Summary: This series looks at everyday phrases that had their beginning in the Bible. This message looks at the question: Am I my Brother's Keeper. And how that applies to the family of God.
It started out as a case of sibling rivalry and ended up as a case of murder. It’s a familiar story from the Old Testament, but not one that we think about very often. It involved the sons of Adam and Eve. And I know that we can get caught up in a lot of questions around this story.
We are told that Cain and Abel were the first of Adam and Eve’s children. That they were born after their parents were expelled from the garden of Eden for disobeying God. But we don’t know who their siblings might have been. You might even be sitting there thinking “I wonder who they married?”
Well, we really don’t know do we? Maybe God created more people, that would be an interesting theory, wouldn’t it. The Bible doesn’t say Adam and Eve were the only people God created, just the first? And that is neither heresy nor blasphemy it’s just pondering.
Or maybe the siblings married each other. You understand that there were no genetic flaws at that point in history; they were only one generation from creation, so there was no time for the gene pool to get a little murky. It’s like if you make a copy of a copy, then a copy of that copy and a copy of that copy. The first one wasn’t so bad.
The reason that siblings marrying one another has been prohibited through the years is that there are all kinds of problems associated with their children, but that close to creation there were no genetic problems that would be amplified in that situation.
But those questions are irrelevant to our story today.
So, where were we? Oh right, the brothers. In the story we discover they both offered a sacrifice to their God, we don’t know exactly what all their sacrifices involved or didn’t involve. The writer of Hebrews makes this statement: Hebrews 11:4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. . .
But what makes one offering more acceptable than another one? We can make a couple of assumptions from two of the verses that were read for us earlier. Genesis 4:3-4 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
Did you catch that? Cain brought a gift, don’t know what it was, maybe it was Brussel sprouts, which would explain a lot. Able on the other hand brought the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. A gift versus a sacrifice.
And these weren’t just any lambs, but they were the best lambs. And not the best lambs but the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. These lambs were the best of the best.
Well, the story continues; the scriptures tell us that God found Abel’s offering acceptable but didn’t accept Cain’s. And that ticked Cain off, and he reacted by killing his brother. Cain took Abel out in the field and attacked him and stole his life.
Now we don’t know if that was the intent all along or if things just got out of hand. Maybe he just planned on laying a good thumping on his little brother but hit him a little too hard. “I didn’t mean to hit you that hard bro, come on get up. Come on Able this isn’t funny anymore, no more fooling around, Ok?”
In thinking about it I kind of lean toward that theory I think it was an accident. Cain wanted to hurt Abel but I’m not convinced that he wanted to kill him. After all, Cain’s punishment was banishment and I’m thinking that had his actions been pre-meditated with malicious forethought and planning that God being a just and righteous God would have demanded a greater punishment.
Let’s go back to the scripture that Claire read for us earlier Genesis 4:9 Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
And that probably doesn’t ring any bells, however we might be more familiar with the way it reads in the New International Version, Genesis 4:9 NIV Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
It is the title on numerous books and multiple movies. It’s the name of a non-prophet founded by President Obama in 2014. And it’s a phrase that you’ve either used or heard at some point, “Am I my brother’s keeper.”