We are in week two of a series that we’re calling ‘The World is Not Worthy of Them.’ We set out to explore some of the heroes in scripture whose stories are told in Hebrews Chapter 11. Today, we’re going to talk about the story of Cain and Abel. Hebrews 11:4 “By faith… See more
We are in week two of a series that we’re calling ‘The World is Not Worthy of Them.’ We set out to explore some of the heroes in scripture whose stories are told in Hebrews Chapter 11. Today, we’re going to talk about the story of Cain and Abel.
“By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he’s dead.”
A Dead Man
Abel still speaks even though he is dead. There’s an early 20th century theologian that once wrote this: “When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or like a poison. Or he may leave something like a fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.”
The fact is that dead men do tell tales. They are not silent. They speak. Your life and my life at the end of our lives will say something, whether it be good or bad.
And that’s the Hebrew writer is saying about Abel, the story of Cain and Abel speaks even today. And so the question is, what does this story have to say to us today? What is this man who was the second generation of man since the very beginning of the creation of the world? What does this person or this story have to say to us in the 21st century? What does it have to offer to you? What does it have to say to me and to our church family and to our community? What does it have to say to us by way of encouragement or by way of caution?
The story we’re going to study out today is ancient, it’s been told for thousands of years. And yet I believe what we will glean from it today is as relevant now as it was when it was first lived. It’s a story of a man’s faithfulness and another man’s brokenness. It’s a study of obedience and also of malevolence. And in many ways, it’s the story of life and death.
And so I want to read it to you. It’s fifteen verses long. I’m going to read all the way through with no commentary, and we’re going to go back and see what the spirit of God would have us learn today.
“Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said with the with the help of the Lord, I brought forth a man.
Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept the flocks and Cain worked in the fields. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought in offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 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 rule over it,.’
Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’
‘I don’t know,’ he replied, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’
The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hands. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crop for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’
Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the Earth and whoever finds me will kill me.’
But the Lord said to him, ‘Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over. ‘Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, East of Eden.”
What does this story have to say to us today?
I guess there’s a lot we can conclude or there’s a lot we can discuss from the story. We could talk about the faithfulness of Abel’s gift. We can talk about his willingness to sacrifice. We could talk about how in the face of opposition, men and women who do what is right are often persecuted in a world of wrong. We could talk about the influence that Adam and Eve, their his father and mother had on their children.
There’s a lot we could say. But I’d like to relate what we talked about last week to what we’re going to talk about this week. Last week, we uncovered the idea that a single act of courageous obedience is often the catalyst for victorious living. So, rather than look at the victories or the courage of Abel, instead, I would like to focus our attention on the tragedy that is Cain. Today, we’re going to talk about sin and more specifically, we’re going to discuss this idea.
We will either be victorious over sin or we will become its victims
The word sin, you probably know, is an archery term. It simply means to miss the mark. In other words, sinning is falling short of doing what you were supposed to do. That’s what sin means in definition. But in actuality, sin is like a virus. It touches everything, it’s in everything, through everyone.
It animates in our culture. So, clearly it’s deadly to sin. Over time, the Bible explores this idea that it over time kills things. It will kill your conscience, your body, your mind, your self-respect. It’ll kill relationships, your marriages, your friendships. Sin will kill your self-control. It is a tyrant. It is a dictator. Again, it’s like a virus that exists in everyone, growing and growing and growing and slowly killing every host it lives in.
And in Genesis Chapter 4, we see honestly the very first instance of sin in full blown blossom. We could call this sermon ‘The Making of a Murderer.’ It’s the story that begins with the worship of God, but ends with tremendous pain. It ends with cry, with tragedy, and with death. We look back to see if there’s something that we can uncover from this story that will bring us not only into the text, but also give us some understanding of what sin does to our life and maybe even how to conquer it.
Verse 1 says that Adam made love to his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, with the Lord’s help I have brought forth a man.
Later, she gave birth to his brother, Abel. Cain and Abel, parents are Adam and Eve. And even if you don’t know anything about the Bible, you know who Adam and Eve are. They are the original human beings.
One chapter earlier in Genesis Chapter 3, you’ve read this before, but they live in this peaceful place until they are deceived into believing that sin is better than their own sanctification, that the lost of the world is better than their Father’s love. And so, God banishes them from the garden. They’re kicked out of the garden. But there’s this really beautiful detail that happens at the very end of that story. I think it’s in chapter three, verse 19.
And it’s a little detail that as God is kicking them out of the story, God promises them a son. And he says of this son, “this son will dominate sin at its very core. It will crush the serpent’s head.” If you think about it, that’s what makes this story even more tragic. See, there are high hopes connected with Cain’s birth. It was a sin that ruined Adam and his paradise. And here comes a seed from Eve, who they believe will crush Satan and reconcile men to God.
Imagine the joy and the hope of this first couple as they looked into the face of their baby, Cain, and they reflected on the promises of God to send a deliverer. Imagine what amazing amount of joy there would have been. Many scholars think that Adam and Eve mistakenly thought that Cain was the promised Messiah. They thought that Cain was the deliverer. They believe that because his name means promise or acquired, verse one could be translated as “I have gotten a man, the Lord.”
Eve looks at Cain and she goes, I have gotten this man. He is the Lord. He will be the Messiah. They really believed they had given birth to the Lord, but in fact they had given birth to the first murderer. Seems that they never really understood how terrible of a disease sin was going to be on the human race. That is at least until Eve is holding her bleeding and dead son and she takes stock that is her other son, Cain, who killed him.
So here’s how this story unfolds. The story begins with the two brothers growing up together and we see them going to church.
They’re making sacrifices to God. Both bring a sacrifice, one is accepted and the other is rejected. And you might wonder why is Cain’s sacrifice rejected? You can make a point about the type of sacrifice. We’re not going to talk about that today, but because the issue honestly goes much deeper to a heart level.
“By faith, Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did.”
It’s better because it’s faithful
And so what can be brought from that discussion is simply this, that it’s better because it’s faithful. You might wonder, well, why is Cain’s offering worse? Well, it’s because it wasn’t faithful enough. God would rather have you come to him with less, but with some faith than a man who comes with everything but with no faith at all. We can preach that topic another day. But the point is, Cain came entitled, he came arrogant, he came selfish, he came faithless.
And so he was not accepted by God. And because of that, the Bible says that Cain was very angry and his face was downcast. He’s angry and he’s frustrated and he’s mad. Why? Because God didn’t accept him. See, the story is often told from the perspective of kind of a sibling rivalry. That it’s all about, be good to your brother, be good to your sister and things will be OK, but it really doesn’t. The story is not really about that.
This story is about Cain’s relationship with God and how that relationship began to decay and so his life decayed. You see, Cain showed up at church that morning offering a sacrifice to God, and his sacrifice wasn’t good enough. And so his life began to deteriorate at its source. What the story is actually telling us is that your worship life affects all of your life, how you relate to God affects everything in your life. The reason Cain is a murderer is because he didn’t have a good relationship with God himself.
You adjust that and you adjust the entirety of the story. This is not about the horizontal: get along with your brother, get along with your sister. Be nice to your neighbor. This story is about the vertical, how you relate to God.
It was Cain’s relationship with God that caused his pain-filled trajectory. It was Cain’s relationship with God that caused him to be the man he became. The same can be said between your relationship with God and my relationship with God.
Your relationship with your brothers and sisters and with everything that you have in your life is going to be fundamentally determined by your relationship with God.
How you treat people in this world is going to be related to how you treat God and how you care about God
That’s just the way it works. So Cain doesn’t love God the way he ought to. And so Cain began to hate his brother. Cain is angry at God, the Bible says, and it’s that little tiny seed that leads to the murder of his brother.
This idea reminds me of an article I once read about the Mediterranean Fruit Fly. Look at that little dude, if you got that close to him, is quite terrifying. Several years ago, California farmers were threatened with potential financial disasters because of this little fly. They suspect that it came in from the US-Mexican border. No one really knows exactly, but basically it ruined much of the crops in California. And it’s because of the way that the larvae work.
When these flies sort of plant their eggs, what happens is they don’t plant them at the outside of the plant and then eventually those larvae sort of destroy the plant. What happens is they they lay their eggs in the blossom of the fruit. So over time, as the fruit grows, it grows around the eggs. And so think how gross this is: Imagine you bite into an apple that has worms in it. That’s basically what happened. So they hatch while they’re inside of the fruit.
Now, for some of you, that would be like you woke up tomorrow morning and you were like in a chocolate cake. For you that would be awesome. But it’s a terrifying idea biting into a fruit with all these worms. And so it’s like this parasite. It just destroys it from the inside out.
And this little worm reminds me a lot about the way that sin functions. In many ways, sin begins in the human heart as anger towards God, it plants inside the heart anger towards God, frustration towards the world.
And then what happens is when it hatches, it makes its way into the rest of your life. It starts in your heart, but it comes out as this disgusting parasite trying to destroy your life. It works its way into your marriage and works its way into your relationships. It works its way into your hopes. It works its way into your dreams. It blossoms into full-scale, terrible deeds. This is the birth of Cain’s disorder with sin.
This is the birth
He’s angry with God. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry?’
I love that question. Why are you mad? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted, Cain? God patiently asking this question in order to bring him to repentance, reminding him that it’s not too late when sin is just in your heart, it’s not too late.
He could be accepted if he was just willing to change his ways. And this makes me kind of stop for two important little tangents.
By doing well, he will feel well
The first is that God is making the case that by doing well, he will feel well. Notice he asked the question, why are you angry? And then he gives the solution, do what is right. And basically the point is that Cain was angry and depressed because of his own sinfulness.
God hadn’t done anything to him. God hadn’t caused the issue. And so God didn’t go, “You know what, Cain? What you need is therapy. I appreciate therapy, but what you need is to to talk about your feelings. ”
No, what you need to do, Cain, is obey. You’re mad at me, but you could be OK if you just decided to obey. You act right and you’re going to feel all right.
So in your life, if you’re feeling real bad, there’s a chance it might be because your obedience has begun to slip. If you’re feeling real sad, it might be because your obedience has begun to slip. That’s not the only reason, but it might be something that you want to check.
Cain wanted a blessing of a person he was not willing to be
The second thing I see is that Cain coveted what Abel had, and this is the craziest part, he’s mad at God for not blessing him in the way that God wanted to bless him.
Do you see the irony here? Like think about this, that Cain wanted the blessing of a person he was not willing to be. I mean, we could end this discussion in this text right here and just think about this concept. He wants the blessings, but he doesn’t want to be the person that receives the blessing. He wants to be treated as a person with faith. But he’s not willing to be a person of faith. He wants the benefit of the life of faith, but he doesn’t want the price of living by faith.
I love what the Bible says in verse six, it says: Why are you so angry? Why is your face so dark with rage? It could be bright with joy if you would do what you should. If you just did what you should, your face would be bright with joy. God is saying, look in the middle of your anger, in the middle of your frustration and the situation that you’re going on is going on right now in your heart.
Whether you’re mad at God because he didn’t give you something or God didn’t provide something or whatever, you could change. You could be filled with joy if you just did what was right. God is saying, I want to ease your guilty conscience. I want to give you peace. I want to walk with you in the cool of the day. I want to fill you with my spirit. I want to work in your life.
Cain you want blessings, but you don’t want to seek me first. You want righteousness. You want to be accepted. But you don’t want to obey. You want blessings, but you want no burden of sacrifice.
You want the perks, but you don’t want the price of sacrifice
You want the outcome, but you don’t want any obedience. And let me just tell you this. There is a lot of us, a lot of people listening right now are watching right now, including myself, you want to be right with God, but you don’t want to walk with Jesus. You want salvation, but you don’t want to be sanctified. You don’t want to be edited in your ways. You want Christianity, but you don’t want to bear the cross. You want the faith that God promises. But you don’t want any real fellowship with anybody. You want Jesus to be your savior, but you do not want him to be your king.
I can relate to this. A lot of us can relate to this. If you’re feeling those things, just realize if you just change your ways God wants to make you bright with joy. And just like Cain, when we realize it’s all about obedience and you realize that God is not going to bless a half given life, it can be easy for our face to grow dark and sullen and angry and bitter and begin to take shots at the people who are walking with God.
And this is where Cain is jaded, cynical, snarky, he grew the sin bigger and bigger and bigger until finally God gives him this one warning. “Cain, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
It’s desire is for you, but you can rule over it. He’s telling him that he can win over and dominate it.
Another translation gives us a little more clarity. It says “Watch out, Cain! Sin is waiting to attack you. It’s longing to destroy you, but you can conquer it. ”
This is the defining moment in Cain’s life, you can conquer it because it hasn’t come out of your heart and destroyed your whole life yet. It’s just crouching. I love that. It’s a perfect illustration.
The word crouches is used for a cat as they’re on a hunt, you know, they crouch down so that people can look at them or so that other animals can look at them and it can seem smaller than they are.
So, you know, a wildebeest walk by and glance over and they’re like, oh, what’s that in the grass? So it’s just that little baby thing or it’s just that little small thing. It’s no problem at all. And then eventually the lion gets up and begins to attack. That’s the nature of sin. The sin starts small so that you think it’s less destructive. So you invite it into your life. You go, oh, it’s not that big of a deal.
It’s just really, really itty bitty. I can be angry. I can be mad. I can be frustrated. I can live that way. I can deal a little bit with this sexual morality. I can take a drink. I could take a hit. I can deal with it. I’m strong enough. I’m strong enough to watch that. I’m strong enough to listen to that. I’m strong enough to deal with that.
I’m strong enough. And you just kind of let it into your life. And then just like those cats begin to unfold and unfurl itself into its full destructive force. And in no time it has its grip around your neck. Sin, he’s saying, is crouching at your door. I can say that to all of us listening today. All of us have something in our lives that it’s crouching at our door, waiting for us to invite it in so that it can begin to wreak havoc in our life.
It’s right there. It’s the next choice. It’s right in front of your face. It it doesn’t look big, but it longs to destroy you. So please don’t let it in your heart. See, this thought should bring chills up your spine because you remember when you took that first drink and you thought this is just an itty bitty little thing. I just need a release. I just need avent.
And then it became this destructive force in your life and you couldn’t let go of it. Or you remember the first time you watched that sexual thing online and you thought it is this little itty bitty thing. It’s not that big. It’s not going to be all that important and it’s not going to be it’s not going to destroy my life. I could still be married. I could still live a Christian life. Everything’s going to be OK.And then all of a sudden it unfolded itself.
And there’s a monster that you can’t figure out how to get out of your life. You remember that first lie you told, that first thing you stole, those people you got mixed up with, and now you would do anything to go back and repair your life, that greed that lives in you, that produced that hatred and that anger and rage and all the pain and turmoil all caused by the little thing waiting outside your door for you to invite it in.
It seems nice, like a little stray cat, but it’s actually a murderous lion. God is telling Cain in that moment that sin is not his friend. It is not on his side, that it’s not a pet. It’s not something you should mess with or toy with. It seems cute now, but it’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Look, brothers and sisters, if you’re dealing with something in your life, you can’t control it. You don’t own it.
If you keep living with it, one day it’s going to control and own you. That’s the truth of sin. It’s desire is for you.
So what do you have to do? God looks at Cain and says, you can conquer it.
You can conquer it
But notice, that’s what he says before he commits the murderous act. Notice he says you can conquer it before the murderous act because it hasn’t gone to full blossom yet.
It’s still itty bitty small. The fact is you kill it when it’s small. That’s what has to happen. You kill it in its infancy before it gets to maturity because it’s a whole lot easier to kill it. It’s a whole lot easier to crush it underfoot when it can fit under your foot.
You will either be a victor over sin or you will become it’s victim
Those are the only two options, that’s the whole sermon in that sentence, sin is dangerous, it’s deadly, it’s lethal, it always starts small.
But if you work on it when it’s small, you can overcome it. Otherwise, your destiny is told by the apostle James.
“Each person is tempted and they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, give birth to death.”
And this is what happened with Cain. Cain leaves the presence of God and doesn’t check his sin at all, doesn’t conquer it, doesn’t defeat it while it’s small.
And in that moment he becomes a murderer. He tricks Abel to go out into a field. He bludgeons him to death. He snuffed out the life of his baby brother because of his anger, because of his jealousy. Now, Abel is dead and Cain is standing there with his brother’s blood dripping from his hand. And God comes to him and asks him this question, “Where is your brother Abel?”
God knows the whole situation, but is asking this question so that Cain might confesses guilt before God because he can still repent.
Even if you’re in the worst of sins right now, brothers and sisters, you can still repent. It’s just a lot harder.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain, knowing that he is guilty, refuses to accept responsibility for his brother. And then God just pours out his punishment on Cain. He exiles him because here, here’s the point, right? It’s a sin. It banishes you from God’s presence. That’s what happens.
You love God and you want to be close to God. Don’t deal with sin. Don’t involve yourself. Look, we all sin, but don’t let it grow. You can’t be close to God and have sin in your life.
“Your inequities have separated you from your God.”
If you choose to let sin live in you, you cannot live with Him
Cain has this heartbreaking reply. He says this is way too much for me because God exiles him, because the fact to live without God is worse than a death sentence. And that’s what Cain gets. This is such a tragedy, such a tragic story. The high hopes of his mother and father believing he would be the messiah into this terrible situation where he becomes the first murder in human history once again, you know, and you may have heard this said, but sin will always take you further than you want to go, take you there longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you were ever willing to pay.
It’s deceitful. It deceives us. It dilutes us. It tells us you won’t even notice me. You can live your whole spiritual life and everything is going to be fine. And then it comes and destroys our lives, destroys our lives in many ways and makes us stupid. It tricks us. It seduces us. It warms us. It intoxicates us. And then we’re aflame with passion. It lures us into the field and we are bludgeoned to death.
Beware, sin always has death in mind. But here’s the thing, right? You can kill it with the power of the Holy Spirit, with God on your side. You can conquer it, you can overcome it. You can be a man and woman or a woman who steps on the pedestal of life looking at all the fallen heroes around you, thinking, you know what I overcame? I did it. You know, my whole family was addicted to alcohol, but I was the one who curbed the whole history of my family.
I had this history of sexual misconduct in my life. But you know what? I can fight it. I’ve been someone filled with anger and rage my whole life. But, you know, one day I decided to crush it underfoot by the power of God and I conquered it. You can kill it. As a matter of fact, you need to kill it. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you need to do it.
You need to stop it before it becomes a full fledged wicked action. Kill it right now. You have a way out. You can do it. And look, I’m not giving you any special five steps to overcoming your sin because you know exactly what you need to do. Get it out of your life. If it’s on the computer, get rid of the computer.
But I need to work. Just get rid of it. If it’s in your cabinet, take it out and pour it down the drain. If it’s in your heart, confess it, deal with it, talk about it. Don’t hide it any more. You need to kill it. Otherwise it will kill you.
You might have had a bad upbringing. You might have had bad friends. You might have had a terrible way of growing up.
But that doesn’t need to be your story. You don’t need to be Cain. You can be victorious. Don’t let it lay there outside your door while it’s still small. You need to kill it.
Do you remember the first thing you ever did wrong ?
I was in second grade and I remember I mean, maybe I did wrong before, but it’s the first one I ever remember. And I stole a ping pong ball from my teacher, Miss Doretti. I stole it off her desk. And I remember being in second grade, I don’t know, seven or eight years old and living with this tremendous guilt of stealing this ping pong ball.
And it was like two or three weeks. But I felt sick. I couldn’t sleep. My relationships with my parents was weird. My life was just such a mess. And one day we’re driving to school and I still have the ping pong ball in my hand and I’m just weeping in the back seat, just like crying in the backseat. My mom looked over to me. She goes, “Who gave you that ball?” And I go, “I stole it.”
And like, I finally came, came clean. I finally told them that I stole the ball. I don’t even know what the punishment was. I was probably just like, return the ball to your teacher. I don’t remember. I mean, I’m seven. Maybe there are other times, but I slept so good that night with that guilt off my shoulder. I know it’s a kind of a silly thought, but I relate this to whatever you’re going through right now, because to God it’s like you stole a ping pong ball and you just need to come clean.
You need to come clean and talk about what’s actually happening. Some of you feel like God is chasing you down. He’s chasing you down because he wants to bust you, because he wants to punish you. And that’s not it at all. He’s chasing you down so he can reconcile you to himself first.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession leads to purification
Confession can lead to purification. That’s what we need. The first step for many of you to conquer sin is choosing to confess it. You can win. You can conquer, but you’ve got to get open, and if you’ve been open, you’ve got to take the second step and take the radical action of getting rid of the thing that is destroying your life. And in that way, again, a simple a single action, obedient courage can make you into a victorious man or woman of God.
Abel’s blood speaks loudly, but if you read chapter 4 verse 12 it talks about there being a better covenant, that there’s a better covenant, not by the blood of Abel, by the blood of Jesus, that the blood of Jesus is able to purify us from all unrighteousness. So here in this moment, as we take communion, there may be just you you may just need to stop, confess your sins to God, get on your knees.
Confession is the beginning of the purification process. God doesn’t want to destroy you, that God wants you to be reconciled to himself.