Lord's Day Evening Meditations February 9, 2003
Genesis 4:1-22

Cain and Abel

This story about two brothers, brings us back almost to the beginning of man's time on earth. Adam and Eve had sinned and had been put out of the garden. This was the beginning of their family, the first family on earth. The two boys grew up and Abel became "a keeper of sheep," while Cain became "a tiller of the ground." We cannot help but think that their parents told them what had happened in the garden and the results of their fall. The time came when they presented themselves to God, each with an offering. Cain "brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof." God accepted Abel's offering and refused Cain's. In our natural way of thinking we would think that that wasn't fair, that was favouritism; but no, this illustrates a truth that is fundamental to the gospel, a truth that still applies today.

Why was Abel's offering acceptable to God when Cain's wasn't? It was because Abel's offering involved death and blood-shedding, whereas Cain's didn't. You see, both these men were sinners, as we all are also. Now God has only one treatment for sin; that is death. He had told man at the beginning, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." The New Testament reaffirms that when it says, "The wages of sin is death." Rom. 6:23. In his sacrifice, Abel recognized that as a sinner he was under the judgment of death, and that the only way that he could approach God was through the death of a victim. He owned the judgment he deserved in the death and blood of the victim that he placed between himself and God.

Cain ignored all of this. He presumed to come to God his own way with no recognition of his state as a sinner. That is the way of the world. They want to come to God, but in their own way. Cain was a religious man, but Cain's religion was one of pride and self-will. He would come to God on his own conditions, regardless of what God required. It is sad to see how a majority of people follow Cain's way. But that was not all. God had said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake," and now Cain brought "of the fruit of the ground," a gift for the Lord. That was an insult to God, expecting Him to receive the fruit of the curse caused by man's sin! No wonder God did not accept his offering! Sadly, Cain is not alone in his error. Millions since have done the same thing, expecting to obtain acceptance before God on the ground of the works of their own evil nature, totally disregarding the fact that as sinners they are under God's judgment.

How did Abel know what was acceptable to God? Heb. 11:4 tells us: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous." We have often spoken of the importance of faith. It is by faith alone that we recognize our condition as sinners before God, and that the "more excellent sacrifice" that Abel offered speaks of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. God's judgment on sin is death, either the death of the sinner, or the death of an acceptable substitute. So, whether we like it or not, "Without the shedding of blood is no remission."

See how, in Heb. 11, Abel was counted righteous, on the ground of the sacrifice that he brought, and "he being dead yet speaketh." Yes, Abel has a message for us tonight. He tells us that righteousness before God can only be obtained by means of the death of a victim - for us, the death of Christ at Calvary. God called Abel a righteous man, and we also can be counted righteous before God if, by faith, we accept the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.

Now let's look at Cain; there we see human nature so clearly portrayed. When his offering was refused he was angry. But God told him, "Why art thou wroth? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" He had only to recognize his mistake and bring the proper offering and then he would be accepted also. But no, Cain wanted things his own way, and if that didn't work, then he would be angry and take it out on someone. Since he couldn't vent his anger on God, he took it out on his brother and killed him. "And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." 1 John 3:12. Cain was too proud to own that he was wrong, and he was jealous of his brother who was right. Human nature hasn't changed over 6000 years!

God spoke to Cain after he had killed his brother and said, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." Abel's blood cried for vengeance on the murderer, but see what we have in Heb. 12:24 - "The blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." The blood of Abel cried for vengeance, but the blood of Christ cries for mercy on the guilty. What a contrast!

Part of the judgment of God on Cain was, "A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth." v. 12. A fugitive is always running away from danger, and a vagabond has no home, but is forever wandering from one place to another. We have seen Cain as one who was proud and willful; this last judgment didn't change him or reach his conscience. We read, "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord." There was no repentance, no bowing to the will of God; no, if God wouldn't accept his willful ways, then he would turn his back on God, and that is just what he did. He didn't say it in words, but his actions from that point on said, "I will not be a fugitive and a vagabond. I will make myself happy and comfortable on this earth." And he immediately set about reversing God's judgment on him.

The first thing that he did was that he built a city. Then, in his descendants, he began to develop agriculture, the arts, and industry. Here we have the beginning of "the world." Not that it is wrong to farm or to make things. The point was, that man would make himself happy and comfortable, without God! What Cain started then continues today. Every form of activity is followed with great interest, on one condition - God is excluded; and, if you don't believe me, go to any of the world's activities, and preach Christ, and see how well you'll be received! Not that people are not religious; they are, because we were made in such a way that we are not complete without God. However, the true God does not suit man's lusts, and so he must have a god of his own making-a god who meets his need of someone to worship, and yet who will allow him to follow his own will and lusts. That is what idolatry, the worship of idols, is all about. Cain wouldn't accept God's requirements, and so, in his pride and self-will, he set about developing a society according to his own thoughts in which the claims of the true God are denied. That is the world as we know it today-many great works and achievements, much activity, but the claims of God and of Christ are denied.

Abel suffered for his faith, but he sets before us the way of faith still today. The sacrifice he brought to God was the means of his acceptance, and it speaks of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, the only way that we can have acceptance before God as well. Cain became a prosperous man on the earth, making himself happy and comfortable without God. He has led the way on that broad road that leads to destruction, for there is a time coming when all accounts will have to be settled. So we have two men, Abel, the man of faith who shows us the way of acceptance with God, which is eternal blessing, and Cain, the man of the world who originated the world system which goes on without God and will end in eternal judgment. Which of these two men are you following? S.L.

We do not really realize what sin is before God. See the Lord Jesus in the garden in Luke 22. As He prayed "His sweat was as great drops of blood falling down to the ground," because He knew what it would be to be made sin and be forsaken of God. Accept Him as your Saviour, otherwise you will suffer the consequences of your sins in the place of eternal torment. E.B.