Genesis 4:1-16 Response Required
Important: Theocentric interpretation of this passage. Surely there are things to be gleaned concerning man and his operation in the world and we are right to make note of them, but our primary aim in interpreting this Word is to answer two questions: “What does it tell me about God? What does it tell me about his work?”
Good to see you all here. If you have your Bibles, please take those and turn to .
is our text for tonight. It is also represents the final week in Genesis in our first round of looking at the acronym GMJR; God, Man, Jesus, Response.
I hope this has been beneficial to this point and I hope that you are starting to see these biblical themes develop.
Tonight we are on the final letter of the acronym, R, which stands for “response required.”
So as has become our custom, lets have a quick recap of what has brought us to this point:
: God is holy as Creator.
: Man is sinner.
Middle of : Jesus is Savior. This was ultimately realized in Jesus who endured all the afflictions of Satan in a fallen world, but crushed him and his kingdom by taking the punishment of sinners on the cross and purchasing their forgiveness.
Now : Response Required
Father, send your Spirit now we pray to grant us understanding of the things we are going to hear tonight from your Word. Bring conviction toward repentance and give our hearts a love for you as only you deserve. Let it be your words that are spoken and not my own. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
So we have here a pretty familiar story right? Most people are familiar at least with the characters.
But a lot of people miss the point: often we look at this and say “be like Able, don’t be like Cain, Amen.” and go on with life.
But there is something very very important you need to understand about how we should look at this, and it can be framed in the form of two questions:
“What does it tell me about God? And what should I do with that?”
Now, this story tells us a lot about man too, and that is important, but remember all creation and order has its source in God; so then we have to start with God and work our way from there in any passage of Scripture so that we don’t fall into the error of putting man above God.
With that in mind, lets lay out the overarching point of this passage: God is faithful in maintaining his chosen people until Christ wins the final victory.
You may be asking, “where is the ‘response required’ in that?”
Well the response comes in how man fits into God’s good purposes.
Remember we saw in that without a doubt, God is sovereign, meaning in control, over everything…nothing happens that he doesn’t have control over.
So then we bring that to this passage and we know that the birth of Cain and Abel, their actions, Abel’s death, and Cain’s punishment are all under God’s control.
And since showed us that God is working toward saving men from the results of their sin and restoring the world to its original perfection, then that means this terribly sad story must be an important part of that work.
So then we begin with verse 1: It says that Adam and Eve had a child, Cain.
In the original language Eve says literally, “I have acquired or created a man, with the Lord’s help”
There’s lots of opinions on this but in context, Eve had fresh in her mind what God said to the serpent about the seed of woman who would crush Satan.
Adam and Eve had just plunged all humanity into sin and death, so times weren’t great okay?
But now Eve has the first born child after the fall, a boy; to her he represents God’s promise; he is the man, her offspring which God said would crush Satan.
Cain was her hope that the curse would be broken.
But then there is Abel, whose name means “breath, or vanity”
Names in the Bible are important, they tell us about the person, the context, etc.
So since Cain was already born and he supposedly represented the hope of all humanity, Abel was kind of just a breath, of little importance. Or at least thats what it looks like at first.
But you saw what happened in verse 8; Abel turned out to be the righteous one of the two brothers, the one who walked in faith, but Cain killed him.
So his life really was like a breath, there and then gone.
And so it is with us, here today, gone tomorrow. So it points to the foolishness of trying to store up things in this life and focusing on the world, when in reality we ought to be focusing on the Maker of the world because true life comes from him and only from him.
In this way, Abel is the good example in this text: it says that he became a shepherd of the flocks and at a certain time he brought an offering to the Lord.
In fact both brothers brought an offering to the Lord, but not both were accepted.
This part of the text is often misunderstood, so we want to take great care to see what is really going on here.
Look at Verse 2, we see that Abel was a shepherd and Cain a worker of the ground, a farmer of sorts.
Now do you remember in chapter 3 what God cursed because of Adam’s sin? The ground.
Also remember that this story was written originally for the Israelites in the desert, so they would have understood that for Cain to be a worker of the ground was a clue about a deeper spiritual truth.
Keep that in mind.
Now then, the text goes on and says that Cain and Abel both brought sacrifices of their labors to God, but then we see that God was pleased by Abel’s offering but not by Cain’s.
If you are like me, then the first time you ever read that, you probably think it seems a little unfair.
After all, its not Cain’s fault that he didn’t have a sheep to offer, he brought what he could…but did he?
Look closer, Verse 3 says that Cain simply “presented SOME of the land’s produce as and offering.”
Now compare that to Abel in Verse 4 who “presented some of the FIRSTBORN of his flock, AND their FAT PORTIONS.”
Notice the difference; Cain basically just grabbed some fruit and brought it as an offering, but Abel brought the first and the best of all that he had.
12 you are to present to the Lord every firstborn male of the womb. All firstborn offspring of the livestock you own that are males will be the Lord’s.
So see the spiritual picture this paints: Cain fends for himself first, makes sure that he provides for himself above all else. Only then does he grab just some of what was around and bring it as an offering.
Contrast that with Abel who, before he kept an animal for himself, before he sought to have his own physical needs met, took the very first animal that was born out of his flock, the very best, and he came and offered it to the Lord.
Do you see the difference? It wasn’t about animal vs. plant or any of that. Cain’s choice to be a farmer just indicates his heart, but there was nothing inherently wrong with it.
The difference between Cain and Abel was their heart, their motivation in the sacrifice.
Cain did it out of religious duty, simply going through the motions. But Abel did it out of faith, and so he gave God the best that he had.
See once more as we have seen multiple times already; faith is not simply the belief that God exists.
Cain experienced God in a personal way and there was not a grain of doubt in him about God's existence. As James says, "You believe God exists (paraphrase), you do well. Even the demons believe that, and they shudder."
See once more as we have seen multiple times already; faith is not simply the belief that God exists. Cain experienced God in a personal way and there was not a grain of doubt in him about God's existence. As James says, "You believe God exists (paraphrase), you do well. Even the demons believe that, and they shudder." So then faith is all together different than merely acknowledging a fact. I can believe that a chair exists and has the ability to hold me up if I sit in it, but it is a totally different thing to sit in it and trust that it will.
So then faith is all together different than merely acknowledging a fact. I can believe that a chair exists and has the ability to hold me up if I sit in it, but it is a totally different thing to actually sit in it and trust that it will.
Cain had the attitude of those seemingly religious people who come to church every week, they put some money in the offering, listen to the sermon, and participate in church related activities.
But when asked what makes them a Christian, they answer “because I am a good person, I made a profession of faith, I do good things.”
If that is your response when asked why you are a Christian, then you are showing that you in fact are not one.
Just like Cain you are believing in your own works which cannot save, rather than relying fully on the goodness and mercy of God.
It goes on to tell us that God sees through the sacrifices: notice that more than the sacrifice, it was the character of the person he saw.
It says he had regard for ABEL and his sacrifice, but did not have regard for CAIN and his sacrifice.
Nothing is hidden from God, especially the true thoughts of your heart, which is all the more reason why you must fully submit every thought and desire of your wicked heart to him.
Now, when Cain sees this play out, he is furious it says, absolutely angry.
We are often like that aren’t we; it is a real struggle for us to ever take joy in the blessing of others.
Good things happen to others, even our own family members, and our immediate reaction is to slander them or worse, to degrade their blessings to their face.
To say they don’t deserve it, or that someone was only showing them favoritism, or to argue that you are more deserving of whatever it is than they are.
Pride is one of the fundamental sins, as Allen told us a few weeks back. And pride leads to jealousy of this sort, which is sin. And sin when it is fully grown, leads to death.
God see’s that in Cain just like he sees it in you, and he gives him both encouragement and warning at the same time: “If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it”
When he says “do what is right,” he isn’t expecting Cain to be sinless; even Abel sinned, for he was born into it, the same as the rest of us.
But to do what is right and be accepted by God is to acknowledge the fact that he shouldn’t accept you!
Instead, like Abel, it is to present yourself before God with the faith that, though you are a wretched sinner, he will fulfill his promises to all of those who trust in and love him...
And as we saw in the differences between Cain and Abel’s sacrifices, our outward actions follow our internal convictions; if your trust is in the Lord, that will be evident by the way you live.
And if your trust is in your own abilities, then that will show itself too.
Remember we said concerning the fall in that when Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and followed his advice, they submitted to him and took their God-given dominion and gave it to Satan, because whatever you submit to is what rules over you.
This is the exact same thing here. Abel submitted in faith his offering to God, thus joyfully acknowledging his service to God; that God rules over him and rightfully so.
God charges Cain to do the same thing by ruling over sin, which can only be done when one submits themselves to the rule of God. But the alternative, which Cain ultimately experiences is that sin rules over him.
That sin leads him to the point of murdering his brother, so that Cain, the one that Eve thought would break the curse of sin, only continues it and it fact worsens it.
In keeping with his character he even lies to the face of God when confronted about it, claiming to not know where his brother is.
Now Abel is dead, Cain is cursed, and the hope of the seed of woman crushing Satan seems to be lost.
But we have the advantage of hindsight; Eve later bore another son which led many years later to the coming of Christ who in fact is the one who defeated Satan, sin, and death. In this way, God is faithful in maintaining his chosen people until Christ wins the final victory.
But concerning Christ we see something very interesting in verse 10, as we bring this to a close:
God tell’s Cain that his “brother’s blood cries out” from the ground.
In the same way that Adam and Eve's sin plunged all creation into a curse, so the murder of Able illustrates the curse; the blood stained the earth.
The earth which was created without defilement or blemish was now stained by the wretchedness of sin.
In the same way that Adam and Eve's sin plunged all creation into a curse, so the murder of Able illustrates the curse; the blood stained the earth. The earth which was created without defilement or blemish was now stained by the wretchedness of sin. And here we see a link to Christ, for by blood men are condemned, and by blood we are saved. This is what the blood of Christ does; for by simple fact that it had to be shed to atone for sins, all men are made murderers by their sin. Yet, all those who trust in the sufficiency of this sacrifice are made righteous by the covering of that same blood.
And here we see a link to Christ, because by blood all people are condemned, yet by blood we are saved.
This is what the blood of Christ does; for by the simple fact that it had to be shed to atone for sins, all people are made murderers by their sin.
Yet, all those who put their faith in the work that Christ accomplished are made righteous by the covering of that same blood. That is the love of Jesus poured out for sinners.
So we end with this: God sovereignly works all things according to his will. His plan will not fail.
In his plan he saw it fit to present two options to us; trust in him and his goodness, or trust in yourself and reject him; but you can’t do both.
So there is a response required; like Abel you come to him with a humble heart and say God I need you, I desire you, take all of me and save me by the blood of your Son.
Or like Cain, you reject the need for a Savior and you wander the rest of your life ignorant of the fact that judgment awaits you.
My prayer is that that would not be the case, and that you would love him and trust him with every fiber of your being. Let’s pray.