plead for your nation as Lot pleaded for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah? Do you pray that God will be gracious and turn us around? Do you pray for God to forgive them?
Heavenly Father, please be gracious towards our nation; forgive our sin and cleanse us through your Son so that we can live to your glory. Amen
25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth,[h] saying, ‘God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.’ 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.
At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.
The writer has dealt with the line of the godless line of Cain and now he focuses on the godly line. “At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.” These are the descendants of Seth. Aren’t they great words? They could mean one of a few things – it could mean that people began regular public worship of God or it could mean that people began to proclaim the name of the LORD, or even that they began to call themselves by the name of the LORD. Rather than debate the relative arguments for each of these possibilities, the big picture is clear. There is a definite contrast between Cain and his descendant, Lamech, and the descendants of Seth who begin to call on the name of the LORD. It would be strange if Seth’s people hadn’t worshipped God ‘til then but none of the possible explanations above precludes that. All three possibilities speak of the readiness of
Seth’s people to be publicly recognised as Yahweh’s people [the word “LORD” is a substitute for God’s name]. This distinguished them from the rest of mankind at that time. They are depending on the LORD their God.
Are you dependant on the God of Adam and Eve, the same God who was present in our world in his Son and who died for you? The indication will be in your prayer life. It is not enough to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, as 35% of Australians claim [2016 NCLS Australian Community Survey]. The big question is, do you call upon the Lord? Is he your hope and your confidence?
If someone really does believe that God is their hope, how would you expect that truth to affect their life?
Father of my future, hope of my heart, please by your Holy Spirit strengthen my trust in you. Amen