Daily Distinctives, February 15, 2018 – Was Cain Able?

When I was a younger Christian I was appalled at the things that I read in the Bible. I would read certain accounts and look down my nose at the characters I saw in the Bible that did these crazy things as if I had known no sin. Perhaps, it was because I was hyper-zealous having been delivered from so much myself. Maybe I just thought that this is the Bible, surely I am only going to find good things in it. Whatever the reason, I was somewhat smug about my new position in Christ. After walking with the LORD for many years now, and reading the Bible over and over again, my view of these characters has drastically changed. I find myself empathizing with the characters, and thinking to myself how much like them I am. The more I come to know who Jesus is, the more I realize that He is not as much concerned about the legalistic details but the actual root of the problems in our lives. Take for instance what He says about murder and adultery. Sure murder and adultery are sinful things, but He says if you have hate for someone it is just as bad a murder, and if you look at a person with lust it is just as bad as adultery. And while I have never murdered anyone I am as guilty as Cain for hatred I have had in my life. I am not so quick to judge anymore considering I have to first judge myself. And so as I read these verses today I found myself hurting for the plight of Cain. Then it dawned on me, this is probably how the LORD felt about Cain too. Interesting.

So, coming to my devotional today, I pick up in chapter 4. Hope you will find this as intriguing and fulfilling in your own life as it is for me. In verse 1 we find another first in the book of firsts where we read:

[Gen 4:1 NKJV] Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.”

Now, this is just a nice way of saying Adam and Eve turned on some Barry White. No, they didn’t, of course, Barry White had not been born yet. But what I find interesting is this the first time that Bible talks about sex. Now we know that when God created them, He created them with all their parts intact and as full grown adults, but until now we don’t have anything that might suggest that they engaged in sexual intercourse. This leads some to believe that sex is a part of the curse since it did not occur until after Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden paradise. But the truth is that God created us in such a way that sex is necessary for perpetuating life. But beyond that, we know that it is a wonderful event between a man and a woman that binds them together in intimacy. In many cultures, the consummation of a marriage through sexual intercourse is necessary to “seal the deal” so to speak. In fact, in some cultures, if the consummation does not take place there are grounds for an annulment.

But what we see here in our verses for today is that Adam and Eve “knew” each other, that is they engaged in sexual relations and the result was the birth of the first child. So we have the first act of sex and the first child in Genesis. But what I find neat about this passage is that after conceiving and giving birth to Cain, Eve says that she had acquired a man from the LORD. I like that. It shows that Eve had some faith. Surely, she heard God’s prophetic pronouncement in the previous chapter about the seed of the woman and how the Messiah would come through her womb. It would not surprise me to discover that if perhaps she thought that the baby she held in her arms could very well be the Messiah promised. Sadly, as we read on we discover that he would be anything but.

Now, I like the next verse, because it infers something that I think we all can pretty much agree upon. Sex is good. In the next verse we see that Adam and Eve must have really liked the first encounter because we read:

[Gen 4:2 NKJV] Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

This is where it starts to get interesting. I often wonder if when we are born whether or not we have certain aptitudes built into us. In other words, are some born to do certain types of work? Having gone to college and studied Psychology as a one half of my double-major I learned about the whole idea of nurture vs. nature and Behavioral Psychology. I learned a lot really, but at the end of the day what I walked away from it all with was that we don’t really know. One theory makes just about as much sense as another and it is, for the most part, all theory anyway. I could say the same about all of the sciences. They are merely man’s futile, albeit relentless drive and attempt to uncover the truth in God’s creation.

But here we see that Abel was a keeper of the sheep and Cain a tiller of the ground. What we have here are a shepherd and a farmer. I find this interesting because Abel chose to care for the animals that would ultimately be used for sacrifices while Cain tended a whole bunch of stuff that had been cursed. Not to downplay the importance of agriculture, but I just find it interesting. As I studied the Bible I learned that later in history, shepherds were considered to be the scourge of society. I believe whatever you do it is good, so long as you do it as if unto the LORD (Colossians 3:23-24).

[Gen 4:3 NKJV] And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD.
[Gen 4:4 NKJV] Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,

Now, apparently, while there was no sacrificial system instituted yet, there were still acts of worship. God must have given them some kind of directive, still, the fact remains that mankind was made for worship and so it is no surprise that the two young men would bring gifts to the LORD whether they were commanded to or not. Some commentators suggest that they went back to the garden to where the LORD had made his abode at the tree of life. I don’t see any real evidence of that in the Scriptures other than to say that where God is there are always angels, but since I suppose it doesn’t matter, we will roll with that. What we do see is that Cain brought the first recorded offering to the LORD. Got to give him credit for that. If God was in the center of the garden which was guarded by an angel with a flaming sword, it must have taken a great deal of nerve to approach. Abel too brought his gift. Where Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground, Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. This would imply that Abel sacrificed the animals. In order to get to the fat, the animal would have to have been torn open.

The offering of Abel pleased the LORD as we see that the LORD respected Abel and his offering. Not only did the LORD respect the offering, but He respected the one who brought it. I think it must have pleased the LORD that Abel brought a blood sacrifice as atonement. I think it pleases God when we emulate him. While Abel was not there in the garden to see God make the first animal sacrifice, you can bet his mom and dad recounted the event in great detail.

[Gen 4:5 NKJV] but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

Cain brought the fruit of the ground and this was not worthy of God’s respect for the offering or Cain. This used to perplex me as a young believer. It seemed unfair that Cain brought what he could and the LORD rejected it. I mean, what about the poor woman with the two mites who gave everything she had. It would seem on the surface that Cain was just giving a gift from what he had. There has to be more to it than that because we know God’s character. God is good and perfect and so for Him to reject Cain’s offering there must be a righteous reason. Some speculate that Cain was just bucking the system, that God had instructed them on how to give offerings. I don’t know if that is the case because we don’t see the official introduction of the sacrificial system until much later. What I think is going on here is that there was 1) no blood in Cain’s sacrifice, 2) Cain’s heart was not in it. We read later in the Scriptures about those who were called lawless in the order of Cain (Jude 11), 3) Finally, I think Cain lacked faith. It wasn’t that there was anything unacceptable about the offering itself, as many suggest, it would seem it was more of a matter of the heart. We read in Hebrews 11:4 in that great Hall of Faith:

[Heb 11:4 NKJV] By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

It wasn’t that Cains offering was not excellent, but that Abel’s was more excellent and I believe this is because Abel brought his sacrifice in faith. We are not told in this passage why God did not respect Cains offering but what I see is a heart matter. It did not cost Cain anything to bring the fruit of the ground, but for Abel, it cost the lives of his livestock; a blood sacrifice, which Abel offered in faith.

[Gen 4:6 NKJV] So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?

I love it when I read of God asking a question. I have to constantly remind myself that the only reason God would ever ask a question is for our benefit. God is omniscient, that is, all-knowing. He already knows the answer. It is not like God was perplexed as to why Cain was angry and why his countenance had fallen. God is trying to get Cain to check himself before he wrecks himself. God is pointing out that he sees the truth in the heart of Cain and that his offering was only a symptom of a greater problem. The same could be said for me, or any of us for that matter. In the area of giving, do we give in faith, or do we give to check the box?

[Gen 4:7 NKJV] “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire [is] for you, but you should rule over it.”

God is a just and fair God. He reminds Cain that if he does what is righteous he will be accepted. This implies that Cain was doing something unrighteous. Again, I don’t think a grain offering or fruit offering was unrighteous. It was his heart towards the sacrifice. Perhaps Cain thought his way was better. Perhaps in his pride, he was disheartened by the rejection of his sacrifice. I know there have been times in my life where I have done something wrong, but in pure pride, I stuck to my guns even when I knew I was wrong. That is just foolish. If I know the truth then that should liberate me from the error of my ways. I think that sometimes we have the proclivity of sticking to our guns to avoid embarrassment, but man, how sweet it is to acquiesce to the truth and move on.

God is warning Cain here that it is obvious something is wrong with his heart and that sin is ready to pounce on him. But what I find interesting here is that God tells him that though sin is desiring to rule over him, he should rule over it. This tells me that we have the power to rule over sin in our own lives. That is, we don’t have to let it rule over us. God will not suggest for us to do something unless it is in our power to do it. It would be like my four-year-old coming to me and ask me for something to eat, and me telling her that she should go and make an omelet. It is not in her power to do that, and so I would never ask her to.

[Gen 4:8 NKJV] Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

To be a fly on the wall for that conversation. Do you ever wonder what Cain talked to his brother about? I can imagine a few things he might have said. After all, I have been in similar circumstances in my own life where I was the Cain in the equation. Perhaps he was talking to Abel and saying, “You are such a goodie-two-shoes, teachers’ pet, suck-up, etc.. who needs God anyway?” I know I have done things like that in my own pride. And as I alluded to earlier, just because these guys were alive in ancient times does not mean I don’t share the same human nature that they do.

Now I could say, “well at least I never murdered anyone!” And I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for those pesky passages in the New Testament (yes…that was my Scooby Doo joke). I am just as guilty of murder as Cain because of what Jesus likens unto murder. But we do see here the very first actual murder in the Bible. Cain kills his brother Abel. Some say it was out of jealousy, and certainly the Green-Eyed Monster has had its share of victims. Others say that he slew his brother with a rock. I think it was Professor Plum, in the study with a candlestick myself. Seriously, the point is that we don’t know the true motive or the method. We can speculate but that is about as far as I dare to go without concrete evidence. What we do know is that the LORD questions Cain again.

[Gen 4:9 NKJV] Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where [is] Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. [Am] I my brother’s keeper?”

Again, God was not asking these questions for himself. He knew what had transpired. Some ask, why didn’t God stop it then? The same could be said for you and I. Why does God allow us to go ahead with sin? To which I would say, “free will.” The problem with free will is that it is far from free. As we will see moving forward through the Bible, free will is anything but free. It cost God His only begotten Son.

But what I see in Cains response is nothing short of arrogance. I would know. I remember times when as a kid I would leave my little brother or sister somewhere without a care in the world and my mom would ask, “where is your brother or sister?” I would reply, “I don’t know it is not my day to watch them.” So disrespectful. I get the feeling that this is the attitude that Cain had with God. This blows my mind because I am not too sure that if I were standing before God that I would want to make Him angry. I have felt the back of my parent’s hand when I mouthed off to them as a kid. But to offend God…that is just stupid. Truth be told, how often do I mouth off to God in my own ways? God, I don’t want to forgive that person. God, I don’t want to help there. No, God, I am doing my own thing. I think we are all a little guilty of that from time to time.

[Gen 4:10 NKJV] And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.

Having a four-year-old little red-headed girl, I have exclaimed the same thing on many occasions. “Dimi, what have you done!” But this isn’t spilled milk. This is spilled blood. The same thing that God required for atonement. I can picture Cain just before the act saying, “Alright God, You want a blood sacrifice, I’ll give you a blood sacrifice. How about the blood of your precious little Abel here!” What a tragedy. It must have wounded God’s heart so deeply to have to serve justice to Cain whom He also loved. But sin requires consequences because it is an affront to a holy God.

[Gen 4:11 NKJV] “So now you [are] cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

Now we know that the curse on creation cause the ground to grow thorns and briars and that it did not yield its produce like it did in the idyllic garden setting as it did in the beginning. Still, things were about to get worse. God essentially strips Cain of his livelihood. The one thing that Cain knew was gardening.

[Gen 4:12 NKJV] “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”

Before this curse was placed upon Cain, at least he could plow the ground, albeit by the sweat of his brow. But now, the ground would not open for him as before. Instead of life springing up from the ground for Cain, life poured into the ground because of Cain. The first death in the Bible came from Cains rebellion, and as a result, Cain was cursed from the earth.

[Gen 4:13 NKJV] And Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment [is] greater than I can bear!

I know I have cited this verse quite a bit recently, but it is certainly fitting here. The fact of the matter is that God warned Cain and gave him a way to escape the sin which desired to rule over him and eventually did. Cain was able to avoid killing Abel, but chose not to.

[1Co 10:13 NKJV] No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God [is] faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear [it].

The temptation was not more than Cain could bear, and God certainly gave him a way of escape. Cain opted for self-reliance and disobedience and because he did not take the way of escape that God provided him it is no wonder he was unable to bear the temptation. But Cain is not complaining about the temptation, no, he is complaining about the judgment. What we see here is someone who has committed a horrific act and complains that the judgment is unjust. Cain wasn’t sorry he committed the crime; he was sorry that he got caught and had to pay the penalty. I know I have felt that way before when I have done something wrong. Stupid police officer giving me a ticket! Or how about passing the blame on to the one who has to deal out punishment? I get that from my kids from time to time. They will do something wrong and I will have to punish them for their misdeed, and they have the audacity to say it is my fault they are getting punished, and that the punishment is too harsh. Now, to their credit I am not perfect, and perhaps my punishment doesn’t always fit the crime, but I am not God, so suck it up kiddos. Besides, I don’t think grounding a kid from their iPad for a day is all that rough. But this is what we see here in the next verse. Cain is complaining that the punishment is not fair.

[Gen 4:14 NKJV] “Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen [that] anyone who finds me will kill me.”

Okay, so Cain didn’t get his iPad taken away from him for a day, but then again, Cain didn’t simply push his brother down he killed him. God is just and I believe that He was more than fair with Cain. If I go out and murder someone in cold-blood, I get the lethal injection. Cain should have been thankful that this was his only punishment. But beyond that Cain should have been remorseful and repentant. I like what one of my commentaries says on the issue:

“One of the consequences of sin is that it makes the sinner pity himself instead of causing him to turn to God. One of the first signs of new life is that the individual takes sides with God against himself.” (Barnhouse)

Had Cain been righteous, he would have fallen on his knees and wept over his sin and the life he took. He would have cried out to God, “Give Abel back his life and take mine, for he is far more precious.” No, instead, he complains as if he is getting a raw deal. Sill, you see the compassion that the LORD has on this murderous sinner.

[Gen 4:15 NKJV] And the LORD said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.

Now, we are not told what this mark is, but every time I read it, I am reminded of a book I read in high school called the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In the story, the main character, Hester, is charged with the offense of adultery and forced to wear the scarlet letter “A” emblazoned on her clothing. It is a great read but I have neither the time or the recollection to recount details from all that the story holds, but I do remember reading it, and if I recall, it impacted me profoundly. I might have to read it again. If your interest is piqued here is a synopsis.

[Gen 4:16 NKJV] Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.

From this verse alone I think we can gather that up until this point the human race lived in close proximity to the garden from which they were banished. But what we find here is that Cain went out from the presence of the LORD to dwell in the land of Nod (which I am sure some of you are doing at this point if you have kept up with me this far) which is on the east of Eden. Since we don’t know where Eden was geographically and all we can speculate is that Eden laid somewhere in the middle east, I think it is safe to say that Cain went to the far east. So since everyone else gets to speculate, I will just say Japan. There, Cain went to Japan. Who knows. The significant thing is that we see he went out from the presence of God.

Listen, we do that too. Cain is not alone in being a spiritual recluse. How often do we forsake the assembling of ourselves together in the presence of God? Sure, you might say that God is everywhere, or that God is in my heart. That may be true, but we know that God inhabits the praises of His people and for most believers, we come together in fellowship to praise God.

[Gen 4:17 NKJV] And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son–Enoch.

Okay, so this is one that I struggled with as a young believer. I was like, wait…what? Hold on a second, I may not be good at math but I am not that ignorant. Let’s see…there was Adam, that’s one; Eve, that’s two; Cain, that’s three, and now Abel is dead. 1+1+1=3. So where did Cain get a wife? Well, the Bible does not specifically tell us who Cain’s wife was. There can only be two possibilities, either Cain had a serious Oedipus complex and Eve went back to forbidden fruit, or the more likely answer is that Cain married one of his sisters or nieces. We know from Genesis 5:4 that Adam had more children. After all, he lived to be 800 years old and didn’t have a television. But before you say, “Yuck,” you have to consider that God did not prohibit inter-family marriage until much later when there were enough people to make intermarriage unnecessary (Leviticus 18:6-18). And so it is likely that he married a relative. This is not a proof-text in support of incest either. We see some of the dangers of intermarrying from the same gene pool. The fact is the gene pool was not polluted and a few generations of intermarrying would not cause the kinds of defects we see today.

What I find interesting in this passage too is that Cain becomes a construction worker. He builds a city and names it after his son. This is so like man. Full of pride. Instead of giving glory to God he gives it to his son. We see this today, monuments and buildings named after people. And while we do this commemorate the name of people who do great things, we should always give glory to God in all things.

[Gen 4:18 NKJV] To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.[Gen 4:19 NKJV] Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one [was] Adah, and the name of the second [was] Zillah.
[Gen 4:20 NKJV] And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.
[Gen 4:21 NKJV] His brother’s name [was] Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.
[Gen 4:22 NKJV] And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain [was] Naamah.

Without delving too deep into all of these passages (perhaps another time) what we see here is a rapid advancement of culture and trades. Unlike many modern theories that suggest these kinds of advancements occurred over thousands and thousands of years, we see that these trades began relatively quickly.

[Gen 4:23 NKJV] Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me.
[Gen 4:24 NKJV] If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

I wanted to press pause on these verses because just as we saw a rapid advancement in the culture we see an equally rapid decline in morality. Lamech here is bragging about his murderous ways and mocking God. This was the ancient man. The moral decline has grown exponentially since. LORD forgive us. It would seem from this that mankind not only moved geographically further and further away from God; but worse, spiritually away from God.

[Gen 4:25 NKJV] And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.”
[Gen 4:26 NKJV] And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then [men] began to call on the name of the LORD.

These final verses of chapter 4 remind me of the end of a good movie. You know the kind. You watch the end and you just know that it is purposely framed so as to suggest a sequel is on the horizon. We know that God had promised the Messiah through the seed of the woman, and we can be pretty sure that it was not going to come from the lineage of Cain. So, when Eve gives birth to Seth we see the line from which Messiah, Jesus would come.

I also find it interesting that when Seth has a son it is at this time that men began to call on the name of the LORD.

Prayer: LORD, that we would all call upon Your name and be saved. Father, please forgive me for my sinfulness. I am not too far removed from Cain in my own misdeeds and sinfulness. Still, I trust, by faith, that You have redeemed me and call me Your own. LORD, I pray that You would give me the wisdom to train up my children and that You would cause them to seek to honor my wife and I. May You receive the glory. LORD, I want to lift up my pastor to You again today. I miss our meetings lately and look forward to hanging out again. Until then, I pray that You would continue to watch over him and his family and bless him as he does the work which You have called him to do. It is in Your name that I pray. –Amen

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