Cain and Abel, the famous sons of Adam and Eve. We all probably know the story. Abel was a shepherd who brought before the Lord his best lambs. Abel loved the Lord and wanted to give his best for God. Cain, however, only gave God some of his farm produce. The Bible doesn’t even say that he gave his best because that was the problem. God wants our best. Cain’s offering was not accepted and it made him very angry.
God speaks to Cain, “Why are you so angry? Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.” God is pleading with Cain to check his heart and motives. God sees the sin in Cain’s heart, and He gives a fair and honest warning that Cain does not follow.
Cain, still filled with anger, asked his brother to come to the field with him. He then proceeded to kill his own flesh and blood.
God again spoke clearly to Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
Cain tried to brush it off, though he knew where Abel was. He knew he had sinned against God, and he was trying to get out of the consequences. “I don’t know!” Cain snapped back, “Am I supposed to keep track of him wherever he goes?”
But God knows, just like he knew what Adam and Even had done in the Garden. He had given both Adam and Cain an opportunity to confess their sins, but they only cowered away and tried to hide it. So God said to Cain, “What have you done? Listen—your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! You are hereby banished from the ground you have defiled with your brother’s blood. No longer will it yield abundant crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless fugitive on the earth, constantly wandering from place to place.”
Cain’s response is very interesting to me. “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from my land and from your presence, you have made me a wandering fugitive. All who see me will try to kill me.” He equates the land being cursed to be out of God’s presence!
God then reassured him that the punishment will be seven times greater for the person who kills him.
Growing up, I have always seen Cain as the mean, horrible, sinful man with no compassion, mercy or love. He was a cold hard head. In a lot of ways, he was those things, but as I read through this passage the other day, I began seeing him in a new light as I made some observations.
First of all, God was speaking to Cain, and Cain could hear His voice. From my experience, that only comes by walking in close fellowship with God. When I was trying to coast in my walk, I struggled more and more with the voice of God and truly knowing it is the Great Shepherd! I wasn’t a good lamb. So I find it interesting that this “cold hard sinner” was able to hear the voice of God and converse with Him. God is always speaking to us, but we tend to drown him out in our sin. Not Cain, he still knew the voice of God. It stands to reason then, that on some level, Cain had a personal relationship with God.
Secondly, Cain desired God’s presence. After he killed his brother, tried to hide, and was punished, he commented specifically on wondering the Earth without God’s presence. He said it was too much for him. This shows a lot about Cain. He was sorry about what he did (though it may have only been spurred on by the consequence), and he knew God’s presence was equal to blessings in his life. He knew he needed God’s presence in his life.
Now, I ask you, would a cold hard sinner still hear the voice of God and long for his presence? Or perhaps Cain is no different than us. He is human and made a huge mistake that has forever tainted the world’s view of him. Though we may not be killers, we are like Cain, lawbreakers. As James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” (James 2:10-11)
Thankfully, by God’s grace, those who confess their “law breaking” and believe in Jesus as the risen Son of God, are no longer seen as lawbreakers but as righteous! The key is to confess and believe. Cain was given this opportunity, but did not take it. The true lesson from Cain is in his response when God tries to call him out and correct him, or rather we learn what not to do.
First of all, Cain was given a fair warning from God. “Why are you so angry? Why do you look so defected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.” (Genesis 4:6-7). When we are given a warning from God, follow it! God knew the desires of Cain’s heart and he knew the consequences that would come. He gave Cain a chance to change, and he refused. So also, God, the omniscient God, knows all our thoughts. Psalm 139:1-3 says, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”
Secondly, after Cain murdered his brother, God approached him and asked about it. God gave Cain an opportunity to confess and repent. Still, Cain was not repentant. He tried to hide his sin from God. Foolish thinking! Do we not do the same? We sin and try to play it off as if the omnipresent, omniscient God doesn’t already see everything we are doing. We cannot hide from God, nor can we hide our sins.
So now, let’s look briefly at King David. Fast forward and you still find a man who, like Cain, was a lawbreaker. He was an adulterer and murderer. Seems like a double whammy right? Surely he would be worse off than Cain. Yet, his response and punishment was completely different.
King David woke up in the night and went to the rooftop for some fresh air. While he was there, he could see in the near distance a woman bathing from what we later learn is her monthly. David’s heart is filled with lust for this woman, and he sends for her. Her name was Bathsheba. When she was brought to the King, he wooed and slept with her, and she conceived. (Here we see the adultery part).
In an attempt to cover it up, King David invites Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to come home for a few days from the war. He had hoped that Uriah would sleep with his wife and it would then seem that he got her pregnant. He wouldn’t do it, for he felt it was not honorable or fair to the other infantry men. David then had to take the cover-up in his own hands.
As Uriah went back to war, David sent word to the commanding officer, Joab, to put Uriah in the front of the battle lines. David caused and planned for Uriah to die an honorable death in war, but there was nothing honorable from David’s heart. David murdered Uriah and took Bathsheba in as his wife. God did not like this at all.
He sent a profit to rebuke David. Nathan comes and tells a story of a rich man who had many sheep or cattle to prepare. When his guest came, rather than use one of his own choice meats, he slaughtered an ewe lamb that belonged to a poor man. The story made righteous anger well up in David, then Nathan delivered the punch, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 11&12)
David was still punished and heavily rebuked, but unlike Cain, his response was, “I have sinned against the Lord.” David immediately admitted his wrong and cried out to God. It is from this rebuke that we see Psalms 51:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. … Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
We must be like David. We are foolish to think God does not see our sin. When God begins to mold us, it can be painful, but his rebuke is there to transform us into his likeness. We must be willing to hear God and submit ourselves to his discipline. In the arms of his embrace, there is enough love, grace, and mercy to cover our multitude of sins, and to stay in those arms is to become more of what we are designed to be.
“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” (James 4:7-10)