And They Walked with God
Cheating God: The Way of Cain
One of the interesting things about the Bible is that it gives us a picture of man’s heart that transcends time and culture. While God is infinite in His ability to deal with us, we are limited in our range of behavioral choices, even though we often desire more. Our desires, if left unchecked can get us into deep and very hot water. This was the problem with Cain.
God sent Adam and Eve away from the Garden covered in animal skins. Contrary to what some may say, this was not because He thought Adam and Eve might get cold outside of the Garden. God’s covering of Adam and Eve was a necessary act because of His just character. It came at the cost of the innocent life of at least one animal. God cannot commune with sin. In order for Him to continue a relationship with His creation, He had to make atonement for their sin. Since there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood, a sacrifice was necessary in order to preserve man. The fact that this occurred is not lost in the story of Cain and Abel. We see right away that both Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to God. They were aware that they had a covenantal relationship to the God of their father, and that there were requirements to uphold in that covenant. It is how they honored or dishonored the covenant that resulted in either God’s praise or displeasure towards them. Let us dissect the downward spiral of Cain’s choice.
Both Cain and Able brought offerings. The text states that Abel brought the first fruit and fat of his flock. This was the best that Abel had and he gave it to God; therefore, God was pleased. Cain, on the other hand, offered of the fruit of the ground. The text does not state the quality of the fruit. While the text does not say why, it says that God was not pleased with the offering. One could reasonably assume, due to God’s consistent character that for some reason Cain did not bring the type of offering that God required. Cain’s angry response to God’s displeasure gives us a clue to his heart. The word used for anger in this verse means an “explosive rage”. Cain’s oppositional defiance showed his lack of respect for God. The killing of his brother in a fit of jealous rage shows his arrogant disregard for anyone but himself. Cain was sinfully full of SELF-esteem. He had a sinful enmity toward God and others. He esteemed himself over everyone. He demanded a pass for his sinful behavior as if there should be no consequences for his choices. He wanted to be worshipped; and neither God, nor his brother Abel would comply. So what did he do? He killed the brother who made him look bad before God. Problem solved! Unlike his parents, Cain arrogantly defied God when confronted. He had taken his parents’ sin to new heights. When God explained to him that it was his own rebellious heart that caused the rejection of his sacrifice (v. 6-9). Cain took it out on his brother. He killed his brother out of jealousy and angrily addressed God when confronted.
When God let him experience the consequences of his behavior, he was remorseful but not repentant. He did not think it “fair’ that God would not excuse his behavior. Again he was more concerned with “self” than others.
What can we learn from this? Here, again, we have a gracious God and a selfish, sinful man. God is always willing to reward faithfulness and loyalty to a love relationship. He “opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble”.
We cannot make excuses for Cain’s sin. WE cannot say it was his dysfunctional home because his twin brother Abel was ready to do right even though he had the same parents.
How does God see it? Well, we see God saying to Cain, “Why are you upset?” (V6-7). God says, “if you did the right thing (understanding was presupposed) then you wouldn’t feel bad. If you choose to do wrong, you are setting yourself up to be overcome by sin”.
God then tells Cain that he must master those desires to sin. Again, the presupposition is that this is possible. Notice God says that the “feelings” of temptation will be there. He says to override the feelings with the mind to choose correctly (Romans 12:1-2). God does not say, “Follow your feelings” nor does He say that your “feelings” can cause you to act. He says that we should be loyal to Him.
Just like Cain, we are not excused because something “feels right but isn’t”. We are called to account for our loyalty to God. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that God has given us an innate ability to know Him, and a knowledge of right and wrong that no earthly situation can change. We are, as the Bible states, without excuse. We are to be loyal and go the way of Abel, we are to avoid the way of Cain.