The Expository Files


Walking Cain
“ will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth."   
Genesis 4:1-13


"When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth. Cain said to the LORD, 'My punishment is too great to bear!'”
(Genesis 4:12-13).

How had it come to this? Things had escalated way out of control. Once the problems could have been easily corrected but now things would never be the same.

Life often turns out like that when we try to correct one mistake by making another. It never makes things better.

God had taken great interest in helping Cain, but He had no interest in making Cain's decisions for him. He had pointed Cain in the right direction but Cain was free to chose his own course. It remains so with us today.

The Initial Problem
“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.” (Genesis 4:3-5a).
It had not been by some arbitrary choice that God had found Abel's offering acceptable but rejected the offering of Cain. The Genesis account does not go into detail at all as to why the Lord “had no regard” for Cain and his offering, but other Scripture sheds a little more light on why there was a problem.

Abel's sacrifice was better than Cain's because Abel offered his “by faith” (Hebrews 11:4). That is what made his worship acceptable unto God. The implication we make is that Cain's offering was rejected because it was not offered “by faith”.

There are several possibilities as to why Cain's offering was not “by faith” and as far as I know we are not told exactly why.

It could be that God had commanded an animal sacrifice of worshippers but Cain had offered of the fruit of the ground while Abel offered an animal sacrifice. But we're not sure what the Lord had commanded as an offering at that time and know that later, under the Old Law, He commanded both kinds; animal offerings as well as grain offerings.

It could also be Cain's attitude as he worshipped. Perhaps he was going through the motions but without conviction. That would be something like partaking of the Lord's Supper without conviction. Such worship is not acceptable in any time because it is not by faith.

Cain's Anger
“... but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?'” (Genesis 4:5-6).

Cain became angry that God had rejected his worship while accepting his brother's. The New Testament has this to say about anger: “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20).

It was time for Cain to listen carefully, but he wasn't really in the mood to listen. Unless he becomes willing to hear the counsel of the Lord he will continue heading the wrong way until disaster results.

Harboring anger brings bitterness and resentment. Often people will vent this anger toward people who are seeking to please the Lord. The world often reacts with viciousness against those seeking to live righteously by faith. Seldom do angry men stop to ask themselves the real reasons behind their anger toward God and His people.

God Reasons With Cain
“Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6,7).

God was not through with Cain. With great patience He counseled and encouraged Cain to do the right thing. He was gentle with Cain as He warned of the danger of continuing his present course. This is the same God that we serve today, who calls the world to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Cain did not deserve this grace. He was angry without good reason after having spoiled his own offering by his own lack of faith. The problem was not the Lord's, nor was it Abel's. It was his own, and he would have to be the one to correct it.

That, too, is not unlike our own situations. If we harbor ill feelings and sinful attitudes in our hearts, dwelling on them in our imaginations we will also find bitterness result. We will find ourselves in opposition to what is true and righteous every time. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.” (James 3:14).

Disaster and Aftermath
“Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Where is Abel your brother?' And he said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?' He said, 'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.'” (Genesis 4:8-10).

Of course, God did not need the confession of Cain concerning what had happened to his brother. The statement “The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground” is very thought-provoking. If the blood of Abel is crying up to God, then we must ask, “What is it saying?” Is it calling for justice? For vengeance? Is it expressing it's sorrow? I do not suppose we really know.

But we do know this. Abel's was not the last innocent blood to be shed. There would be others (Matthew 23:35). But let us now focus on one particular event where blood was shed and cries up unto God. “...and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24).

Jesus' blood, we know, does not call out for vengeance. It calls out for mercy and forgiveness. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7). That is better than the blood of Abel could do.

As far as we know, God never spoke directly to Cain again after assigning his punishment (Genesis 4:11-16). It could have turned out so much differently; so much better. Those who live as Cain lived will also one day hear a final word from God as they enter into judgment. Again, it can turn out so much better for us. Will we listen to what God has told us? Will we allow the blood of His Son to speak for us?

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 16.12; December 2009