Summary: The story of Cain. Intimacy with God and family and self is lost. He no longer feels accepted. He lives in fear. God warns Cain... but Cain chooses to turn his back on God and walks away. Peter and Judas both betrayed and denied Jesus, one walked to
In Jesus Holy Name March 9,2008
Lent IV Series: O.T. Challenges Redeemer
“Cain: the Story of Alienation”
This is the third message in our series: O.T. Challenges. In Genesis chapters 1-3 we saw Adam and Eve sharing a life of perfect love and harmony, with each other and with their Creator. All of creation existed in harmony with each other, until the slithering serpent came into their world and caused them to doubt God’s goodness and love.
There was intimate friendship with God and each other.
Intimacy is the experience of knowing and feeling:
2) reassured…..through pleasurable contact
3) in harmony with God…. A sense of peace… an absence of fear and emptiness
4) being in an expansive relationship over a period of time.
Adam and Eve lived in an intimate relationship with each other, with God and their world. The world and the relationships in which we now live are different. Perfect love, harmony and peace are things people in the world only hope to possess. People are at war. They pollute their environment, throwing trash along the road side, dumping oil and chemicals into the beautiful blue seas, and acid rain falls to the earth. After the Chernobyl incident, the soil is useless and death and disease claims the lives of adults and children. Our problem is sin.
Our world, our society still seeks peace and harmony and intimacy but these are elusive. Instead, we have alienation and fear in our city streets, playgrounds and homes. Human beings experience separation from the knowledge of the goodness of God. We have become descendants of Cain.
The story of Cain and Abel may be familiar to you. (read Genesis 4:1-12) The biblical writer lets us know that Cain and God were on speaking terms. Cain brought an offering to the Lord, just as Abel did. God, “looked with favor” on Abel’s offering but not on Cain’s.
Paul Bretscher in his book “Cain Come Home” writes: “We trust God to know what he is doing when he gives gifts or withholds them according to His pleasure and wisdom. In the story of Cain and Abel, the point of God choosing to “look with favor” on one offering and not the other is contrary to our natural notion of fairness. No doubt Cain worked as hard as Abel but God treats the brothers differently.” (p. 12)
Why does God accept the one and not the other?
We are uncomfortable when we see unequal treatment between Cain and Abel. In Malachi 1:1-5 we read about God’s love for Jacob and his hatred for Esau. Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated.” The words seem so unfair. Especially when we think of the kind of person Jacob was. He deceived his father into giving him the blessing that should have gone to his older brother Esau. (Genesis 27)
Why does God bless one and not the other? We ask questions like: “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart and why should he choose Israel to be his people?” Why does God tell Rebecca the elder shall server the younger? Why did God choose the youngest child of Jesse, David a teenager, to be the King of Israel replacing Jonathan the son of Saul?
We are people who “know good and evil” when we see it. These are theological questions for us. Paul confronts the same question in Romans 9…”Why should God speak the promise to Isaac and not Ishmael?” The Jews are descendants of Isaac, the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael.
Our natural feelings, our knowledge of good and evil wants to call God “unfair”, “unjust”. Listen to Paul’s response in 9:14,16 “Can the potter do what he wants with his clay?” “Can the clay trust the potter?” (Bretscher p. 16) Can we trust God? Wasn’t that Satan’s challenge to Eve as well?
In Genesis 4 Cain, by experience, feels that God is unjust, by not accepting his offering. But let me ask you a question first. Do you think Adam and Eve told their boys about the Garden of Eden? Do you think Adam and Eve told their boys about how God forgave them by shedding the blood of an animal? I’m sure they did.
Now we do not know what was wrong with Cain’s offering….how large, how small. We do not know what was wrong in his heart about offering thanks to God. What we are seeing here is an act of worship… an offering to God. We know that God looked with favor on Abel’s offering from the “first born of his flock”, but Cain’s offering did not receive God’s favor. Cain knew his offering was not acceptable. He became jealous and angry. It isn’t fair! Haven’t I worked as hard, if not harder than Abel? It’s not fair. Maybe he thought: “What good is it to pray and sacrifice to God if God treats me like this?”