Genesis Day 11: From bad to worse
As if things weren’t bad enough with Adam and Eve having to leave the Garden, we now read about a murder.
Cain and Abel… how do you process this story? Is there anything to learn from it?
Asking these questions leads me to look at this story of Cain and Abel from a few perspectives. First, I want to simply look at why God might not be impressed with Cain’s gift. I don’t want to stop there. I want to then note what God does. Finally, I want to simply ask, “What is Cain’s problem with God?”
In Chapter 4 of Genesis we encounter, just as we did in Chapter 3, a story of humans and God. It would be easy to read the story as an isolated event. But just as in Chapter 3, there are levels. The level of the actual story, and the level of our story.
Some people read this story and see God as mean, finicky and demanding. As if God’s reaction to Cain is what set the murderous plot in motion. Perhaps they are projecting an attitude.
Consider: both Cain and Abel bring offerings to God. God accepts Abel’s offering, but does not accept Cain’s.
What is the difference in the offerings? At first blush, Cain’s is fruit from the ground and Abel’s is from animals. Produce versus meat. But a little deeper reading will show that Abel’s is the “firstborn”. Perhaps that is a hint.
To give to God your “firstborn” or “first fruit” shows that you know where this all is coming from—God! It also means you trust God. Why? Because you’ve given to God before you’ve even given to yourself. And perhaps there won’t be a second born, or a second harvest. A storm, or blight, or some other catastrophe, could occur.
In our story, Cain’s reaction to God’s not being pleased with his offering is anger. God notices.
And God does more than notice, God engages. He speaks to Cain. “If you do well, will you not be accepted. And if you do not do well, sin crouches at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen. 4:7).
There is something going on inside Cain’s heart.
Cain fails to “rule over it”. His subsequent action, the murder of his brother, reveals a deep attitude. Is it jealousy? What is the source of this rage? We do not know. What we know, however, is that Cain’s heart has issues. God even tried to get Cain to address it.
Maybe he didn’t really want to bring the offering. Maybe he didn’t want to bring the best, or the first. We don’t know, but God does.
Please understand, obedience pleases God, but not when it is done with a wrong heart. Obedience done in love thrills God.
Imagine, if Cain simply asked, in a humble way, “God, why do you prefer Abel’s offering over mine? Help me understand what you mean by ‘do well.’”
Often when I am frustrated with God, I will ask Him, “Why?” or “Help me understand.” What comes to my mind, often quickly, is that my heart is wrong. And God is way more interested in my inner motives and moods, my heart, than in what I am trying to get accomplished. Because my heart issue is an issue that is keeping me from loving God.
Imagine if Cain had a conversation with God, and found out that God loved him just as much as God loved Abel. Imagine if Cain acknowledged to God how he was struggling. Imagine if Cain asked God for help with his own inner issues. Imagine what might have taken place instead of murder.
I am not suggesting that God would have “waved a magic wand” and made everything better.
I am simply asking, “What does this story reveal?” It seems to me it reveals that the condition of our heart is terribly important. Further, we can hide our heart from God—even when He engages us as He did Cain.
Perhaps what I am suggesting is that you work hard to stay connected to God—even when you are confused, even frustrated. Keeping focused on God may prevent you from doing stupid, even disastrous, things.