As we make our way through the book of Genesis we have seen the creation of the world in six days. We have seen how God brought man to a place where he understood his need for a mate. We have seen the man and woman rebel against God and fall from his grace. Now, with the man and woman living outside the Garden of Eden we see the continuation of the human race. We now see the ongoing consequences of the Fall.
Genesis 4:8-10 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
The first family on earth was dysfunctional! Once man turns away from God everything begins to go wrong. For Adam and Eve — with sin came shame. They had nothing to be ashamed of until they rebelled against God. Then they found themselves outside the Garden having to scratch a living out of the ground. The ground they had once enjoyed became a daily reminder of their rebellion. I suppose you could say that the ground itself rebelled against them as they had rebelled against God. We don’t know how much time passed but…
Over a period of time, two sons were born to them. Let’s look back at Genesis 4:1-2. Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
In the course of normal events Adam and Eve produced children. The only children so far mentioned are two boys. Though girls are not named, there must also have been sisters. When Cain was sent away from the Garden he took his wife with him. We do not know how much time passed between these two boys. Of course, it was a minimum of nine months and probably extended to 2 to 4 years. And then they had to grow up to the point that they were able to grow crops and raise sheep. Later we are told about the years that Adam lived on earth and it is noted that he had other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4).
As they grew up…
These two sons were very different from each other. We see the beginning of these changes in Genesis 4:3-5. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord and offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
Over the years many Bible students have held the position that Cain’s sacrifice was not acceptable because it was grain rather than a blood sacrifice. That can hardly be the case since God made provision for grain offerings when he, centuries later, gave them the law. Dozens of times in the book of Leviticus, God tells Israel how to give a grain offering. It’s true that apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. But it’s also true that God not only accepted grain offerings but he ordained them. It was not the type of offering given by Cain that was the problem it was the heart attitude.
The writer of Hebrews explains it for us…
Cain killed Abel because of righteousness. Let’s look at Hebrews 11:4. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable to God than Cain’s because Abel gave an offering accompanied by faith. When it came time for Cain and Abel to offer their sacrifices there was no set of rules. Instead, each of them gave out of their own labor. It must’ve been in the summertime when the first crops appeared ready to be harvested. Abel gave the firstborn of his flock to God.
In the same manner, God gave his firstborn for us. Out of love for us God gave his only son so that we could believe in him and have eternal life (John 3:16).
Abel’s faith was attributed to him as righteousness.
Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable because of his attitude. We come again to a situation where someone who not only knew about God, but personally knew God, operated in rebellion against God.
We are not informed what the evidence was that caused God to accept Abel’s offering. In the same way, we do not know exactly how God showed Cain that his sacrifice was not acceptable. It becomes obvious from the context that Cain knew he had been rejected. Even worse than that his brother’s sacrifice was accepted. Sibling rivalry has always existed! I can imagine the feelings that welled up inside of Cain. I can practically hear him saying, “Goodie two shoes wins again” or, “Abel always gets his way” or, “I’ll make sure he regrets this.”
Proverbs 21:27 tells us: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” That certainly seems to describe Cain. We shall see in a few minutes how wicked he was. John, in his first little letter, tells us that Cain was of the evil one (1 John 3:12). Even though there is no mention of influence by Satan in the text related to Cain, John goes on to say the whole world is in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Jesus, himself, said that Satan is “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30). Paul told the Corinthians that Satan is “the God of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Cain had a wrong attitude because he was subject to Satan.
Putting together all the things that the New Testament tells us that Satan is — he is a liar, a murderer, a deceiver and a false teacher. Therefore we can believe that there is some degree of demonic activity in nearly all wrongdoing.
Not all sin is caused by Satan or demons but demonic activity is probably a factor in almost all sin and almost all destructive activity to oppose the work of God in the world today.
Even though there is no record of how to conduct sacrifices the first two children of Adam and Eve had a conscious need to sacrifice.
Before Cain could act on his wicked impulses…
God reached out to Cain. Let’s look back at Genesis 4:6-7. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
God did not leave him in his stew. God clearly points out to Cain that if he had done well he would be accepted. The influence of Satan was crouching at the door. Satan had a desire to rule Cain. I am sure that Cain and Abel knew about the words of God when he said that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). We know today that is a promise of Jesus coming to pay the price for our sin. Our earliest forefathers could not have known that. When Cain became angry God did not ignore him. Instead he reached out to him. God asked a question, “Why are you angry?” he had no right to be angry at Abel, or God. God could see Cain’s face and clearly it showed his inner attitude.
We’ve all either done it or observed others whose “face fell” after being disappointed. So we can see that Cain did not displease God by his sacrifice instead it was…
The heart not the sacrifice. Let’s turn to Hebrews 11:4. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
It was by his faith that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice. Therefore we can see Cain’s sacrifice would not be accepted because of a lack of faith. Cain’s heart attitude was wrong before God therefore his sacrifice was wrong. So that even in the earliest days of man’s tenure on earth there was an understanding that there must be a sacrifice of Thanksgiving and of repentance. Cain failed because he was subject to Satan and he did not have the requisite faith to please God. The faith condition has always been with us. In Hebrews 11:6 we are told that “without faith it is impossible to please him (God), for whoever (including Cain) would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Cain certainly knew that God existed but apparently did not believe that he rewards those who seek him.
As a consequence of his subjection to Satan, Cain was driven away from the presence of God to become a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. God even put a mark on him to prevent anyone from killing him.
A side issue has always been where did Cain get his wife? There is absolutely no doubt that his wife was his sister. There was no other race of humans to draw from. Up until this time in human history the only woman who was named was Eve! Later, in the lineage of Cain two women are named. Adah and Zillah were the wives of Lamech, the first recorded bigamist (Genesis 4:19).
Our gracious God has always reached out to his rebellious children and will continue to do so until the end of the age.
The path to salvation has always been the same. Let’s turn to Ephesians 2:8-10. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
“Grace” means God’s unmerited favor. One way of looking at the word “grace” is to turn it into an acrostic. Each letter represents a word: G-od’s R-iches A-t C-hrist’s E-xpense! We are completely unable to earn God’s favor. We can only be declared righteous if God provides a way of salvation. Grace comes to us through a faith that cannot be earned. Instead, it is the gift of God. God did not have to save us but he chose to save us through his unmerited favor. Faith is a heart attitude that is the exact opposite of our depending on our own works.
In order to receive God’s grace we have to give up on our self-effort. We have to realize that nothing we do will ever make us right before God. We must come to Jesus, trust in him completely to give us a righteous standing before God. Faith is the perfect attitude of trust in God for our salvation. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone! The Bible tells us again and again that we cannot be made right with God by our own effort. For example, Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.; Galatians 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.; And Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
We need to remember that…
When God asked Cain where his brother was he was not seeking information. He wanted Cain to admit his guilt. Instead, Cain lied and tried to change the subject. God would have none of that! He pointed out Cain’s guilt. The ground that had received Abel’s blood would become more resistant to Cain than it had previously been. He would live out his life as a fugitive separated from God. At the end of his life, so far as we know, Cain became the first human resident in hell! Each of us needs to be able to positively answer two questions, “Where will you spend eternity?” And, “Do you know that you will go to heaven when you die?” You need to know the answer. The Gospel of John was written to give us the answer. (John 20:30-31)
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society