Good morning on this Memorial Day weekend! Let’s begin by recognize our vets, law enforcement, fire fighters. Would you stand please! Thank you for your service!
Today we begin a summer sermon series call the Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful. I would have said ugly, but that’s not Biblically correct. God created all things beautiful. Sin vandalizes and mutilates that beauty, but God is always ready to heal and restore our lost beauty if we are willing.
The first character in our series is the first born son of Adam and Eve. He is actually the first born human being! His name is Cain. Let’s open our Bibles to Genesis 4.
Genesis 3 ends with Adam and Eve being evicted from the Garden of Eden lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever in their sinful condition. God drives them out of the Garden of Eden and places an angel with a flaming sword blocking the way to the tree of life. This was not because God was punishing them, but for the sake of their salvation. Gen 4 begins...
“Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.” Gen 4:1-2
I give Eve credit for recognizing and testifying that her first born son was a gift from the LORD. Cain was vigorous and strong while Abel, the second born, it appears was weaker and smaller. It’s even possible that Abel was Cain’s younger twin brother.
If you remember Adam was given the job of tilling the soil and caring for the animals in Garden of Eden. Adam’s sons divided their father’s job. One became a farmer, the other a rancher and shepherd. Look at verse 3…
“In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” Gen 4:3-4
I want you to notice that word ‘LORD’ because it’s important. That’s God’s personal name – Yahweh or “I am who I am”. You only give your name to people you want to have a relationship with. The LORD created us to have a relationship with him. He wants to enjoy our company. He wants to love us and have us love him and so he gives us his name.
But we are not equals. He is God, Creator and we are dust, created. He gives us life, breath, strength, all we need from day to day. We are made in his image, but he is completely other than us. We are not equals but we are loved!
So how do you show your love and appreciation to someone who has given you everything? You bring them gifts of appreciation, sacrifices of praise. Not because you have to, but because you want to bless the one who has first blessed you.
Intuitively Cain knew this so he brought a gift to the LORD who had blessed his labor and made his crops productive. So did his brother Abel. But Abel’s sacrifice was far better than Cain’s. Why? Because Abel selected the very best animal in his flock and offered the best part of the animal to the Lord. Did he do it to get something? No! Did he do it to embarrass or outshine his brother? I don’t think so. His offering was sincere, but Cain’s was not.
It reminds of Jesus’ story of the widow who found 2 pennies in the dust on the street. They were so worthless nobody else bothered to stoop down and pick them up, but she did.
Then she limped to the temple and put it in the offering box. It was all she had. The rich gave out of their abundance to impress God and others but it really wasn’t sincere. Jesus said their offerings were worthless. A rotten heart / rotten offering! But the widow gave a real offering, a fragrant offering, precious to the Lord because it came from a sincere heart.
“The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” Gen 4:4-5
Abel’s generosity and sincerity revealed his brother’s hypocrisy and Cain hated him for it. Have you ever resented someone else because their sincere faith and offering revealed the shallow hypocrisy of your own faith and offering? Pretty stinky stuff, isn’t it! It gets worse.
Instead of repenting and asking God to forgive him, Cain constructs a plan to murder his brother. The Lord, who knows the secrets of our hearts, goes to Cain and warns him.
“Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast?” Instead of looking out and up to the Lord for help in dealing with the murder festering in his heart, Cain looks down and in. Deadly mistake! The Lord warns him again…
“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.” Gen 4:7
How do we master temptation? By trying harder? By covering it up? It never works. We must run to the Lord. But like his parents before him, instead of running to the Lord for help, Cain runs away from the Lord. He lets his sin take control of his heart. Rather than confessing his resentment to the Lord, he nurses it and things go from bad to worse.
“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?” Gen 4:8-9
Liar, liar, pants on fire! Jesus told the Pharisees that the devil was a murder and a liar from the beginning and here we see it. When we reject the LORD, we set ourselves up to become tools of the devil whose native language is lies and whose work is murder.
How would you answer Cain’s question – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, we are! Why? Because our brothers and sisters are part of God’s creation and we’ve been commissioned to care for God’s creation, all of God’s creation, including our brothers and sisters. “The LORD said, “What you have done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” Gen 4:10
Can we get away with sin? Never! A day is coming when creation itself will testify against us and we will stand before the Lord without excuse. The Lord goes on to tell Cain the consequences of what he has done just as he told Adam and Eve the consequences of what they had done. Sin cannot be simply passed over. It incurs a debt that must be paid. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Heb 9:22
Who paid the debt of Adam and Eve’s sin? The animals whose blood was shed by the Lord to provide the skins that covered their nakedness and shame. But that sacrifice looked forward to the supreme sacrifice that would come when God would shed the blood of his One and Only Son to pay the debt for our sin. He would cover our shame with the righteousness of his Son. Our only hope isn’t running away from the cross but to it!
The Lord tells Cain the consequences of his sin. “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.” Gen 4:11-12
That’s the fruit of our rebellion against God. What God intended as blessing, Cain’s ability to work the soil and produce a crop that blessed many people is short-circuited. As a result of his sin Cain loses everything. Everything except what? Or maybe I should say ‘whom’?
Cain loses everything except for the Lord who promises to be with him as he begins to live out his exile. You would think Cain would be ready to repent. But that’s not what happens. Instead of humbling himself and asking forgiveness, Cain complains that God is unfair! Instead of thanking God for his mercy to a murderer like himself, he whines…
“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.” Gen 4:13-14
So the Lord put a mark on Cain to protect him from those who would murder him in the same way he had murdered his brother. Did Cain ever repent? Not that we know of. What happened to the descendants of Cain? That’s interesting too!
Adam and Eve later had another son named Seth. Eight generations later, Seth became the father of Noah. By Noah’s time the people of earth had become so depraved that God destroy them all with a great flood. Only Noah and his family were saved. The human family tree started over and like the brother he murdered, Cain’s descendants were no more.
The story of Cain does not have a happy ending. But that’s not God’s fault. The Lord gave Cain plenty of opportunities to change, to repent, to turn to the Lord, but he refused. So what can we learn from the tragic story of Cain?
1. Never underestimate the depravity that exists within your own heart. God has provided you with a way of escape – his name is Jesus! Run to him! You may not get a second chance.
2. You cannot hide your sin. It is visible to God and all creation. Deal with it! The Bible promises that if we will confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us completely.
3. Never leave any conflict unresolved, never let any resentment fester. Race to God! Ask him to forgive you and then pass that forgiveness on to others before it takes possession of you.