Life is hard. Ever since Adam and Eve choose sin, it has tried to jump out and harm us and attack us and draw us away from God over and over and over again.
The bible doesn’t teach us that if we follow God everything is smooth sailing. Just the opposite. God tells us to hold on. But God allows us to choose what we hold on to.
In our lesson tonight we learn about Cain. Cain decided to hold on to himself. As we read the verses you can almost see him standing there, pouting with his arms crossed tightly across his chest. Shut off, defiant, clinging only to himself.
What a dumb thing to hold onto when things get tough. God says that he is our rock and foundation. God invites us to let go and cling to him. God says he never loses a member of his flock.
But let’s look at Cain and what he clings to and how that works for him.
In our first section we are introduced to Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a rancher or shepherd. They were brothers and Cain was the first born son of Adam and Eve. We don’t know how old they were when our story picks up, but we know people lived for a long time in those days, hundreds of years, but we are brought into the story at a critical point – a point where Cain and Abel brought an offering to the Lord.
We see that both brought a portion of the product of their labor. But it is also clear that the manner in which they brought it and the nature of the offering were different. Cain brought “some”. Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.
A key difference is in what they were willing to give up or sacrifice to God. When Abel brought the best of what he had, first, he had to recognize that it was the best. Second, he had to be willing to sacrifice it, to give it up. In so doing, he opened the door for God to give him something even greater than what he had produced that had been his best. And we see that God poured out his favor on Abel AND on his offering.
But that isn’t what happened with Cain. Cain gave. He may have given more than Abel, we don’t know. His offering may have been worth more on the grain market, but there isn’t any indication that he gave the best. It says he gave “Some”, but it does not say that he gave the best of what he produced. Meaning, he held onto to that. He kept what he considered to be best on his own little trophy case, rather than clearing room for the type of trophy God wanted him to have.
What happened? Cain became very angry and downcast. Pay attention to that last part. If you are downcast, where is your focus? Is it up and to God? Is it forward and positive? Remember what happened when Eve filled her vision with the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Look at where Cain has his eyes.
God doesn’t need our stuff. We need to let go. God teaches us how to do this in his word and by his example. What did He give? In addition to everything that exists in the physical universe, He also gave His only Son. Jesus is the only acceptable sacrifice.
- What are you doing in “half-hearted faith”?
- Where do you need to give 100% of your heart?
- What have you earned or achieved that you are having a hard time removing from your life because “it is so great”?
In our next section, we see that Cain’s actions soon follow his eyes. But, it is important to realize it did not have to be this way. God loved Cain so much that he sat down and talked to him, one-on-one (maybe three on one with the whole trinity thing, but you get the point). God offers him a do-over. God warns him about the door he is so focused on, the one that follows his downcast gaze, i.e., the door that leads further down. God tells him, sin is crouching at that door. You have the power to rule over it, don’t let it pounce on you. Now, if something is crouching right outside your door waiting to pounce, how are you going to keep it from pouncing on you? Duh! Use a different door. God is holding open the door back to him, but…
Soon, Cain commits premeditated murder. He lures his brother out into a field and whacks him (in the literal sense). It’s done. The first recorded death of a human and it is committed by another human.
So God immediately rains down condemnation on Cain, right? Actually, no. God’s first action is to offer Cain an opportunity to confess and repent. “Where is your brother, Abel?”
But Cain doesn’t confess or repent. He doesn’t fall down and cry out to God. He keeps going right through that door. He follows murder with lies and denial and condescension. “I don’t know.” “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
God cries out to him to listen and see what he has done. To recognize his action and change; to see the consequences and curse that he has brought onto himself from the very land that he relies on for a living as a farmer.
But, Cain chooses to close the door. In verse 14 Cain says to God. I will be hidden from your presence. Click.
- What more could God have done to bring Cain back to him? All he had to do was repent. But lying and denying are like going the wrong way down the one way street that is supposed to lead back to God. Should it be any wonder to us if we get hit by a bus?
- What are you lying about or denying?
- What are you trying to keep hidden in your life from God? How is that working out?
- Where do you complain that what you face is “too much” or “too hard” while at the same time contributing to making it even more, harder and worse?
Our third section gives us insight into the life of Cain. Clearly, God still saw him, even if he chose not to see God (it is written down in the bible, right).
We see God continued to provide. He gave gifts of music and carpentry and architecture and craftsmanship and arts. And what did Cain’s children do? They denied God.
Look at verses 17-24. What’s not mentioned? God. I looked back starting in Genesis 1:1 and would encourage you to as well. This is the longest number of verses so far with no mention of God. In Genesis 1 it is hard to go a single verse without God. But here, we go multiple generations. What is the focus? On accomplishments, on talents, on celebrity and commerce. Add in a best dressed list and this could be daytime TV.
Not only is there no mention of God, but they quickly take the things that come from God and twist them and misuse them. Think about it? How did Cain get married? Not just where did he find a wife, but actually, who married them? How did they enter into a holy covenant without God? Is it any wonder then that a few generations down that sacrament gets stretched further? Why not marry 2 wives? Why not kill someone and claim 11 times the protection for it that God offered to Cain? Why not sing about it? Wives… I’ve killed a man….
But what will all of this bring them? All of these accomplishments without faith? I don’t want to jump ahead, but come back and you learn about how they end up “all wet.”
- What accomplishment are you holding onto as being yours instead of God’s?
- Where do you focus on the performer or celebrity instead of the divine who gave the talent?
- Are you spending your time reading People or reading God?