Summary: The story of Everyman is in the lives of Cain and Abel, So Different in the their Perspective of Life, Motivation for Worship, Sacrifice Offered and Reactions
CAIN AND ABEL - THE STORY OF EVERYMAN
The Bible story of Adam and Eve, our first parents, in the Garden of Eden before their Fall, show the perfect life of happiness and fulfilment that could have been theirs. But it wasn’t to be. It ends with the guilty pair being driven out, with cherubim and a flaming sword guarding the way back. It’s to the Bible that we must look to gain an insight into why this world is in the situation it’s in and how it operates. This world of ours is in a conflict between God and the devil and the forces of good and evil. The apostle Paul writes: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph 6:12). That’s the Bible’s ultimate explanation of the whole of human history.
But God hasn’t finished with His damaged creation. He allows life to continue in the fallen world because His objective is to renew and restore. He won’t accept that His divine purposes are to be thwarted by evil. The author of Genesis turns to the second generation and here we see a picture of life after Eden. It sets the scene for humanity in a way that we can see our own world and ourselves. On the positive side, there’s the beginning of community life with the expanding population developing into the occupations of agriculture and farming. The early humans were conscious of spiritual life, for the in-built desire for worship was there. Men and women still bear the image of God, although grossly distorted.
All this is good but underlying this progress is the problem of the human predicament. The sins of the first parents are ingrained in the nature of the children. Yet, God hasn’t abandoned His creation. Here in the world, disordered by the entrance of sin, God is still revealing Himself and looking for a response from each individual, for all are accountable to Him. This is clearly seen in the life and times of Cain and Abel, the first of the many case histories that the Bible provides for our understanding.
The illustration provided by these two brothers presents truth in the form of their contrasting personalities. These two sons of Adam and Eve are representatives of Everyman. Abel is the man who pleased God, while Cain didn’t. In this world there’s "Abel", and there’s "Cain". Let’s see what we can learn from them, for in ourselves also, perhaps there’s "Abel" and there’s "Cain". It’s important that we know to which we identify. We see:
TWO BROTHERS BUT SO DIFFERENT
Cain was the firstborn, followed by Abel. They had the same parents but soon developed into different characters. There’s nothing wrong with that because God has made us as individuals, each as a unique person. The present talk of cloning human beings is quite alien to God’s creation. We must pray that this evil will be thwarted.
Cain was in crop agriculture while Abel was in animal farming. Already the pattern of social life on earth is seen. On the face of it, this was good, for God’s will for human beings, even in their fallen state, was to work for their living. The trouble lies when they fail to work together in a community relationship. When they cease to act as neighbours, having mutual respect for each other, it’s then that destructive forces are unleashed, with disastrous consequences for society. We see this at work today with nations at loggerheads or even at war.
People’s names in the Old Testament are often significant and indicate their characters. Experts in language tell us that "Cain" points to self-sufficiency, to strength, to the first-born with first rights to everything, for power and self-assertion. By contrast, "Abel" means nothingness and frailty. This paints a picture of two brothers who have completely different attitudes to life. Cain is the dominant of the two. He needs to be at the centre of things and life revolves around him. He will use others for his own purposes. Abel, on the other hand, is the "also-ran", the weakling. In modern language, he would be called "wet". That’s the background to the point being made about the conduct of Cain and Abel, for the storyteller focuses on:
TWO PERSPECTIVES OF LIFE BUT SO DIFFERENT
When we look at the world around us there are so many things that are inequitable. Few can remain untouched when the "Christian Aid" appeal is made, telling of the vast disparities between the "have" and the "have-not" nations. And at the level of individuals, why are some struck down with terrible diseases or are the victims of terror or accident? Life is unfair! The biblical writers struggle with these questions. The psalmist queried why did the wicked triumph and the people of God suffer? (Psalm 73). Faith has to live with what seem to us as unfairness, and leave some uncertainties unresolved. We need to acknowledge that sometimes we meet an edge to our understanding. We have to fall back on the mystery of God’s gracious providence.