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Genesis 4:1-26

July 19 2022

Book: Genesis

Audio Download

This morning, we are going to look at the difference between Cain and Abel- in the two ways we approach God and look at the difference between God and sin (or evil)

Read Genesis 4
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten[a] a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. 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?[b] And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to[c] you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain spoke to Abel his brother.[d] And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.[e] 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod,[f] east of Eden.

17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed[g] for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

The first question I ask when I read this passage is why Abel and not Cain-what is going on here?

We see that both sons bring worthy sacrifices, one from the field, one from a garden.  Both appear to be hard workers.  Outwardly, they appear the same.

However, God only accepts Abel’s sacrifice. Well, we see that it is the heart of Abel and Cain that separate them.

You see Abel is obviously bringing a sacrifice in response to what God has done. vs. 4 give some clue because Abel brings firstborn- you can wait to see how you did and tithe, or you can bring immediately- it was like Abel was so excited to bring an offering

We also get help here from other passages in Scripture. Look at Psalms 51:15-17 and Hebrews 11:4.

Psalm 51:15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

Abel sacrifice is with a contrite heart, with faith.  He is responding to god’s love for him,

What is faith- not just belief in God-Cain believed in God, but Abel rested in what God had done and his promises, Faith is resting in God’s love for us

Cain’s offering was not done out of response to God’s love.  Some might say he is just going through the motions, but then why would he be so upset it was rejected.  Rather, Cain was trying to earn God’s favor.  He was trying to merit God’s approval.  

Basically, his offering was bribery.  

Cain’s sacrifice was rejected This made him angry; he was the firstborn, his mother had been blessed at his birth, he works the ground like his parents, he probably worked harder for all we know,

You see, we do not worship God and go to church so God will like us- this is divine bribery and similar to pagan sacrificing we worship God as a response to his love and grace for us. 

People have described belief in God like Santa Claus in outer space who will punish and reward people

depending on how they live,  A Karma God

The original audience had experienced Egyptian worship where you bring things to the gods so that they will reward you.

Abel is saying thank you God for showing favor to me a sinner.  Because you have loved me and my parents, and you have given me everything I need, I will freely offer this sacrifice in worship as a response.

Cain expected to merit God’s favor.  He was saying look how good I am, look at what I have accomplished, look at what I have given up for you.  Now reward me.

1)Cain is legalism vs. Abel is grace

2)Cain is Rules vs. Abel is relationship

3)Cain is Nice, church going people vs. Abel is have mercy on me a sinner

4)Cain is living by works vs. Abel is living by faith

App- What happens when you see God the way Cain sees him, you get mad at God when things do not go according to your plan.  I prayed and read my bible so you are supposed to let me on the basketball team, get a good grade, find a girlfired or boyfriend.  

This is why this passage should make you mad- because God desires for you to be happy, for you to love others as you work and rest.  But he doe not care much about how successful you are.  Your grades and resume and house and car does not make him love you any more than he already does.  You cannot earn or work for his approval or love.  

Whether you make an A or a C or an F- , whether the last month was a success or failure at work, at home, will not change how God feels about you.  Do you know this?  

There are two ways to approach God- responding to what he has done for you and promised for you with gratitude, or trying to earn his approval, wanting to justify yourself

One approach brings joy and freedom-when we are responding to God’s goodness, when we accept that he cherishes and delights in us, then we might actually go to worship Him gladly, might actually pray to Him joyfully, and be motivated by his perfect unconditional love for us to live for his kingdom and love our neighbor.

or we can be always performing.  Often Christians are practicing ancient Egyptian and Caananite paganism more than they are practicing Christianity

We’ve all met a certain type of spiritual person. She’s a wonderful person. She loves the Lord. She prays and reads the Bible all the time. But all she thinks about is herself. She’s not a selfish person. But she’s always at the center of everything she’s doing. “How can I witness better? How can I do this better? How can I take care of this person’s problem better?” It’s me, me, me disguised in a way that is difficult to see because her spiritual talk disarms us.-Eugene Peterson

This eventually leads to anger, like it leads Cain to anger. When bad things happen, it is either because you were not good enough or God is unfair.

This thought leads to discouragement, depression-the exact state of Cain here- his face was fallen.

Now some of you might say, well what has God done for me, why should I respond to him with worship?

  1. So this is the other thing this passage shows us- the difference between God and sin

Look at vs. 6-7

We see that Cain is angry and depressed.   God comes to him to ask why?

Notice- God is coming to him, desiring to get at his heart, asking questions like a good counselor would. 

God does not ask questions to gain knowledge or to know what is in our hearts- God asks questions to bring us awareness and truth.  This is no distant God judging from afar.

God is full of love and mercy.  He desires for Cain to understand why his sacrifice was different, to let go of his anger and legalism and embrace the gospel.  Because a legalistic view of God brings sin.  He is gently warning Cain before he does something horrible.

Later, when Cain murders his brother.  God again does not dismiss Cain but again engages him.  God shows he is just.  He is saying your brother’s blood speaks to me crying for justice.

When we hurt others, it hurts God.  This is no distant tyrant.  God wants to not just confront Cain, but get Cain to understand his sin.

When God punishes Cain, Cain has the audacity to complain about the punishment being unfair.

A fair punishment would have been death.  Yet God gives a punishment that might allow him to repent.  So Cain can no longer farm, his work that he used to justify himself and now must rely on others for food.  God wants to bring him into community, rehabilitate him , humble him.  He wants Cain to understand his need of people and of God.  Further, God graciously puts a protection on Cain when he worries about his life.  The petulant Cain looks absolutely absurd here.  Thanksgiving is always very convicting for me

Instead of gratitude, often upset and concerned with what I do not have.  Angry at God

How heartbreaking is it to read vs. 16 of Cain going away from the presence of the Lord.  Why?

And I ask you why do you resist grace so much, why are we always trying to get away from such a loving God.

And we see that Cain’s sin has no power over God’s gracious promises.

You see that man is still created in His image and doing great things in music, science, technology.

Further, Seth is born as part of the promised offspring that would eventually lead to Jesus.  Gen. 3:15 will come true despite the sin of Cain and human evil!

God’s grace overcomes all human sin

The author of Hebrews  (12:24) talks about Jesus’s blood as speaking a better word than Abel’s- because you see Abels’ blood demanded justice, but Christ’s blood allows mercy.   Jesus’ blood satisfies Abel’s cry for justice, but also brings us grace.

This is who God is,  this is his story of redeeming his people whom he loves.

2)Now let’s contrast that with sin-

a)in 4:7- God says sin is like a predator, crouching at your door, desiring to consume you.

ill-chris’ little brother hide in closets sin does not just scare you, it consumes you. While God loves us, sin tries to dominate us.

You see, God is warning Cain that the sin of anger is left to fester will eventually come to rule over him and this unfortunately comes true in the murder of his brother. 

b)Sin is deceiving.  We are always rationalizing and justifying our sin.

1)we’re not judgmental or self-righteous, just very moral!

2)we’re not unforgiving and unmerciful, we just have high standards

3)we do not hate people, we just avoid some people because they are annoying, or immature, or awkward, or not like me.

4)we are not greedy, we are just accustomed to a certain lifestyle

  • i know this is wrong, but I am not hurting anyone but myself
  • I know God says this wrong, but I also know he wants me to be happy, and this makes me happy 7)we only talk about people behind their back and gossip because we are concerned for them. 8)this is just who I am, deal with it, my desires and addictions are so powerful, they control me.-Christ ah broken the power of sin

9)they did it first-

10)when confronted, well you are a hypocrite, you do the same thing.  Because two wrongs mean we don’t have to deal with it.  This is politics today. This is all me; I am such a hypocrite, I am so sinful

c)Sin gives false promises.  Sin told Adam and Eve they would be happy if they disobeyed God.

Sin has Cain thinking God was unfair, and it consumes to the point of murdering his brother.  It convinced Cain that killing Abel was the only way for him to be happy.  How crazy is that?

The fruit of sin is misery, unhappiness, and death. Cain murdering Abel only brings misery, further now he fears being murdered.

When we hurt others, we fear being hurt- it is a vicious cycle- this is why the more we lie or gossip, the more insecure and paranoid we are, the more greedy we are, the less we enjoy the wealth God has given us.  The more we have to win and accomplish , the more others need to lose and fail.

Sin destroys community.  Even just hurting yourself, hurts others because it brings shame and walls in your relationships.

Here, Cain’s descendents build literal walls to hide from men, and you see a horrible picture of the fruit of sin in Lamech.  In contrast to Adam and Eve’s wonderful marriage and Adam’s song about her in Genesis 2.  Lamech sings a song about himself and how great he is to his two wives.  He turns Cain’s mark of grace into a mark of vengeance- the code he lives by.  We see how sin breeds alienation and misery.

So I ask you-who is your master God or sin.   What story do you believe the story of redemption of a loving God who loves a messy people or do you believe the false stories of sin.

We see Cain believed his performance brought God’s approval

While Abel responded to God’s love for him with worship.

Examine your hearts, how do you approach worshipping God?

The other day in a church group the question was asked what false stories, false gospels do you believe?

Many answers were given: because sin and the world has many false stories-

I said “I am how other people see me” – sin jumps all over that

God does not say you must be cool or successful or smart to enter my presence.

another person said- I’m going to mess it all up- ‘im going to be a big failure- but God doesn’t demand perfection, look at what performing brings Cain- and look how God treats Cain’s failure- the Bible is a book of people failing over and over again.

another said-that God just tolerates me- God does not tolerate you, he loves you, and he knows your sin better than you do, and he says I love you, I will do wonderful, great things for you and through you

You see these false stories only bring despair, while the gospel brings joy

what are your false stories

-my grades or success define my worth and whether I will be eternally happy, my stuff defines me,

-starving, numbing, or hurting myself shows I am in control- no, it shows you desperately need to rest in God who is in control.

-I am unloveable- when Jesus loves you more than you can understand-in Christ, you are beautiful and have no shame or guilt

I will be lonely my whole life- God has given you the church, Christian fellowship, and his Holy Spirit

life is only suffering and pain- no it’s not, while some of you are going through tons of stuff- God is with you, and this church is here for you, and you worship a God who suffered so that when he returns all suffering will end. Please tonight, begin to think about the false stories you believe that make us forget the gospel, and how much better the gospel story is.  and how wonderful God is, and how he knows all the false stories we live by, and he loves us still, and he takes away all the misery and unhappiness sin has bred in our life and replaces it with joy.   As we come to the table, reflect on the sacrifices of Cain and Abel.

All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of him.