First of all, I’d like to throw out a huge thank-you to Tom Vander Well whose Wayfarer blog was the first I ever followed as a blogger and one I most consistently read (every post for the last two years). His consistency as a blogger is enviable and his insights into Scripture are admirable. His post on Psalms 79 sparked a connection in my mind to Genesis 4 that has been ruminating for a few days.
But on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 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 master it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 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.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 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.” But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he 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 4:5-15
The first thing that can be said about Cain, is that his heart wasn’t really a heart of worship like his brother’s was. The preceding verses say that Abel brought of the firstborn of his flocks while Cain only brought “some” of his produce. Cain wasn’t willing to give his best to God, so naturally, God favored the sacrifice from a worshipful heart over that of a lukewarm, going-through-the-motions heart. But Cain had a temper.
“I gave God an offering didn’t I? Why shouldn’t I get favor? I did all this work to grow this food, then I give some back to God and He’s not satisfied? Typical! Baby brother gets special treatment!”
The Bible says his face was downcast. Think about that. Right at the minute his face should have been turned toward heaven seeking repentance, or at least understanding, he turned his face away from God. Was he trying to hide like his parents did when they discovered their nakedness? Was he so determined that it was all God’s fault that he couldn’t stand to look at Him? So many times I see this in myself. I know I’m in the wrong, but rather than turn to God and beg forgiveness, I want to sit and stew in my misery and run through all the justifications for my sin.
Secondly, the Bible says that even though Cain was turned away from God, the Lord sought him out, spoke to him. “Why are you angry? 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 master it.”
Here, I see two things: one, God introduces a point of law. The whole Bible is about the tension between Law and Grace and how Christ came to reconcile the two. “If you do…” That’s our mindset right? Just do the right thing and with pluck & luck, you’ll make it. But notice God didn’t say that if you don’t do what is right, you won’t be accepted. He said, sin desires to have you, but you must master it. It’s not an either-or scenario. Even now, God is offering a way out, a second chance, offering grace. But even now God is telling Cain that there is something he has to do.
When I first read this, this jumped out at me. Cain is so proud…and so am I. We are so deeply into the mindset that salvation must be earned, that we need to work for God’s favor. What if Cain had paused right here, understanding his own limitations and acknowledging the evil in his own heart and replied to God–even if it was in anger–“I CAN’T!!!”
How honest would that have been? I can’t do what is right! I can’t master sin! I don’t have it in me to control myself! I’m not strong enough! I’m not able! (pun intended)
Even at the beginning of the Bible, thousands of years before Jesus was “born,” God was calling us to recognize His Son, to see His plan of redemption, to understand our utter helplessness and total need of Him.
Think on these things. Tomorrow we’ll dig into more of God’s grace with verses 8-15.