Summary: Are you a Cain or an Abel?! Signs of hope amidst the story of the progressive decline of the human race...
We live in a time that some have called ‘the season of the knife’. Twenty seven London teenagers have been murdered this year so far. Many families all over this region today are heartbroken. To them the Cain and Abel story would be too hard to hear. They would perhaps be too sensitive to its gruesome reality.
And the story it tells is this: As the human race spreads, as it advances in the arts and technology (yes we read here of music and tools being developed), as it progresses it also regresses. Humanity goes forward, but backwards. As time goes by not only does man get cleverer but he and she gets more sinful, more violent, more alienated from each other. Worst of all, this leads some to increased alienation, and further distance from God.
This is about life outside the Garden. Adam and Eve have been banished from Eden. After a while Eve becomes pregnant. She gives birth to a son, and later to another one. The first born is Cain, his younger brother, Abel. The brothers have different jobs. Cain is a farmer, who works the land. Abel is a shepherd, a keeper of sheep. And so far, everything outside of the garden seems rosy. They have jobs, they are a family, they speak of the Lord. But suddenly all that changes. And we know the bloody outcome.
So how did things goes so terribly wrong? Note three aspects of this story with me this morning:
1. Note the way Cain related to God
2. Note the way Cain responded to God’s warning
3. Note the results of Cain’s actions
1. The way Cain related to God, vv3-5
We read that both brothers brought offerings to God. But we read that God wasn’t pleased with Cain and his offering. And we may feel sorry for Cain! Surely he was trying his best. Surely he brought worship gifts to God. Why is it that God isn’t pleased with Cain?
Some say it’s because Abel’s offering was a sacrificial lamb or goat. It was a blood gift, whilst Cain’s gift was only fruits of the soil. In other words, Cain only brought fruit and veg.
And it’s true that the Bible gives a special place of blood sacrifice. Hebrews 9:22 says that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” And Jesus is the perfect blood sacrifice. John the Baptist recognised Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Jesus is the climax of the Bible. We need to be forgiven and made clean. Only Jesus’ blood can do that.
But God also told the Israelites in Leviticus that the fruits of the soil were one of the types of sacrifice they were to offer. So Cain was quite probably within his rights to offer God some of his crops. So, what’s the problem?! Why wasn’t God happy with him and his offering?
I think the answer is in the way verses 3-4 are written: “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil”, but, “Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.”
Abel brought some of the firstborn, no waiting around, he carefully selects the youngest, the best specimens of the flock, and he takes the fat portions, the best parts of those lambs, and he dedicates them to God. Whilst Cain seems to carelessly grab some of his crops, as if, ‘O, that’ll do.... God oughta be happy with that.’ Cain seems less God-focussed, and not really interested in pleasing God. Cain seems to go through the ritual of worship. But God sees through it.