Genesis 4:1 (NIV) 1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.”
On verse 1: Adam and Eve welcome their first child, a son. Even after they had sinned against God in Genesis 3, here we see Eve’s faith in the Lord as she name her firstborn “Cain” (which means “brought forth”), saying “with the Lord’s help I have brought forth a man.”
Genesis 4:2 (NIV) 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
On verse 2: Abel (“hebel” in Hebrew) means “breath”. Especially considering that his life was cut short, Abel’s name reminds me of Psalm 144:4, which says “Man is like a breath (hebel); his days are like a fleeting shadow”. To me it’s a reminder that we have no control over the day of our birth and very little control over the day of our death, but what is up to us is how we live in that hyphen between the day of our birth and the day of our death. No matter how long or short our days on earth, like Abel may we live each day giving our best to God. When we do, it’s a life worth living, no matter how long or short it ends up being.
Genesis 4:3-5 (NIV) 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
On verses 3-5: Was God playing favourites? Does God prefer meat over vegetables? No. Here Abel, who kept the flocks, gave “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (v4). In other words, Abel gave his best to God. In contrast, Cain’s offering to God was lacklustre.
What can we learn from this? It matters to God how we give to Him. Are we giving Him our best or just the leftovers?
Genesis 4:6-8 (NIV) 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
On verses 6-8: Did Cain have any right to be angry? The implied answer is no. If Cain was in his right mind, Cain would have realized that Abel simply worked harder and was more serious about giving God a pleasing offering, and that is why Abel was especially blessed. But because Cain did not control his anger, he was not in his right mind and ended up committing a horrible sin, killing his own brother.
What can we learn from this? When we don’t control our anger, other people end up getting hurt, most often the ones closest to us. It is crucial that we learn to control and vent our anger in healthy, constructive ways. I wish Cain could have heard and applied this sermon called“Anger Under Control”where I give four Biblical keys to help you control your anger.
Genesis 4:9-12 (NIV) 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
On verses 9-12: What can we learn from how God punished Cain for murdering his brother? Here are a few lessons I learn:
First, God does not turn a blind eye to people who are victims of horrible crimes. Rather God sees the blood they shed and the suffering they endured. God is their avenger and is committed to seeing that justice is done. That is why Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
Second, when we intentionally hurt people as Cain did, like Cain we become “a restless wanderer” (v12). We become “restless” in that we will lack peace and rest for our soul, guilt-ridden until we confess our sin to God and receive His mercy (see Psalm 32:3-5). We also become like a “wanderer”, lacking purpose and direction, lost in life like the lost younger son in Luke 15. It goes to show once again that the satisfaction that sin offers is always short lived and never worth the cost.
Third, Abel’s blood is not the only person’s blood that God pays attention to. Whereas Abel’s blood cried out to God for justice for himself, Jesus’ blood cried out to God for mercy for others. It is the blood of Jesus shed on the cross that makes forgiveness possible for our sins. That is why Hebrews 12:24 says that Jesus’ shed blood on the cross is “the sprinkled blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (v24).
Heavenly Father, thank You that though our lives are but a breath, You care about every human being and You see everything we do and go through. Thank You for the blood of Jesus, shed for my sins to make my forgiveness and freedom possible. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!