We have seen the policeman in Minneapolis placing his knee on the neck of 46 year old George Floyd, for 9 minutes George cried out “I cant breath…” and eventually he breathed his last breath. It sparked an avalanche of protests and riots across the US, because that death cried out for justice, just like Abel's death cried out for justice
1. The Sin of Cain
In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve refused to take God at his word, they both ate of the tree of good and evil. Once naked with no shame but now they hide from God and from each other and are removed from paradise.
But God in his kindness allows Eve to give birth to 2 sons, her first born is Cain, the first man to have a belly button, a farmer by trade. Her second born Abel, a Cowboy-herder of sheep. Both were religious men, both willing to draw near to God but on very different terms
By faith Abel offers his best.
And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering. ~Genesis 4:4 (NIV)
For us fat is bad. In the Jewish sacrificial system, the fat portions and the first born where highly prized. The message is clear, Abel GAVE HIS BEST. Not so Cain. Cain offers some of the fruits of the soil, but not the first fruits as we would have expected from the first born. The result is...
The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. ~Genesis 4:4b-5 (NIV)
Cain's thankless heart gave God his left overs, God was not pleased.
We in Christ are told that in view of God’s mercies, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God. We give our best because God gave his best in sending his Son.
The downward slide of Cain begins. If you break the first commandment you will end up breaking the rest. Cain begins where Adam left off. Cain's sin takes the next step as sin often does. Cain’s sin spills into pride, self pity, and jealously. If Envy wants what you’ve got then Jealously hates you for having it. Cain is jealous and very angry that his brother was favoured by God. His face was downcast, here is sin in all its blindness...
Should Cain not have been feeling remorse or guilt? Abel only offered a better sacrifice because it came by faith in God's gracious promises and that grace unleashed a generous heart.
In the words of one song…“Lord, You have given me everything, What can I do for you…”
Faith in God's gracious promises unleashed deep thankfulness. It opens the heart to love God, it opens the diary to make time for others, it opens the wallet to bless others. Cain is not the victim of random favouritism.
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.” ~Genesis 4:7 (NIV)
God offers Cain both forgiveness and warning. First the loving warning, if Cain does not treat God properly and deal with his jealous anger he will open himself to more sin. Sin is pictured like a wild animal about to pounce on him.
This is how temptation leads to sin and death.
"... but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." ~James 1:14-15 (NIV)
Notice, It begins with our own evil desires.
With Eve the temptation came from outside her by Satan. For Cain and us temptation comes from within us by our own evil desires. Once you admit the problem is with you and not God then you will not waste your time blaming everyone else, including God. Otherwise, like a fish on a hook you are dragged away and before you know it your jealousy becomes anger, becomes murder and full-blown resentfulness to God.
You know the story, you’re wounded in some way and it generates some hurt but you refuse to forgive. Then you avoid the person and you replay the wrongs in your mind and you then think the worst of them and it leads to resentment and rage and revenge.
Like Cain I grew up on a farm growing crops, when I was 6 and my brother was 11 we were pulling out weeds for a couple of hours throwing them onto the back of a trailer. It was hard work and when we were finished, my brother drove the tractor-trailer home without giving me a lift.
I was furious, my hurt led to anger and my anger led to revenge, I ran toward a patch of vegetables near the house that we both grew and I ripped them up. As I was exercising revenge, a shadow fell on me, it was my Dad and he was furious, he pulled out his belt and I ran. I let my hurt become anger and my anger become revenge. I did not master that sin, it mastered me.
Eve let Satan lead her to sin, now sin leads Cain to murder. Cain takes his brother to the field and then takes his life, the first murder happens inside the family. This is the first act of domestic violence and it won’t be the last.
Sin has now spread faster than COVID 19.
When God confronts Adam, it was about his individual sin. Where are you? But when God confronts Cain, the focus was on how it impacted others. Where is your brother? Cain’s answer is defiant, I don’t know and I don’t care.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” ~Genesis 4:9 (NIV)
The answer is, Yes, you are Cain, we all are our brother’s keeper, now more than ever.
There have been 432 black deaths in custody where no charge was laid. We can't be concerned for justice for ourselves and not for others.
The same attitude that was there in Cain's offering is in this sarcastic response. I don’t care about God becomes I don’t care about my brother. And all along the promise was there.
If you do what is right will you not be accepted. ~Genesis 4:7 (NIV)
Sin is still crouching at the door, your door, and you must master it.
What the law can’t do God did by sending his Son to forgive and his Spirit to transform. Don’t be like Cain who failed to deal with pride, self pity, jealousy, anger, violence and defiance to God. Don’t delay, deal with that issue, it will not go away, it won’t stay hidden and it will get worse,
2. God's judgment on Cain
Cain may not do what is right but God will, He is a just God who holds Cain responsible. When Cain offered a pathetic sacrifice and God named it for what is was. When Cain murders his brother God confronts Cain. God demands justice for the blood of Abel.
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. ~Genesis 4:10 (NIV)
The same word is used in Genesis for the screams of a woman who is raped. Abel's murder screams for justice. Every rape victim screams for justice. Every abused child screams for justice. Every victim of domestic family violence screams for justice. That is what we are hearing from protestors in the US, messy as it is, the cry for justice. Don’t use the looting and violence to ignore the cry for justice for many.
When Israel cried out to God for freedom from oppression of Egypt she was far from perfect in how she behaved. Moses murdered an Egyptian.
Friends, it’s easy to demand justice when we have been mistreated but not so easy when it’s for others. We are our brother’s keeper. We can't pick and choose which injustice we should speak up for, whether its Abortion or entrenched Racial inequality.
Cain exceeds his father sin and so does the judgment. Adam could till the soil and it would produce food, Cain could sow whatever seed he likes and nothing, he will be forced to wander from the presence of God.
Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. ~Genesis 4:11-12 (NIV)
Cain will be a fugitive on the run with no place to lay his head and at the mercy of whoever wants to exact revenge on Abel. The ground that drank the blood of Abel will curse him to his dying days.
But where sin increases grace abounds all the more.
3. God's grace to Cain
You see grace to this rebel in so many ways. Eve thanks God for allowing her to have 2 sons. The bible doesn’t end with Genesis 3. God promises if Cain would do the right thing he will be accepted, God will have Cain back. God's arms are willing to embrace him.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:9 (NIV)
No person is beyond forgiveness, no sin has ever created a debt that the Christ of the cross can’t pay. I remember talking a white supremacist, he hated anyone who wasn’t white until he accepted Christ and repented of his racism and loves his Indian pastor.
When Cain kills his brother he should have died. An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth and a life for a life. But God hears this rebel's plea and places a mark of protection.
But the Lord said to him, “Not so; 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. ~Genesis 4:15 (NIV)
Cain had forsaken God but God had not forsaken him. He finds himself beyond God presence, East of Eden, but not beyond the protective hand of God. This is God's common grace, this is as good as it gets without Christ. But there is much more grace to enjoy.
If you find yourself wondering why God did not kill Cain on the spot then you may missed the point! Have you not forgotten that murder and anger spring from the same heart. Jesus said:
"I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. ~Matthew 5:22 (NIV)
And have you not forgotten, we too stand under the judgment of God and Hell is too much for us to bear. Ones death will never pay for the sins of Cain, the policemen in Minneapolis or any of us “Its appointed that a person die once and afterward face judgment.” That is a punishment unable to bear. There is a death that will provide justice and mercy.
You have come to ... Jesus ... and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. ~Hebrew 12:23b-24 (NIV)
The blood of Abel rightly demanded death and hell but the blood of Jesus speaks a better word, a word of mercy where justice is not ignored, a word of forgiveness where sins are taken seriously, a word of love where God's righteous anger is poured out and a word of hope where anyone who calls on the name of this Lord will be saved.
It’s too late to be sinless but it's not too late to turn and trust in our Lord and it’s not too late to stand with those who do speak of the racial injustices they have experienced.
Why not this week ask permission to listen to the story of those who have come from a different culture to your own. Ask them about experiences of racism inside and outside the church.
forgives for our pride, our jealousy, our anger and our defiance against you.
Forgive us for not being our brother's keeper.
Thank you, Lord Jesus for providing full forgiveness for any who turn and put their trust in you.
Thank you Lord that your blood offers us a word of justice and mercy.
Empower us to listen to, to speak up and stand with those who experience injustice.
In Jesus name.