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Your Word, O Lord, is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Your testimonies are our delight forever, for they are the joy of our heritage. We are Your servants; give us understanding that we may know Your testimonies. Open our ears, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I imagine many of you are familiar with Peter and the wolf, not just the story but the musical score where each instrument is representative of one of the characters, the hunters, or Peter, or the grandpa, or the wolf, or the duck. It’s a wonderful way to tell that story.
Sometimes when I think of the opening chapters of Genesis, I can’t help but think what a musical score sound like. You open the scene in Genesis chapter 1, a sort of deep, haunting melody as the Lord calls into existence the things that are not and the Spirit of God hovering over the chaos, tohu wa bohu, formless and void, and then shapes and creates this world.
And then you come and you have Genesis 2, bright and cheery, and I imagine flutes and piccolos are playing a cheery song, and maybe there’s some rich French horns in the background as man is there and naming the animals, and woman is created, I imagine something like “Peer Gynt Morning Mood,” [sound effect] Just like that, that’s how he designed it to be sung.
But then you come to chapter 3, screeching violins, bellowing cellos, something has gone wrong.
We’re so attuned to music you don’t even realize if you’re watching a movie that the musical score is telling you what’s going to happen, it’s telling you what you ought to feel. And so all you have to do is have some of those low bass notes, de de, I mean, I just did two notes and you’re already afraid to get into the water. De de. It’s just something about music.
And then when you come to chapter 4, the music turns from foreboding to sad. There’s a single lilting viola playing slowly in the background in a minor key.
When the curtain lifted on chapter 3, we were still in a paradise, the way things were supposed to be, but by the close of the curtain in chapter 3, the good life had been lost, paradise had been lost.
And now as we come from chapter 3 to chapter 4, we see the world sinking from bad to worse, as I have entitled the message, you can see, “The Way Things Are But The Way Things Were Not Meant To Be.” It’s a sad picture of the reality that each of us inhabit, but insofar as we can experience the mitigating effects of common grace and supernatural grace and then look forward to the grace of glory that is to come, we can get a glimpse of the way things were and the way they’re meant to be.
Follow along as I read this sad story from Genesis chapter 4:
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’ 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 time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 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, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 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.'”
“Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.’ Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”
We’re just looking this morning at the first half of the chapter, and Lord willing we’ll come to the second half next week. But notice in chapter 4 there are three definite section headings, each which begin with the same formula.
Verse 1, Adam knew his wife and she conceived and bore Cain; verse 17, Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bore Enoch; and then verse 25, and Adam knew his wife again and she bore a son and called his name Seth.
So three times were introduced with the man knew his wife and she conceived and bore a son and this was his name. You can think of these three sections as the sin of Cain, the culture of Cain, and the hope of Seth.
This morning we’re focusing on Cain as an individual. Next week we’ll come to the culture and the civilization that comes from the line of Cain, which is paradoxically both wonderful in its accomplishments and bereft of what really matters in life. This morning the focus is on Cain, his crime, his punishment.
And very deliberately, Moses, inspired by the spirit, is wanting us to see the connections between chapter 3 and chapter 4. Chapter 4 is what the world looks like because of chapter 3. It’s chapter 3 happening again. Do you notice these connections? In both chapters, the sin involves fruit. Chapter 3, of course, the fruit of the tree, but Cain’s sin was something with the fruit of the ground, which we’ll come to in a moment. In both God confronts the sinner by asking questions. In both chapters, the sinners deny their sin and cast the blame back on God. In both chapters we have almost the identical language.
Look at chapter 3, verse 16, relative to the woman: Your desire shall be contrary to your husband but he shall rule over you. The Hebrew is almost identical with chapter 4, verse 7: Sin is crouching at the door, its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it. The same warning, the same expression given to Eve now given to Cain.
Again, there is a curse. In fact, we have many of the same words. Not only curse, but know, guard, keep, land. In both chapters, sinners try to hide themselves when they are found out. And once again the story ends in the same way. Look at chapter 3:24: He drove out the man and at the east of the garden of Eden He placed a cherubim and a flaming sword.
And what happens at the end of this story with Cain? Well, he says in verse 14: You have driven me today. Same language. He drove out the man, in verse 24, and in chapter 4, He drove out Cain.
And what do we read in verse 16? “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod,” again, “east of Eden.”
So there are deliberate echoes of the fall. This is what the world is now like. But it’s more than just a rerun, it’s more than the Fall 2.0. The Fall in Genesis 3 was in the garden, this is now life outside the garden. And actually what we see in chapter 4 is things have gone from bad to worse.
I want us to look at these 16 verses in three parts. First, the sin of the heart; second, the sin of the hands; and three, the sentence from heaven. Wow, a double alliteration.
First, then, the sin of the heart. Now notice the sin begins actually, I think, not with Cain but with Eve. She says, verse 1, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” Now, you could interpret this in a favorable way, that she’s announcing to the world that God has given her a child. But most commentators understand her to be saying something selfish, self-centered, self-aggrandizing, and I think that’s right. She’s saying, “I have gotten, I’ve acquired, I’ve done this.” And she says strangely, “I have gotten a man.” It’s the word “esh,” you may remember that from chapter 2, “She shall be called esha for she came out of esh.” It’s the only time we have here in the Old Testament where a baby boy is called a man.
Why does she say “acquired a man”? It’s because she is putting herself in the place of God, God the creator who made the esh in chapter 2, now she says, well, yes, “with the help of God,” that’s sort of an afterthought, “With the help of God, but I got a man, I acquired a man, I have created a man. Just like God did, now I have done. I’m gonna make things right after my sin.” But of course, it’s not the right attitude.
What did Hannah say later in the Old Testament when she experienced the Lord’s bitter providence and then birth? “Do not keep talking so proudly for the Lord is a God who knows, the Lord brings death and makes alive. He humbles and exalts.”
Or what did Mary say in the New Testament? “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.” That’s the cry of a woman who understands God’s grace. God, any gift of life is entirely a gift from Your hand.
And actually, we’ll see next week, look at verse 25. Verse 1, we read Eve in a negative light, and one of the reasons we do so is because we see her change by the end of the chapter, “And Adam knew his wife again and she bore a son and called his name Seth for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel.'” Different verb there. Instead of saying, “I’ve gotten, I’ve acquired, I’ve done it, I created a man,” she said, “God’s given me a seed. By His grace He appointed this for me.” She learned the lesson.
But up in chapter 1, even at the very beginning, Eve is not expressing the right heart. And things will get much, much worse with Cain.
Cain, in Hebrew Qayin, sounds like the Hebrew word “qanite,” which means to acquire or to possess, I have acquired a man, I have possessed a new man.
Abel sounds like vapor or breath, and so as is often the case, their name says something about what they were and turned out to be. We don’t know what happened in verse 3 in the course of time, days, weeks, years. But at some point, Cain and Abel come to bring an offering before the Lord. And famously, the Lord has regard for Abel’s offering and does not have a regard for Cain’s. Why? Some people say because Abel’s was a blood sacrifice, he sacrificed an animal. But later in the Mosaic covenant, we’ll see that grain offerings, fruit offerings, and animal sacrifices, both were pleasing to the Lord. It’s not like Able had a privileged position as a keeper of the flock and Cain had something less as a tiller of the ground. No, that’s what Adam was called to do, so they both have honorable professions. They’re both bringing the type of offering which would be acceptable to the lord, so what is it that made the Lord have favor upon Abel and not upon Cain?
Well, I think we see hints of it here in the text in Genesis 4 and then we have an inspired answer to the question later in Hebrews chapter 11. Look at the hints here in our text. Notice verse 4, “Abel brought first born of the flock and their fat portions.” Now fat sounds to us like, well, you don’t want to get fat, or you cut off the fat, but that means the best. He gave to God the first born of his flock and the best, the fat portions, of the meat. So Abel is giving what is best and what is most costly from his occupation. Cain, it simply says, brought an offering of the fruit of the ground.
Now, what you would expect, given Abel’s offering, is that it would say “the first fruits.” There’s no mention of the first fruits. And so it seems, reading between the lines, that Cain as an expression of his heart is giving a kind of mere tokenism, not bringing his very best, sort of going through the motions, perhaps holding back for himself what was most valuable, where Abel is bringing the very best from his flock. So that’s hinted at in the text.
And Hebrews 11 verse 4, makes this even clear, where it says, “That by faith Abel brought his sacrifice,” brought his offering. So you read in this great hall of fame text, by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.
So there’s the heart of the matter. What made the sacrifice more acceptable? It came from faith.
Cain was giving merely out of perfunctory obedience. The sort of person maybe who gets dressed up and says, “Okay, it’s church,” or now you don’t even have to get dressed up, you stay in your pajamas. Hello, I see some of you in your pajamas, sitting there on the couch, eating, you know, porridge and watching and okay, I understand that, I’ve been there, done that, over the summer. But some of us can think, “yeah, I come and I give God an hour, an hour and a half of my time, in person, and actually now it’s kind of nice, I don’t even have to come in person, and I can just get this sort of out of the way and God must be pleased because He’s just really happy that anybody pays attention to Him.”
No, God is not pleased, He’s not impressed with our mere tokenism with our perfunctory obedience. He wants it to come from a heart of faith, say “God, You deserve everything and I come to bring to you my very best. I love you with my heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
Cain is like the kid who goes through the motions to clean his room because he wants to get on to all of the fun things. Or tries to shovel some of the vegetables onto the floor or into the napkin or, “oh, I’m full” so he can be cleared and ready for dessert, just doing the bare minimum, like pharisees who thought they would be heard for their many words.
No, God knows what is going on in Cain’s heart. And look what Cain does in response. “So Cain,” end of verse 5, “was very angry.” This guy is hot. He is hot under the collar. He is very angry and his face fell.
Now we don’t know how he knew the Lord didn’t have regard for his offering. Maybe a voice came from heaven, maybe they were there on some stone pallet and fire came down from heaven and ate up Abel’s and Cain’s was left, but Cain went from smiles to “you’ve got to be kidding me.” His face fell. He was hot and flushed with anger.
And the Lord offers a kind rebuke. Verse 7: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”
If you do not, well, then, sin is at the door.
See, this is the sort of rebuke we don’t like to get. We don’t consider it a kindness when the Lord speaks to us through someone else and says, “Hey, hold on a second. The way you’re going, son, the decisions you’re making, this does not end well for you.” Or when the Lord has to tell us, “Hey, hey, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.” We don’t like that.
But He’s giving Cain a mercy. Do you see? God could have just obliterated Cain on the spot. He didn’t. He said, “Now hold on, Cain. I know what’s in your heart, and I didn’t accept your offering. I could have killed you right now, I didn’t.” That’s the first grace.
Here’s the second. “I want you to get yourself right. You better look at what’s going on in your heart, Cain, because you’ve sinned in your heart and this anger that’s going on is about to explode into something far, far worse.” He likens to an animal crouching at the door.
Now, I’ve said before, for some reason we have two cats, which some people would say two cats too many. But we have two cats and they sleep in the garage and because I’m usually the first person up in the morning and pray, read my Bible, and try to have a bowl of cereal at the table, I often have to go to the garage, because we have a refrigerator out there, to get my milk, and, but I hear at the door “meow” and scratching and clawing and plaintive cries of the feline kind, and I am not as broken-hearted over those cries as my children are, and I think I want to go get the rest of my milk for the cereal but, uhh, there are cats crouching at the door, and if I open that door, they’re going to come and they’re going to want to be fed and they’re going to jump, and so I just, dry cereal’s fine. [laughter] I’ll have to wait until a more loving member of the household comes and says, “Did you feed the cats?”
Of course, these are not cute little kitty cats crouching at the door, but ferocious animals. That’s what sin is like. Peter, maybe, is picking up on this imagery when he says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. It’s there. Some of you this morning, I don’t know who this is for, but I gotta believe it’s for somebody here, you have sin crouching at your door, scratching, clawing, growling, and you’re, you’re contemplating, “Maybe I should open the door.”
Don’t do like Eve did. Remember Eve’s mistake? She dialogued with the devil. Okay, the devil has some questions. I can just have a conversation.
Don’t open the door. Don’t open the door. This is what we do with sin, and we think, “I’m strong enough. Let me just see what this sin is about. Maybe I can just get, I’ll just enjoy a little bit of it, but I’m strong enough, I’ll close the door.” There is a ferocious animal on the other side of the door marked “sin.” Leave it shut.
And isn’t it just like the sin of anger. Not that this can’t be true of any other sin, but even some other sins, lust or gluttony, sometimes they can pass by with the moment, you know, something’s in front of you, and change your circumstances, change your vision, and maybe the temptation abates. But anger and all of its attendant sins, bitterness, envy, resentment, those just build and build, and you can be in a room all by yourself, staring into blackness, and dark, and it just is building in you. You don’t need anyone else around, you don’t need any visual stimulation. It’s just there, thinking, gnawing, how angry you are at that person who hurt you, how angry you are at that person who seems to have everything, how angry you are at those people who are ruining your life or your job or your church or your country… It’s building, it’s crouching at the door.
And the Lord says to Cain, and to us, it wants to master you. It wants to take you over. It doesn’t want to play with you, it wants to rule your life and you must exercise control. Keep the door shut.
Some of you are fighting sin this morning. It may be another temptation, it may be this very one of anger, and God’s Word to us is keep the door shut.
So first we see the sin of the heart, then tragically we see the sin of the hands. The first murder.
Verse 8: “Cain spoke to Abel.” We don’t know what he said. “Brother, go on a walk with me. Brother, there’s something I want to show you out in the field. Brother, I have a question for you about your flocks. Could you come with me on a journey?” Whatever it was, they found themselves alone in the field. Cain rose up against his brother and he killed him.
Anger, crouching at the door. God warned Cain, Cain didn’t listen. He opened the door, he let the animal devour him and now he devours his own brother.
The Lord said to Cain, verse 9, “Where is Abel, your brother?” It’s not that the Lord doesn’t know. He knows, He’s God. It’s like a parent asking a child, “What happened here? Do you know why your sister is crying?” You know full well why your sister is crying, but you’re giving your child an opportunity to show a softened heart. Will they show some remorse? Will they come clean on their own? Will they repent? Will they show contrition? Or will they be like Cain?
Notice what Cain does. It’s even worse than what Adam and Eve did. Adam and Eve dissimulated, they tried to point the finger in the other way, but now Cain flat out lies. “Where’s your brother?” “I don’t know.” And then he asks a question of God: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” You can hear it in his voice. This is the typical response of an angry person.
If that’s your besetting sin or, heaven forbid, you live with someone who has this besetting sin, what happens? You ask a question, and they fire back as if to say, “Stop asking me dumb questions.” And then they insist that you have the problem for asking such a rotten question and insisting on such impossible standards.
“Where’s your brother?” “I don’t know. Look, God, am I supposed to keep a watch on my brother 24/7, every moment of every day? How impossible. Boy, God, have you got a problem.”
That’s what angry people do.
No, the problem is not their anger, it’s always the person who dares to point out the anger, or dares to give voice to it, or dares to even speak sometimes.
There’s a lesson here. Certainly on the face of it, it’s a lesson that Abel, or Cain rather, is not the sort of brother he ought to be to Abel. He should have been a keeper. Not my brother’s keeper to watch over him every second of the day, but to care for him, love your neighbor as yourself. How much more to love your own brother?
There’s a theme here, and it shows up in the number of times certain words are mentioned. We’ll actually see this again next week. Abel occurs seven times in verse 1 through 17, seven times you have the name Abel. Seven times you have the word brother. Fourteen times, or two times seven, you have the name Cain. It’s not a magic formula, it’s just the biblical way of representing the importance and the significance of these names. Abel, Abel, Abel, seven times. Cain, Cain, Cain, two times seven times. Brother, brother, brother, seven times. You were meant to be brothers.
Now we’re going to see in a moment this has spiritual significance, brothers and sisters, but it starts with our natural family. Listen, any of you, your own brother, your own sister, whether you’re at that age that you’re all in the house and you have to share a room and everything he does is the most annoying thing in the world.
Look, I have an older brother, too. And I was going to say he was… I was probably that one who was doing the most annoying things in the world.
You feel that way. Let there be a lesson for you with Cain and Abel. Don’t let those, and there’s normal frustrations, but don’t let that anger grip your heart. If you’re to love your neighbor as yourself, how much your own brother, your own sister, your own flesh and blood and your family?
And those of you whose siblings are long gone, some of those relationships are still good, some of them are very difficult, don’t let the spirit of Cain get ahold of you. Even if they’ve gone off and done things wrong, treated you poorly.
Turn for a moment to 1 John chapter 3, because John explicitly draws two other lessons from the story of Cain and Abel. 1 John 3, verse 11: “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
So there’s one lesson the New Testament draws: Don’t be like Cain.
Sometimes people say, “Well, if we have a real Christo-Centric hermeneutic, we never draw lessons from the Old Testament, we don’t find examples in the Old Testament.” Well, don’t be more spiritual than the New Testament. The New Testament all the time is looking at examples. Not only that, but it says don’t be like Cain.
Now why did Cain hate Abel? There’s lots of reasons you might hate someone. They may have hurt you very deeply, they may have betrayed you. But John gives us one of the answers, and it’s the answer for Cain. He hated Abel because Abel’s deeds were righteous and his deeds were wicked.
Oh, you hate it when someone’s better than you. You hate it when they seem to be doing things right when you haven’t. When they seem to be the goody two-shoes brother or friend or neighbor. You can see it sometimes even in our public discourse. It’s often the people who seem to be most upright who are attacked with the most vitriol.
Don’t be like Cain. Don’t hate your brother. Your earthly brother, and John, of course, is talking about brothers and sisters in Christ.
It says, verse 15: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say heaven and hell are at stake in this.
Anger was crouching at the door, and Cain opened the door. And anger took over Cain’s life and he became a murderer.
And now he becomes the example of all those who would choose death over life. When you have that hatred, what is hatred manifest, what does hatred feel like? Hatred feels like I wish this person did not exist.
Now that’s different than saying, you know, this person is bothersome and I wish I could have a break from this person. No, I wish this person’s entire being and memory would be erased from the earth. That’s what hatred feels like. I want there’s everything bad to happen to this person, because they deserve it.
The second lesson John draws is verse 13: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” So if you are living a righteous lie in Christ, don’t be surprised that others in the world hate you. This is one of the valuable lessons in the New Testament, don’t be surprised. Don’t be surprised by suffering, don’t be surprised when people hate you.
Like you’ve heard me say before, I remember an old preacher saying, it’s like you’re in the foxholes or you’re in the trenches and you’re fighting a way and somebody pops up and shoots the machine gun at you. You don’t come up and say, “Was it something I said?” No, you understand it comes with the territory. It’s part of fighting in a battle, in a war.
And so don’t be surprised. Do not be surprised if people hate you.
Now let’s not, as Christians, go courting hatred, being as obnoxious as possible and then wearing that as some badge of honor. But we must not change how we live, what we believe, what the Bible says one iota, because we think that people will love us. We ought not to be surprised when people hate us, that’s what John says. Just as Cain hated Abel.
Jude 11 says, “Woe to those who walk in the way of Cain.”
So there’s a sin of the heart, a sin of the hands, and then finally, going back to Genesis, there is a sentence from heaven.
Remember I said in chapter 3 that the man and the woman were actually not cursed. They experienced the effects of the curse, but the serpent was cursed and the ground was cursed, but Adam and Eve were not cursed. Here we have for the first time in human history, a human being is cursed by God.
Verse 10: What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground, and now you are cursed, from the ground.
Verse 12: When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. So the ground will further be a frustration to you and you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.
Cain will never be at home.
Isn’t that in some ways the very essence of sin? Never being at home. Sin promises you all of these wonderful things, pleasing to the eyes and good to the taste, and it never satisfies. Even for those of us who are Christians, we understand that there’s a sense of this world as never our home, and we’re supposed to experience the mitigating effects of God’s grace and the church and in the family, that we have things that feel like home, and yet it’s never, it’s never fully there.
To be a sinner is in some profound sense to always be a wanderer, until you reach heaven’s home.
But here even more so for Cain, physically, literally, he is to be a wanderer. You see at the end of the section verse 16, “He settled in the land of Nod.” There’s a footnote in the ESV, Nod means wandering, and indeed it’s the very same Hebrew word that’s used earlier when he says “I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer.” So he is a wanderer who settles in the land of wanderings.
And yet, in the midst of all of this, there are glimmers of grace. He showed grace to Cain by not killing him on the spot. He showed grace to Cain by warning him of worse sin to come. And now He gives grace to Cain by not killing him. In fact, by protecting him. He says, “You will receive a mark that if anyone lays a hand on you, I will avenge sevenfold.”
We don’t know what the sign was; you can read, all sorts of people speculate about it. Some sort of tattoo, a birthmark, hairstyle. One commentator argued that he got a dog, and the dog would bark at intruders and keep him safe. I think that unlikely. Whatever it was, the mark served two purposes. One, it kept others away, and two, it reminded himself that he was accursed. Makes me think some sort of hideousness or something that people said, “That’s a man I do not even want to come near. That’s a man I don’t even want to mess with.” And that kept him safe, but it also was a reminder of his own sin.
It’s not unlike the animal skins that were given to Adam and Eve in chapter 3, when they sinned and were embarrassed and ashamed of their nakedness, and God gives to them these coverings. It was both a protection and it was a constant reminder: We’ve lost our innocence.
And most devastatingly, He is sent away from the presence of the Lord. Again, with this imagery, east of Eden, east being the place away from the Lord.
Do you see here the storyline of Scripture? This is so important. If you get off by just a half degree, what is the storyline of Scripture, your whole reason for being, your understanding of the purpose and the mission of the Church, will be off. People sometimes say, “Well, we see in the garden that the man and the woman were given to be cultivators of the earth and to be image-bearers in His creation and then because of sin they no longer bear the image as they should, but God renews us in our image and therefore we can renew creation to be like the garden of Eden.” And they make everything that storyline.
Well, there’s some truth there, but that’s not fundamentally the storyline of Scripture, that we’re just trying to refurbish things here on earth and trying to live as better people and image-bearers.
It is a profoundly vertical storyline. We see it here from the very beginning, the storyline of Scripture is this: How can an unholy people live in the midst of a holy God?
First Adam and Eve, banished from the garden. The garden they were supposed to keep is not kept from them. And now in the same way, Cain banished further to be a wanderer in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
That’s the storyline of Scripture. How can unholy people live with a holy God?
That’s what you need, that’s what the world needs. The Bible’s a big story, there’s lots of other chapters and subplots and other themes that we could talk about, of course, but that’s the central one. That’s what you need. Everyone that you encounter is living somewhere east of Eden. How will they get back? How will they find home? Will they make it to Eden again? Will they ever find the garden city that Revelation lays out for us? How will they be right with this holy God who made them, to whom they’re accountable? How can they dwell in His midst?
That’s the storyline of Scripture. And everything else flows from that.
Cain is driven away. Sin is more firmly entrenched. Things have gone from bad to worse.
But I can’t leave you right there. Because there’s a voice. There’s a voice that you need to hear. There’s a voice, in chapter 3 and in chapter 4, and then there’s another one to come.
Chapter 3, you remember when Adam and Eve are walking in the garden, and we read that they heard the sound of you in the garden, Adam says, “I heard Your sound.” It’s the Hebrew word “qowl.” It can be translated sound, noise, voice. They were afraid of the voice of the Lord in the garden because their conscience was afflicting them.
Chapter 4 we see the same thing. Now it’s the voice of your brother, from chapter 3 verse 10 to 4:10. Same word, “qowl,” the sound, the noise, the voice of your brother’s blood is crying out for vengeance. Expression used elsewhere crying out for food or crying out for justice. It’s the scream of someone being attacked.
You have the voice of the Lord calling creation into being in chapter 1 and 2. You have the voice of the Lord which now causes the sinful couple to fear. And now you have the voice of Abel’s blood crying out from the ground.
And if you know your Bible, you may be able to connect the dots. We read in Hebrews chapter 12, verse 23 and 24: “And to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
A better word. What was Abel’s blood saying? It was crying out, vengeance, justice, a crime has been committed, a sin has been executed, a wrongdoing has been accomplished. Would You have mercy, would You assuage this guilt, would You avenge this blood?
The blood of Christ speaks a better word. Not of blood that must be avenged, but of blood that was already shed. Not crying out injustice, but crying out justice on the cross. Not saying that something must be done to atone for the sin of Cain, but saying on the cross “it is finished” for the sin of Cain and the sin of Abel and sin of Adam and the sin of Eve and the sin of all of us.
So which voice are you hearing? The voice of the Lord in the garden? The sting of your conscience? Or the voice of your sin crying out as the blood of Abel, or is it the voice of Christ on the cross? Come to Me, be forgiven, it is well, it is finished, only in My blood.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give grace for the atoning sacrifice that is the finished work of Christ on the cross. We are, we confess, too often more like Cain than Abel. Sin crouching at the door, anger gripping our hearts. Forgive us, have mercy. We pray that we would hear the right voice, that the voice of sin would be silent, the voice of regret would be turned away, and we would hear the voice of Jesus speaking a better word than the blood of Abel. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.