The Way of Cain
Scripture Reading: Genesis 4:1-16
Here in Genesis 4 homicide is the centerpiece. But it is far more than a record of the first murder. It is about ‘the way of Cain’, the corruption and slide of a heart away from God into notorious sin.
The story of Cain and Abel calls for us to observe well and to take its instruction to heart. The account begins with a burst of exuberant optimism: ‘Now Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain. Eve conceived again and ‘bore his brother Abel’. We know nothing of the boys’ growing up years other than that Cain followed in his father’s footsteps as firstborn, becoming a farmer, while his little brother became a shepherd. So both had honorable professions. There is nothing wrong with being a farmer or a shepherd. The opening words of verse 3 ‘In the course of time’ – nearly always denotes a precise period of time, here like referring to the end of an agricultural year when sacrifices would be presented. Cain brought his fruit offering and Abel brought his firstlings of his flock. That offering makes a big difference. God hath respect unto Abel and his offering. But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth. Cain frankly hath little regard for either his brother or for his God. So he killed Abel and judgment fell. Cain’s punishment was greater than he could bear. What can we learn from the story of Cain?
1 The Slide of the heart
Cain represents a group where there is something wrong with their service to God. First the person needs to have a clean heart to God. He has to be found righteous in the eyes of God. Cain was not the above. Secondly his offering was not up to God’s standards. The bible says ‘But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. So there is something wrong with him as a person and it is manifested in his sacrifice. Is your tithes and offering not up to God’s standards? Cain was indifferent (uncaring, unconcerned, unmoved) about his offering. Cain’s offering was not an offering from faith. He decided what his offering to God would be. That means he served God according to his own term. I pray that none of us will ever be accused by God to be indifferent about our offering. God evaluates the quality of what we offer. The bible says God did not have respect unto Cain and his offering. It implies that Cain as a person was not up to God’s standard and his offering was not up to God’s standard. Cain’s problem was he was indifferent to God and it was manifested in his sacrifice to God. Actually the central truth of this story is that God is to be worshipped and he is to be worshipped through sacrifice. Brother and Sister, many of us fail to realize that one day whether we like it or not, every knees will bow down and confess that Jesus is Lord.
The Bible says in the book of Revelation, the twenty elders fell down before the throne of God and worship him and say Holy Holy is the Lord God almighty. God must be respected, honored and put first. God is God and he is be to worshipped and honored and served. There are three truths here. One, there is a place where God was to be worshipped. Cain knew that. I believe altar was already built by Adam and Eve to worship God. Two, there seems to have been an appointed time for worship. Cain also knew that. It was at certain time. It was at certain festive period. Three, there is also prescribed means of worship. Again Cain knew that because all these have been told him by Abel and Adam. Let’s just apply it to our contemporary term. The church is a place where God is to be worshipped. Do you see all Christians coming to church? Look at the attitude and how we belittle coming to church. Oh we come to church when we are not tired, when there is no business, when there is nothing else to do or only when we are in need. The appointed time for worship is Sunday. Sunday has become a day of festivities of the citizens of the world. The Beach, the malls, basketball court, the fiesta are more important than going to church on Sunday. Christians in Singapore play golf on Sunday. So they go to church on Saturday. Then when we come to church, instead of coming with our best spirit and sacrificial giving, we drop a few coin, our mind wonders and we hope it is going to be over soon. That is actually the attitude of Cain, in his regard for God and his sacrifice. That is why God was not pleased. There is already corruption and slide of the heart found in Cain.
2 The Way of Cain
The way of Cain is a pride, haughtiness, hatred at being constrained by religion and a spirit of restlessness under the constraint of religion. He has a haughty and rebellious spirit. He was corrected by God. God was not pleased with his worship. n. Then when we are corrected that there is something wrong with our service towards God, we get angry. Cain was angry. Some young people approached you to help out in some activities. They approached you because they feel you can do a better job. You say ‘Oh I am too busy’. Then the region pastor asked why you did not help out, you get angry. I thank God for some of you. We ask you to give a testimony, to do some script reading, you readily help out. Please attitude is important. Don’t say it is not important. Because it was important to God as regard to Cain and Abel. How do you react when someone suggest you have done something wrong? Do you move to correct the mistake or deny that you need to correct it? If someone suggests that you are wrong, take an honest look at yourself and choose God’s way instead of Cain. What did God say about our wrong? The bible says it desires to have you. God pictures sin as a tempting force or power that, like wild beast or demon, ready to devour you. Yet God also gives to human beings the capacity to overcome by submitting to God’s word, with the assistance of his grace. Of course it is their choice. God gave him to chance to right his wrong and God even encouraged him to right the wrong. But Cain refused. Cain’s countenance fell.
3 Into a Notorious Sin
A smaller mistake leading to a greater sin. First it was a corruption and a slide of the heart away from God. Then it leads to notorious sin. I have seen a lot of people in our Church. Oh the pastor can never find where they are. They are always busy when approached. The most powerful word for these people is ‘I am busy’. They are busy twenty hours a day. Then something happened. They have committed a terrible sin.
There are consequences in sin. In 1969, Charles Manson and his group of teens; Susan Atkins, Ted Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, broke into the house of a eight month pregnant actress Sharon Tate killed her and six others in a two night rampage that terrorized the city of Los Angeles, California. By her own admission, Atkins held Tate down as she pleaded for mercy to spare her baby, and stabbed the eight-months-pregnant woman 16 times. Patricia Krenwinkel killed coffee heiress Abigail Folger at the Tate home and, the following night, stabbed Rosemary LaBianca and carved the word “War” on her husband Leno LaBianca’s abdomen.
They were initially sentenced to death, only to have their sentences commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down death penalty laws in 1972. Well today is the year 2009, 40 years ago and they are still in prison. Susan Akin, 60 years old, has terminal brain cancer. She is paralyzed over 85 percent of her body and cannot sit up in bed or even moved into a wheel chair. This year is her 18th parole request but the parole board insists that her release would be a danger to society. I won’t go into details but Susan Atkins became a Christian and wrote a powerful Christian book. Ted Watson became an ordained minister in prison. But they are still kept behind bar and most probably will die in jail. After four decades behind bars, Charles Manson, Atkins, Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten have repeatedly been described as model prisoners. But all would not be granted parole. They committed their crime when they are just 18years old more or less. Why am I sharing with you this story? Sin has consequences. Don’t let the slide of heart leads to notorious sin. Cain’s refusal to check his wrong lead to a greatest blunder in his life. He committed murder. People who don’t have time for God, are not committed to church, always am busy, belittle their Christianity and have no reverence for God usually ended up with the greatest blunder or sin in the near future. They commit a notorious sin. Some committed fornication, adultery, murder, theft, etc.
4 Doomed to be a fugitive and a wanderer
And from that day onward, the rest of Cain’s life is a startling example of what happens to those who refuse to admit their mistakes, to stop the slide of heart, the corruption. A small sin has a way of growing out of control. Let God help you with your ‘little’ sins before they turn into tragedies. What is Cain’s life like from that day onwards? God says ‘Now you are under a curse.’ God would no longer bless his efforts to gain his living from the ground. No longer was everything provided for as it was in the past. In the past their daily tasks were refreshing and delightful. Now they had to struggle against the elements in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and the family. In the past there is always enough and even more than enough. But now there is lack, not enough.
Cain is going to be a fugitive and a wanderer over all the face of the earth. You’re going to have to beg for your food. You’re going to have to ask for a handout to have anything to eat. Whatever you touch – anything that you do – will turn into dust. Can I ask you an honest question? Are you a fugitive, hiding, always ashamed of yourself before your friends? Are you a wanderer in Iloilo City? People always have to give you handouts. Whatever you do turns to futility. Cain’s punishment is described in Deut 28:16-18, ‘You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country (literally it means in the field). Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb (children) will be cursed, and the crops of your lands, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks (will be cursed).’ There is a loss of protection of his family, work, community and family. What happens to him after that period is exactly what he says ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear.’ Constantly he will not be able to bear the punishment. Another translation of the word punishment in Hebrew means ‘iniquity’ or ‘guilt’. It was a confession that his ‘iniquity’ is too great to forgive.’ The devil play tricks on his mind that his iniquity is too great to be forgiven. Also it means that guilt will constantly harass him. Cain felt fear in his life for the future. Cain was afraid of death. Man is always very interesting. When we messed up and the problem hit us, we ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ Cain was actually angry. Cain walked around feeling sorry for himself.
A once mightily used evangelist now sells cars in a small town in Texas. Once he stood in the pulpit as a powerful preacher of the Gospel, and thousands were converted through his ministry. He became an adulterer, left his wife, and ran off with his girl friend. In just a few weeks, he lost everything. That minister is now but a shell of his old self. To see him shuffle about, beaten down and sad eyed, is pitiful. He lives in constant fear and spends sleepless nights thinking of what could have been. His anxieties have made him physically ill. He has chest pains, ulcers, and hypertension. Yes God forgives but people don’t. He has been overpowered by the enemies of guilt, fear and depression. This is just one example of becoming a fugitive and a wanderer. Secret affairs, drinking, drugs, pornography, homosexuality, lesbianism, and many other human weaknesses are all prime causes of a life of fugitive and a wanderer.
5 The Grace of God
If you study Cain’s life properly, God repeatedly reached out to him at various stages of his life. When his countenance fell, God says ‘If thou does well, shalt thou not be accepted?’ When he killed Abel, God wanted him to confess, ‘Where is Abel thy brother’. When he says ‘everyone that findeth me shall slay me, God warned people against killing him and put a mark to protect him.’ In our most terrible state, God is always there.
Evidently Cain would not humble himself in godly sorrow and repentance, for he separated himself from the Lord and sought to live without God’s help. The bible says Cain went out from the presence of God. Cain’s family became a God’s estranged people. They display a feeling of being alienated from God, God’s people and the church. They keep a distance from the church and God’s people. Some even become hostile to God’s people and the church. Well their basic motivation in life will be to overcome the curse, find pleasure and attempt to regain ‘paradise’ without submission to God. In other words, the family is founded on the principle of self-redemption. Cain’s family established a lifestyle that is apart from God altogether. The children of Cain established a godless lifestyle.
There was a mark on Cain. I do not know what the Mark was. Some say it was a tattoo. Actually it is a sign of God’s protection. God protects Cain. This is strange: God is actually harboring a murderer, a criminal. But actually it just shows the greatness of God’s love for Cain. It was actually grace to the murderer. By all estimates God’s mark, whatever it was, it was an amazing grace. Many people in this world are like Cain. We are cursed and separated from God, yet guarded by God. Our life still belonged to God. We bore God’s image, however disfigured that image was. This was the utmost mercy that God could do, and does, for the unrepentant. Instead of repenting, Cain went from the presence of God. This is an astounding grace right here in one of the darkest scenes in Genesis. And this story is repeated again and again in many of our lives. Observe that the Lord did not abandon us, guilty as we are. When we arrogantly bring our sparse offering to God, and God saw the evil anger, God did not turn away from us. That is grace. God, in fact engaged Cain in a fatherly manner with probing, remedial questions. God did not leave us exposed to Satan without recourse. Such grace, God then exhorted us to withstand temptation. Again, grace. When we cry, God listened to our unrepentant, self-pitying plea. Finally God placed a sign upon us that protected us for the remainder of our natural life. Amazing Grace. Nevertheless we do not know what ultimately happened to Cain. Cain was not beyond God’s grace. But I think Cain did not repent.
How to break from this Curse? We Christians more often than not are in quite similar conditions as Cain. The call of Cain is equally as loud, powerful as the call of Adam, Moses and Saul. If there is hope for Adam, Moses and Saul, there are definitely hope for a Cain today. When Adam sinned, he heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, calling ‘Adam, Adam where are you?’ When Cain sinned God said unto Cain, ‘Where is Abel thy brother?’ Moses was a murderer like Cain. He became a fugitive and a wanderer in the Sinai desert for 40 years When Moses sinned, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses Moses”. When Saul was consenting unto Stephen’s death, threatening and slaughtering the disciples of the Lord, and as he journeyed near Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven shined around about him and a voice say, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? The call of God unto us, is so powerful, so compassionate, so caring, and so intense.
Please note that God is always divinely intervening to arrest the progress of the evil taking place in the heart and mind of one of his children. He constantly is saying ‘Shall I not lift up the curse for you? All you have to do is surrender to me. Shall I not accept you? I will accept you, if you turn to Me. God will give us enough rope to hang ourselves if we want to. But before He does that, He will speak to you and me over and over and over and over again, trying to stop the process of our sin. That’s the love of God. That’s the love of Jesus. That’s the grace and the mercy of the Lord. God has never closed His eyes to the suffering of the children of God. Moses was living in the depths of obscurity. He was living as a total nobody. Moses was living at the farthest end of the wilderness, where the vegetation was very scanty. There were very few shrubs, and it was an exceedingly solemn, dreary desert. Then God cried out ‘Moses, Moses.’ Jesus has been the mediator of a new covenant, and his shed blood shouts forgiveness to all who come to God. So there is great hope for us all. Jesus’ blood will wash away all the hidden sins of those who come to him. And his blood also atones for our public sins, whatever they may be. No one is beyond grace because ‘the sprinkled blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
End of sermon