“And the Lord said to Cain …”
This very phrase appears twice in Genesis 4, a shocking truth given what we know from the story about this man and what he did to his brother, Abel. The Lord spoke to Cain before and after he murdered Abel. This outburst marked the first act of violence recorded in the Scriptures.
God’s initial conversation came after Cain and Abel had made offerings. Abel brought a firstling from his flock, a lamb. An animal was slain and included the presentation of the blood.
This was not a new thing. We know from Genesis 3 that the Lord made coverings of skins for Adam and Eve after their fall in eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This revealed the cost of sin, as Adam now wore the pelt taken from a creature he had named. Leviticus further established the blood offering principle that is carried through the Bible: “…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (see Leviticus 17:11).
Abel’s sacrifice, with the blood, pointed to what God had done in the Garden and would do on the Cross. His offering was respected.
The Sweat of Self Effort
Cain, however, brought another kind of offering. He brought to the Lord what he got from the fruit of the ground. It featured the stuff Cain labored to cultivate as a tiller of the field. By the sweat of his brow, Cain produced what he put on the altar.
This offering earned no respect.
Go back to the Garden and the Fall, it was the Lord who made the coverings given to clothe Adam and Eve. They had hid away among the trees, and there they wore fig leaves stitched together by their own hands. Such coverings did little to obscure the nakedness of which they were now so aware and so ashamed. The only “clothing” that truly covers must be fashioned by God Himself and bestowed by His grace.
Cain used the products of his own efforts in an attempt to cover himself, and God could give his offering no regard. Was Cain sorry? Did he seek to make an acceptable offering? No, he became angry and so bitter that his face fell. “But unto Cain and to his offering [God] had not respect, and Cain was very wroth and, his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:6).
Here, God comes to Cain and addresses the root issue. Sin crouches at the door, Cain was told. Human nature, it faces an atmosphere of temptation with every step. The Lord told Cain to do well, to do the offering properly.
The Fallen Face and the Rage Within
The real issue with Cain was his fallen face. The Lord was there before Cain and Cain looked down. He may have put his face in the dirt. “The foolishness of a man twists his way. And his heart frets against the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3 NKJV).
Frustration got to Cain and he turned from God and sought out Abel. Soon, the brothers were in the field. I am thinking Cain found Abel on his turf, on the ground where he did his work. Perhaps, Cain viewed this as an intrusion into his religious system and in his rage at God he struck down Abel.
Cain shed no blood in making his offering, but he shed blood here. Abel was gone and would be making no more sacrifices to the Lord.
Even after this, God came to Cain. The murderer got an audience with the Almighty. And it was the Lord who sought Cain. Their conversation revealed the depth of the distance that had come between God and Cain. The killer stonewalled the Lord when he was asked about the whereabouts of Abel.The last people we would expect to get visitations from God are really the ones who are first in His heart. Click To Tweet
“And the Lord said unto Cain, where is Abel your brother? And he said, I know not, am I my brother’s keeper? And [God] said, What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries unto Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:8-9).
Notice how the Lord appealed to the thing closest to Cain’s heart. His pride was drawn from his labor with the soil. The blood of Abel now spoke from the ground. With an act of violence, Cain had stained the earth. He thought to get rid of his brother and wound up spilling the life of Abel right into what had been the center of his existence.
Did this even move Cain? It did, but not in the right way. He did feel the weight of the moment. When God revealed the curse now upon his life, Cain saw it as too much for him. But rather than run to the Lord and His mercy, Cain went out from the presence of God. He took his fallen face and turned away. He moved east of Eden, started a family, and led in the building of a city.
Tragic story, this is.
But we read this story from a Gospel framework. The Lord spoke to Cain, that’s the great message to take from this. The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance, even such a one as Cain (see 2 Peter 2:9).
The Seeker who Speaks
God speaks. He has words for every season for every one. Psalm 19 says that day unto day pours out speech and night after night the Lord reveals knowledge. His Voice calls to all and those who have ears to hear do hear.
God speaks, even to Cain. He is the Seeker of the Lost.
Consider this, the Angel of the Lord is spoken of several times in the Old Testament. The first references to this Angel come in Genesis 16 and the first words the Angel speaks are these: “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8)
Even Hagar, a maid who despised her mistress and mother of the wild and mocking Ishmael, got words from the Lord. Later, Hagar, now with her son and driven from the household of Abraham, is met again by the Angel, who asks her, “What troubles you, Hagar?” (Genesis 21:17). Ishmael was near death from thirst, but God opened Hagar’s eyes and led her to a well.
The Lord seeks to save. Jesus said the last shall be first. The last people we would expect to get visitations from God are really the ones who are first in His heart, for He is the One who so loves the world and gave Himself to save.
For more on God and His seeking and speaking, listen to the message “Words in Season” from Thomas Schaller, pastor of Greater Grace Church of Baltimore.