Saturday, August 10, 2013
Rebellion and Redemption -- Cain and Abel
As we have seen, God punished Adam and Eve for their rebellion, yet He promised their redemption through Eve’s seed, a Descendant Who would bruise Satan’s head and defeat sin and death (Genesis 3:15).
Eve thought Cain, her firstborn, was the promised seed that would defeat Satan (Genesis 4:1), but unlike his younger brother Abel, Cain rebelled against God’s commandment for blood sacrifice. That commandment was because of the “scarlet thread,” with cleansing from sin, and hence salvation, being possible only through blood sacrifice.
Instead, Cain committed the sins of pride and disobedience, offering a sacrifice of crops he had grown through his own hard work (Genesis 4:2-3). Abel, a shepherd, offered his first sheep to God, honoring Him with obedience and with faith that God would provide other sheep for his own use. The principle of tithing and giving God our first and best thus began before the Mosaic law, suggesting that the faithful should continue to tithe even though we are no longer under the law (Malachi 3:8-10),
God honors obedience and is pleased by faith, which allows us to be clothed in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Abel’s sacrifice not only pleased God but serves as a testimony to this day (Hebrews 11:4). Even now, we can please God only by having faith in Him and in what He says (Hebrews 11:6). We demonstrate our faith by obeying His commandments. Because of our faith, He no longer sees our sins, but His righteousness and that of His Son (Hebrews 1:8). We have no righteousness on our own behalf (Isaiah 64:6).
In contrast, Cain was disobedient and wanted to honor God by religious works, not by a true relationship with Him. This was the origin of all false religions, which claim salvation by good works rather than by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). When God calls him out on his disobedience, Cain shows his true colors by getting angry with God, proving that he just wanted to appease God, not to please Him or to have fellowship with Him (Genesis 4:6-7)..
God asks Cain why he is angry, knowing the answer but giving Cain the opportunity to confess his pride and self-righteousness. God is not mysterious or secretive about how we can please Him – He makes it very clear through His Word (Psalm 119:105), and yet we foolishly plead ignorance. God warns Cain that his sin of disobedience and anger (which is the thought equivalent of murder; Matthew 5:22) will lead him into even greater sin (Genesis 4:6-7).
Cain, the firstborn, possessed the birthright and should therefore have been a spiritual mentor and role model for Abel. But we cannot rely on our spiritual heritage or privileged position for our salvation, which comes only through faith in the Lord.
Sadly, Cain ignores God’s warning to flee from sin before it ruins him, as he is envious of God being pleased with Abel (1 John 3: 11-12). That sin of covetousness leads to the sin of anger, which seethes and smoulders within until it erupts in the sin of murder (Genesis 4:8). When we sin, we need to confess our sin to God (1 John 1:9), to listen to His warning not to sin any more, and to remove ourselves from a situation where temptation will overcome us (Genesis 39:12).
Satan used Cain to kill Abel, fearing that the righteous One Who would destroy Satan would come through Abel’s bloodline (Genesis 3:15). After Cain murders Abel, God again gives Cain the opportunity to confess, but he lies, committing yet another sin (Genesis 4:9). We cannot hide our sins from God – neither our evil deeds nor our evil thoughts (Psalm 139:1-8). Although Cain denies any responsibility for his little brother, we are indeed our brother’s keeper – we need to protect, encourage, and build up one another, not harm those who look to us as an example (Romans 14:13).
Cain had been proud of his ability to farm despite the curse God had placed on the earth (Genesis 3:18-19), not realizing that it was only by God’s grace that he had that ability. But now part of his punishment was that he would have to work even harder to survive by farming. In addition, he would be an outcast from his family and from society (Genesis 4:12).
Sin always has consequences – sorrow in this life, and eternal punishment and separation from God in the next, unless we confess our sins and realize that only the shed blood of His Son has cleansed us from our sin (Romans 3:25). Cain complains and is miserable but shows no sign of remorse. He does not take responsibility, admit his guilt, or ask God to forgive Him (Genesis 4:13).
He realizes that he will be ostracized from society and separated from God, yet he still blames God instead of asking for forgiveness. Cain seems to take pride even in his rebellion (Genesis 4:14). Pride is worse than a terminal illness because it results in eternal death (Proverbs 16:18). Vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19), and He does not want us to take it into our own hands (Genesis 4:15).
Cain began a new life isolated from his family, his society, and from any pretense of attempting to please God. He lived in the land of Nod, which means “shaking” or “trembling,” as he would experience great turmoil and dissatisfaction in his spirit, which always happens when men defy God (Genesis 4:16).
Cain had no desire to follow God and live with Him in Paradise, so he attempted to build his own heaven on earth (Genesis 4:17). For those who are never saved, earthly life is the only heaven they will ever know.
Through Cain’s descendants came the first sin of polygamy (v. 19), going against God’s plan of marriage between one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:3-9), the first musician (Genesis 4: 21) and the first metal smith (v. 22). Even though God gave us music to worship Him (Psalm 150:3-5), Satan can use music for idol worship or to arouse evil passions and thoughts (Daniel 3:5) and he could use the skill of metal working to make idols (Exodus 32:1-5) and instruments of warfare. Sadly, Cain’s legacy also included the sin of pride. His descendant Lamech killed a man in self-defense, and like Cain, he showed no remorse (Genesis 4: 23-24).
But God, in His mercy, had promised that Eve’s seed would give rise to One Who would crush the serpent’s head – to defeat Satan (Genesis 3:15). She now realized that promise was not through Cain or Abel, but through her son Seth. Two lines were born to Adam and Eve – the evil line, or children of the devil, through Cain, and the good line – first Abel, then Seth, which would be the lineage of Jesus Christ the Messiah. “Seth” means “set,” “fixed,” or “placed,” as he was placed on the solid foundation of faith in God. In contrast, Cain was a wanderer.
The line of Seth feared God and prayed to Him, and became known as His people (v. 26), most likely mockingly by the seed of Satan. Despite the ongoing rebellion of Cain and his blood line, God would fulfill His promise of a Deliverer Who would conquer death, sin and Satan, and that Saviour would come through the blood line of Seth. Praise God that despite our rebellious nature, He offers through His Son redemption for all who would accept this freely given gift!
© 2013 Laurie Collett