Summary: Why was Cain’s offering rejected? We reproduce Cain’s sin when we allow sin to control us and try to produce our own righteousness.
Genesis 4 - The Sin of Cain
Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD."
2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD.
4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,
5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
6 So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
7 "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?"
10 And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.
11 "So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
12 "When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth."
One thing we must always keep in mind when studying Genesis or any Old Testament scripture is that though it is a historical account, these events are used by God to point us to His plan and the redemption of sin through Christ. Jesus is the central theme of the Bible - both Old and New Testaments. If you lose sight of this, you will miss the big picture and overlook the lessons provided throughout scripture. With this in mind, I want to take a deeper look at the story of Cain and Abel.
Works verses Faith
1 John 3 says,
11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,
12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
What were the wicked works Cain committed? It began with his sacrifice to God and continued through until he murdered his brother. God is not impressed with our works. All good works come from God and it is faith that God honors and blesses. Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Cain’s works were the works of his own hands. He tilled the soil, offered to God his best works and God rejected his works. Abel’s sacrifice was not of his own works, but of the blessing God produced. Both the sacrifices of Cain and Abel required work, but the focus was entirely different. God blessed Abel and Abel gave back to God what God had given him. It was an act of love founded on faith. A righteous sacrifice is giving back to God what He has given. This is an acknowledgment of gratitude for what God has done. Honorable sacrifice and good works is always acknowledging and laying hold of what God is doing. It is not something we are doing, but finding the will of God. This message has not changed since the beginning. It is blessing of God that produces good works. When we walk in faith, God produces righteousness and good works in our lives. Look at Titus 3:
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Romans 4:3-5 adds explains this further:
3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.