Summary: We will either master anger, or it will master us.
The Plague of Anger
Anger is everywhere in this world. The press is constantly inciting anger. Politicians say not only should we be angry, but very angry. They say anger promotes the cause of justice. But does it? Do we well when we are angry? Anger is the means by which evil men and women use to control people and make them do things they would never normally think of doing like riot, loot and burn down their own neighborhoods. The Bible speaks much about the plague of anger. Let us look to its root, in the murder of Abel by Cain.
The first instance of anger in the Bible goes all the way back to the beginning of Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel. These were two of the children that Adam and Eve had. Cain was the older of the two which means he bore responsibility for the welfare of his younger brother. He was to be his brother’s keeper.
The text says that Both Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to the LORD. Cain offered vegetables and fruit, but Abel brought the firstfruits of the flock, with the fat. Comparisons have been made of the quality of the two sacrifices. Abel’s more closely resembled the first sacrifice, which was when the LORD killed animals to provide clothing for Adam and Eve. So, was this the reason that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s rejected? One sees in the Old Testament that the odor of burning fat was a sweet savor unto the LORD. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel did indeed offer a better sacrifice, but one must notice the beginning of the phrase is “by faith.” It is the fact that Abel offered his sacrifice in faith, while Cain did not, made the difference. Hebrews also says “without faith it is impossible to please God. Cain’s problem was not that he offered the firstfruits of the field as compared to animal sacrifice. Rather it is because he lacked faith. Again, when we look to Hebrews 11, we also learn that faith is believing that the LORD will reward those who diligently seek him. Cain offered his sacrifice grudgingly, out of a sense of duty. He is much like the older son in the parable of the prodigal son. There was no joy in his service.
Cain could see that Abel’s attitude was different. His offering was made out of love fore the LORD. Whereas, Cain is noted for his fallen countenance, Abel was one to lift up his eyes to the LORD in joy. This reminds us that the Christian who serves out of duty is always jealous of the one who is happy in the LORD. He sneers contemptuously at the enthusiasm of his brother. He becomes overcome with anger as a result and attacks. The same is so with Cain.
The LORD who is the seeker in the Bible knew Cain was in trouble and tried to reason with him like the father tried to reason with the angry brother of the prodigal. The LORD is the one who sought for Cain’s parents in the Garden. People never seek the God of the Bible. It is the God of the Bible who seeks angry sinners. The LORD confronts Cain’s anger. “Why are you so angry?” The LORD knew of course. The question was for the benefit of Cain. The LORD could read Cain’s face. He then preaches the gospel to Cain. The beginning of the Gospel is to show us who we really are, and how much we are in the need of help. “If you do well, won’t you be accepted?” This is a call to repentance. It is hard to exactly translate the Hebrew when God says that “Sin croucheth at the door.” Some have suggested this means that there is an animal at the door that could be sacrificed as a sin offering. Next, the LORD told Cain he needed to master his anger rather than to have anger consume him. Cain had a chance to make things right.
But Cain chose not to believe what the LORD had said. It is always when one rejects the word of the LORD that disaster strikes. Adam and Eve had listened to the serpent and believed what he had said rather than the LORD. This resulted in the LORD cursing humankind. Although there was a promise of eventual redemption, death came into the world. An animal had to die to make skins to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Now the first recorded human death came. The righteous would die at the hands of the wicked. All too often, the righteous are slain by evil men. This would happen to Jesus who would use His own death at wicked hands to redeem all who would believe on him. Abel’s blood speaks to posterity. The cry comes up perpetually from the ground. This points to the day that the Son promised in Genesis 3:15 would cry from the cross as his blood ebbed from His body. He too was rejected by His own people, another fratricide.