Genesis 4:1-15, Exodus 20:13, Numbers 32:23, Luke 12:2, 1 Corinthians 4:5
Summary: The tragic story of Cain and Abel did not have to happen if only Cain had controlled his emotions and listened to the counsel of God. Instead, we witness the first murder and the further progression of humanity’s rebellion and wickedness.
In the first verses of Genesis 4, we are introduced to two sons of Adam and Eve, two attitudes of reverence toward God, one act of obedience, one act of defiance, a refusal to heed sound advice, and the horrendous consequences of rebellion. We witness remorse, selfish concern, and the gradual spread of sin that will soon bring about judgment from God by the flood, as recorded in Genesis 6-8.
The story of Cain and Abel is not only about violence and its fruit but also a source of controversy in reference to the number of people that were upon the earth, the issue of family dynamics, and the passage of time in general.
When we read about the beginnings of humanity as written in Scripture, not only do we appeal to our faith in what God has said, but we also need to apply the common sense He has given us as well.
Cain and Abel were only two of the numerous children Adam and Eve had (Genesis 3:20). The issue does not center on the population of the world at that time but on what this story teaches us concerning sin and its rotten harvest (Genesis 3:23).
The story opens with the birth of Cain (4:1), and the proclamation from Eve believing that this child she bore might be the fulfillment of the promise given to her and Adam by God (Genesis 3:15). However, Cain, Abel, and everyone throughout the progression of civilization is born in sin and unable to redeem themselves (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 5:12).
The “Seed of the woman” whom God referred to could not be born like any other person. He could not have the stain and curse of sin upon Him (Isaiah 53:9; Luke 23:41; John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19, 22; 1 John 3:3,5). The Promised “Seed” could come only from the Sovereign LORD (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-38).
Adam and Eve’s inner hope would be crushed in the years to come as one son lay dead and another spent the remainder of his life as an unrepentant vagabond. The tragedy is that it did not have to happen.
Growing up, Cain, Abel, and their respective siblings had heard from their parents about the creation of the world and the aftermath of what happened in Eden. Adam and Eve told them the reason why they had to work by the sweat of their brow, why there were thorns and thistles in the ground, why animals were starting to turn vicious and dangerous, and why traits such as anger, hate, jealousy, rebellion, disobedience, pride, and lust resided within them. They had been instructed on how to approach God on His terms through the offering of sacrifices that served as an atonement for their sins. They were also told about the Promised Redeemer who would come to renew all things as God promised.
None of Adam and Eve’s children were without excuse nor feigned ignorance concerning the things of God. This applies to us as well (Romans 1:18-20).
Cain and Abel were both farmers. One dealt with the raising of livestock, while one tilled the soil and gathered the harvest. Both of these occupations were noble and honorable, and all seemed well for a time. The trouble began, as it always does, in the heart. It centered on their respective attitudes concerning their sacrifices to God.
Genesis 4:4 states that God was pleased with what Abel had offered to the LORD yet rejected Cain’s offering (4:3, 5). Why? Perhaps over the course of time, the meaning of the sacrifice had made a deeper impression upon Abel, while Cain had begun to see it as just one more routine instead of seeing it as a time of meeting with God and having a personal relationship with Him. This was the same attitude found in the Jewish officials of Jesus’ day. They were warned of their hypocritical ways by the LORD on the last day of His public ministry (Matthew 23). Any devotion to God they had at one time was now dull, rote motions that were worthless in God’s sight (Isaiah 1:10-17).
When the heart becomes cold toward reverence to God and substitutes it with empty religion, it is a warning sign of potential spiritual apostasy. An apostate heart was beginning to develop in Cain. God, in His mercy, counseled him on how to avert it (Genesis 4:6-7). This demonstrates the compassionate nature of God, who graciously shows us in His Word how to live for Him and avoid what happens when we refuse to heed His counsel.
Sadly, even the direct intervention of God did not stop Cain from taking out his unbridled anger on Abel, and in one instant, murdered him. Everything from that moment on became the foundation for untold misery, curses, remorse, and initiated the rapid progression of wicked behavior, coarse malevolence, reprehensible perversions, and unbridled rebellion and hatred of God from both men and fallen angels (Genesis 4:16-24, 6:1-5). Cain’s act of murder brought about an arrogant reply (4:9) that resulted in a just and unrelenting punishment and a life of abject meaninglessness (4:11-15).
Cain’s story serves as a warning to anyone who naively and arrogantly thinks that they will get away with their wicked behaviors and actions (Numbers 32;23; Psalm 11:6; Isaiah 66:24; Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 12:2; 13-21; 16:19-31; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15).
The real tragedy is that few people bother to heed the Word of God, repent, and flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7). Like Cain and everyone who has followed in his footsteps, there are those in this day and age who choose to defiantly walk on the broad road that leads to destruction, letting their emotions and selfish will dominate how they live, think, and reason. These are all foolish and deadly decisions that lead to eternal destruction (Romans 3:10-18, 23).
I pray that those of you who are reading this message are not possessed with the heart of Cain but instead are following the example of righteous Abel, who trusted in God alone for salvation and is regarded as one of the great heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:4).
The “Promised Seed,” the Lord Jesus Christ, calls on you and everyone to come to Him alone for true peace, mercy, and salvation. He is the only way to eternal life and true peace with God (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14;6; Acts 4;12; Romans 10:9-10). Do not go the way of Cain, but instead turn to Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.