Summary: Cain and Abel establish a Biblical cycle that goes back and forth between promise and hope and disobedience and despair.


It’s one of those things that when it’s right, you don’t even notice it. And yet it is still one of the most important aspects of a joyful, fulfilling life.

It’s undoubtedly important in music. When everyone on the worship team plays and sings right along with it, the music sounds great. But if even one singer or instrument gets out of sync with it, everyone notices it immediately.

It’s also important for our physical lives. When our heartbeat is synchronized with the proper one, we don’t even notice it. But when it gets out of whack with it, we immediately notice it and have to take steps to correct that if we want to stay alive.

And, as we’ll see this morning, it’s also important in our spiritual lives.

Perhaps by now you’ve figured out that I’m speaking of rhythm.


The importance of rhythm in our lives shouldn’t be all that surprising since God established a number of important rhythms at creation. While we’re going to primarily look at Genesis 4 today, I want to begin by going back to Genesis 1 and taking a look at some of those rhythms.

First there is a rhythm establish in each day of creation. Each of the six days of creation have a consistent rhythm. God speaks. Something comes into existence and then God pronounces it good. But you’ll also notice that at the end of each day, we see another rhythm:

And there was evening and there was morning, the ____ day.

You’ll notice that this is just the opposite of the way we view each day here in the Western world. We tend to think that a day begins in the morning and ends in the evening, rather than the other way around.

But the Jews concept of each day is more in tune with the rhythms of creation, which is why they consider each day to begin at sunset. We’ll see that quite clearly when we take a look at the feasts that God prescribed for His people.

Then there is a larger overall rhythm built into the creation as well. God engages in the work of creation for six days and then He rests. That rhythm later becomes the foundation for the idea of Sabbath.

And we find that those same rhythms are still important to living a healthy life today. If we don’t alternate periods of work and rest each day throughout the week and if we don’t take one day off out of every seven from our work, then our bodies fail to operate as God intended and we become ill – physically, mentally, or spiritually – or in some cases all three.

Today, we will see that Adam and Eve’s sin that we looked at last week introduced another rhythm into this world – one that is not nearly as healthy as the ones God established at creation, but one that is nonetheless an integral part of life here on this earth.


So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Genesis chapter 4.

In this chapter we’ll discover that mankind is divided into two different groups or lines based on their response to God. This chapter begins and ends with the promise and hope of the line of Abel and Seth that comes through living life on God’s terms. But in between those two bookends is the heartbreaking tale of disobedience and despair of the line of Cain that comes from living life on man’s terms. And that alternating between periods of promise and hope with periods of disobedience and despair is one that we’ll see over and over again throughout not just the Old Testament, but throughout history until Jesus returns to this earth again to put an end to that cycle.

Promise and Hope

Disobedience and Despair

While this is by no means a healthy cycle, it is one that we find ourselves living in the midst of so we need to learn how to make sure that we remain in the portion of this cycle that is characterized by promise and hope. And Genesis 4 helps us learn how to do that.

[Read Genesis 4]

There is a sharp contrast here between the line of Abel, and later Seth, and that of Cain. And it is important for us to identify what it is that causes that contrast.

• On the surface, it might seem that the difference is that Abel and Seth were religious, but that Cain was not. But as we’ll see this morning, Cain was actually quite religious. But just like many in our culture today, it was a religion of his own making.

• If we look at their outward actions here, we could also conclude that Abel and Seth are obedient and that Cain is disobedient. While that is true, it still doesn’t get to the root issue here.

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