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May 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 5, 2013 – Genesis 4

What Crouches Behind Door #2?

Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.” Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. Genesis 4:1-2

INTRO: I’m sure most of us are familiar with Highlights

The children’s magazine began a cartoon feature in 1948, “Goofus and Gallant”
– two boys who illustrate right and wrong behavior
• this is how Cain and Abel are usually presented,
○ as a Sunday school object lesson
– when moral decisions are illustrated in this way, it’s really easy to get the answer right
• but we’re looking at caricatures, exaggerations – the deck is stacked

Even though the example of Cain and Abel is extreme,
– if we look closely and honestly, we have to confess it is not so easy to live the right answer

Verses 1-2 set the stage

Eve’s birth announcement is brief, but we hear her excitement
– the Hebrew is more succinct than our translation
“I’ve produced a man [person] with Yahweh”
– she wasn’t naive about Adam’s role in her pregnancy, but this goes way beyond sex
• she grasps the idea of procreation – of bringing forth a life, a creation
– his name reflects her sense of wonder and also her hope
• this is the “seed” God promised to crush the serpent’s head (3:15)

That her hope was disappointed is reflected in the name of her second son
– Abel – you’ll recognize it from the Book of Ecclesiastes
• “Vanity of vanities” – nothingness, emptiness
– Abel arrives as the anticlimax – Cain was not their rescuer
• he was merely the first in a series of descendants

Vv. 3-5, An interesting little drama

Here we have the first instance of worship in scripture, and it reveals a lot
– but we’ll force ourselves to stick to the story

Cain found a place where he could present God an offering
– like any kid brother, Abel followed him
• I don’t doubt it was Cain’s idea and Abel was merely imitating him
– Cain must have been shocked when Abel’s offering was accepted and his rejected
• we know he was disappointed – he couldn’t hide it, his “countenance fell”

It was right there, in worship, that Cain became “very angry”
– Hebrew word, “hot,” “kindled” – strong feelings began to burn within him
• this is our first surprise:
• worship is where you go to get rid of this stuff; the bad feelings, negative emotions, etc.
○ worship is where you go to be changed
○ it’s scary to think that you could be changed in an opposite way
– perhaps, with all the pious words we pray and sing, we trick ourselves into thinking that we are pious
○ that we’re far removed from sinful passions and incapable of murder

My son, Michael, has been painting life-size Bible characters for this summer’s children’s camp. The other day, he overheard a conversation between two young people working in the same room. One was saying, “Christians don’t get it! Disciples of Jesus are supposed to be serving others. We’re not to be serving ourselves. The Christian life is all about service!” The other person was agreeing and making similar statements. Michael turned from his work and interrupted them. He said to the young woman, “Could you go get me a cup of coffee?” She looked at him as if offended and said,  “What?!” “Oh, that’s okay. Never mind.” Then the other young man began laughing, and red-faced the young woman said, “Oh–I get it.”

– it’s by that disconnection between words and actions that we trick ourselves
• it is how the first worshiper also became the first murderer
– watching people worship, we can’t tell which will leave to do good
• and which will leave to go and murder their brother

Barb and I watch a lot of crime investigation programs
– so now we’re ready to become detectives
• we know that to identify a suspect, we have to prove motive, means, and opportunity
– God certainly had means and opportunity to disregard Cain, but what was his motive?
• commentators have tried to supply a reason for Cain’s rejection from the scant details given so far in the story
• some argue that Cain’s offer was rejected because it was not a blood sacrifice
○ they are inserting something into the text that is not there
○ besides, grain and produce offerings were perfectly acceptable later on (according to the Law)
• others argue that Cain’s offering was of a poorer quality than Abel’s
○ but that is an argument from silence
– we have to wait until God speaks to learn why he rejected Cain’s offering

Vv. 6-7, God scheduled a meeting with Cain after worship

Because Abel’s offering was accepted, assume he lived close to God’s heart
– but it was Cain that God spoke with after worship
– Cain meant as much to God – it’s just, there was a lesson to be learned

In Cain’s heart, humankind stands before an abyss
– with his next move, he can plunge our race over the edge
• so God intervened – he wanted to turn us in the right direction
– Cain can fix this – he can “do well”
• this is the prerequisite to worship that God accepts 
○ and it reveals God’s motive in rejecting Cain’s offering (cf. 1 Jn. 3:11-12)

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
But the prayer of the upright is His delight. (Pr. 15:8)

There are Fundamentalists who disparage “good works.” They tell us that “Good works can’t save you” or “Good works are good for nothing. But when Paul addresses the uselessness of works, he refers specifically to “works of law” with the goal of self-justification (Ro. 3:20). That is a different category from simply “doing good.” Doing good is joining God in his activity, like when he saw that everything he created was good. In a quick survey of the New Testament letters, from Romans to 1 John, I counted twenty-two references to “doing good.”

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Ga. 6:10).

In his letter to Titus, Paul says,
Jesus gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (2:14) and to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men (3:1-2)

– doing good is the first act of worship
• after this, our offerings are acceptable

And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (He. 13:16)

Notice how God personifies sin – it crouches, desires, and takes over
– it’s not an abstraction
• in situations like this, God doesn’t waste time with abstractions
• sin is present and it poses a real danger
○ notice the echo from 3:16 – “desire” and “rule”
○ it is as if that which desires must be ruled

God is telling Cain, “Don’t diminish who you are”
– our only hope of not becoming sin’s slave is to become its master
• not by obsessing over it (that only gives it strength), but by “doing well”
• we choose to open door #1, rather than door #2

Cain has a choice–in fact, it is forced on him – free will is forced on him
– he finds himself torn between his heated emotions and God’s word
• for the moment, he has freedom to choose
• but some choices, once made, leave us imprisoned for rest of our lives
– my choices not only reveal who I am, but determine what I become
• God made me in his image
○ by my wrong choice, I turn myself into something else

Vv 8-16, Now a pattern emerges

1. God spoke to Cain as he had to Adam and Eve
2. Cain disobeyed God as had Adam and Eve
3. God interrogated Cain with same questions, Where? What have you done?
– only God had asked Adam, “Where are you?” Here he asks Cain, “Where is your brother?”
4. God followed the interrogation with a curse
– only here, there’s a significant difference
– God held back from cursing Adam and Eve, whom he had “blessed”
• only the ground was cursed, now “cursed are you . . . from the ground”

Notice the references to the ground (soil): v. 2, “tiller of ground,” v. 10, Abel’s voice cries “from the ground” v. 14, “face of the ground”
– no longer grounded, Cain becomes homeless
– he then leaves God’s presence (face) and journeys to Nod (vagrant)
• later, he built a city, Enoch or “initiated”
• he had been initiated into a world of fear and anxiety

Vv. 17-26, Two trends

We don’t have time to spend with Lamech
– nor do we know enough about his situation to pass judgment–although that’s never a problem for some Christians
• what we do know, is that his sons were very creative
– what were these discoverers, inventors, and artists doing?
• they were looking for ways to survive the curse
– they managed to make world less terrifying, threatening, and more beautiful
• but they didn’t find a way out of the curse

The birth of Seth signals the rebirth of hope
– people “began to call upon the name of the LORD”
– it is here, rather than with human invention, that we are liberated from the curse

CONC: Almost everyone who reads this thinks, “I’m not Cain”

But the story gets underneath the superficial differences between us and Cain
– after all, there is this person who chose to compete with me, or create conflict, or stands in the way of my happiness (or whatever),  or has spoiled my chance of a raise, or made my life harder
– the words of Jesus come back to us,

You have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder” and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his  brother shall be guilty before the court. . . (Mt. 5:21-24)
But I say to you, love your enemies . . . (Mt. 5:43-44)
Pray, then, in this way . . . “And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt. 6:9-12)

How do we get free from our heated passions that crouch at the door?
– not by will-power or a thousand extra prayers and fasting
– my soul needs a stronger agent to heal it – a spiritual antibiotic
• the love of Jesus Christ,
who shows me how to love my brother, just as he is, by loving me, just as I am

Jesus is not just a word, or name, but a person
– calling his name invites him into my corner – it intersects two realities

1.) Begin by taking two slow, deep breaths
2.) Next, accept the humility we learn through our weakness and failures
3.) Then identify the passion or feeling that burns within you
4.) And in the same breath as you name your passion, add the name of “Jesus”
– this is a way that we can allow him to redeem that negative thought or passion
– a way to let his redemption enter our souls, heal the wound, and supply us with grace

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