Gems from Genesis: Chapter 4

Many of us know the story of Cain and Abel, which we find in the fourth chapter of Genesis. It’s the story of two brothers, the first brothers, but one doesn’t live to see the end of the chapter. Cain kills Abel.

Their story is an example of what happens when we refuse to acknowledge our sin.

Both brothers brought offerings to God. Cain’s was of the fruit of the ground, while Abel’s was of his flock, plus their fat portions. Look at what the Scripture says:

And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Genesis 4:4b-7 ESV

God notices our attitudes, not just our actions.

While we can perhaps find differences in the physical offerings of the two brothers, I want to focus on what is not evident at first glance—Cain’s attitude. There was obviously something going on in Cain’s mind that triggered the anger at the Lord’s rejection of his gift. He was very angry at the Lord’s response and his face fell. Anger doesn’t rise up in a vacuum. John gives us a hint in his letter:

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

1 John 3:12 Emphasis mine.

Cain had some evil deeds going on in his life and mind, even as he offered a sacrifice to the Lord. What we realize from this early lesson in Scripture is that sacrifice can’t cover a sin before God. The Lord sees us and know us, as he did Cain. God not only deserves our best gift but also best attitude.

God’s grace still shows up.

Just as we saw God’s grace in chapter three when he called to Adam, as he hid in the garden, the Lord once again uses a question as a chance for Cain to work through his anger and bad attitude: “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?”

We don’t have an answer from Cain in this encounter. All we have is a man who was so steeped in his selfishness and anger that he instead kills his own brother and then claims ignorance and indifference when asked a second question by his God: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

More than once, God has given Cain opportunity to confess his sin, and more than once Cain refuses. In the end, he must pay the price through weak crops, living as a fugitive and wanderer, and being hidden from God’s face.

Even in knowing his fate, Cain responds, not with remorse, but self-pity. Cain is truly lost in his sin.

This story is a grace from God.

Remember again, that God is weaving his story through the writing of Moses to a people who where more than a millennium separated from this point in history. He’s not only teaching them about himself, but about themselves. This cautionary tale of how sin can eat through a life and affect countless lives is a gift from God to us all. Like those Israelites, we learn that our actions are only as good as our attitudes and motives. Don’t be deceived in thinking God doesn’t know, no matter how holy we look or act in church or life. He knows our hearts.

What question is God asking you today? Maybe it’s his way of giving you grace and an opportunity to come clean before him before sin leads you down a path of no return like Cain. Dig deep into Genesis 4 today and know his…

Grace and Peace

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