In this message, The Curse of Cain, Stephen reminds us that God's way isn't merely the best way . . . it's the only way.
“THE CURSE OF CAIN”
Genesis chapter 4 is where we find our place this evening. Genesis 4, we are going to cover the balance of the entire chapter, as a matter of fact there is a lot to cover and I felt in my study that this would be a good illustration of sin; because, as we study this morning, all men are sinners, all men are condemned, all men are without excuse. Here we find the priority (?) rearing its ugly head--they are just outside the garden.
Genesis 4, before we begin let’s have a word of prayer together. Again, Father it is a privilege to approach your word to study from its pages; because we know, whenever we come and pitch our mental and spiritual tents inside your word, You will meet us--with clear and direct teaching, application. And yet we are aware, Father, that, as we come tonight, there is someway, somehow, something that in your divine plan we are to change about ourselves. Because whenever we look into the mirror of the word we see a reflection that is less than perfect--rather than discouraging us You intend that to challenge us to conform ourselves to the image of the mirror of your word, thus the image of Your Son. So we come with open hearts, open minds, and the willingness to change. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Chapter 4 provides the only authoritative account of early civilization. And this is a little different of course than what you might find in the scientists’ accounts or the anthropological writings who would suggest that early man was a cave man that walked around carrying a club dragging his woman by the hair on her head. That isn’t exactly true. As a matter of fact, early man was incredibly intelligent. They were geniuses. As we will find in the ancestors of Cain the first and second generation of Adam and Eve, they were creating incredible things. They were inventing musical instruments, metallurgy--they were inventing all kinds of things that would take a primitive society and rapidly move it toward the kind of society that you and I enjoy in many ways today. So don’t be fooled by what society says of early men, they were not dumb cave men, they were brilliant men as we discover in this chapter. Now when you study the life of Cain as we are going to tonight in Genesis 4, the first question I usually hear, as I mentioned this morning another question that I hear, when studying the life of Cain, you always hear, “Where did Cain get his wife?:” Usually, that’s the person that doesn’t want to talk about anything related to the Gospel; but they will say, “Where did Cain get his wife? Explain that to me and I will believe the rest of the Bible.” Well let me at least answer that tonight very quickly before we get into the rest of Cain’s autobiography. Cain married his sister. Now, before the law came, when God gave these genetic boundaries and thus the penalty for breaking these boundaries, men and women were married within the family. It was the command of God to multiply and fill the earth. Obviously Adam and Eve were the only parents. We know from Genesis 5, verse 4: Adam lived for 900 and some years, and you notice what happens during those hundreds of years--he has a lot of children. “And the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters.” He multiplied his little corner of the earth. His quiver was full. Cain had quite a selection. He chose one of his sisters. Now, the more important question is addressed in chapter 4. Let’s begin with verse 1. “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. And she said, ‘I’ve gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.’” That’s interesting because I believe that that is a simple statement of faith that Eve is resting on the promise of God to bring a man, a seed, from her womb that would be the Savior. Of course it isn’t Cain. Verse 2: “Afterward she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks.” He was the first herdsman. He was the first shepherd. “But Cain was a tiller of the ground.” That is, he was the first farmer. Both of these were worthy occupations. These are ones that they chose. “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. And 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 his offering. But for Cain and for his offering, He had no regard.” Let me answer one question: Why is it that God refused the offering of Cain? If you have your notes, let me give you three. Three reasons why God refused Cain’s offering.
The first--because it was bloodless. We read in the New Testament Book of Hebrews, chapter 9 that there is no atoning or remission for sin apart from the shedding of blood. Now there are some views out there that I will not take time to address that suggest that Cain came to God with a bad attitude. It is because of his attitude that God rejected his offering. Yet I think that there are some things in the text that would indicate otherwise. First, I want you to notice they both brought an offering. That is no coincidence. It says, “It came about in the course of time that both Cain and Abel brought an offering.” Now these are terms related to the giving of offering. I think implied here is the fact that Abel and Cain built an altar. On that altar they placed their offerings. Where did Cain know and learn that they were to bring an offering to God? I think, this is an argument of course without text, but I think God instructed them by their parents, Adam and Eve. Let me give you another reason why I believe the reason it was rejected was because it was without blood.
The second thing was that they both came at an appointed time. Notice again the phrase, in the course of time. What I’m trying to do here is to prove that God gave them revelation about bringing sacrifices to God. The phrase, it came about in the course of time, could be literally translated: at the end of days, a reference to the Sabbath day. These men brought their offerings on the seventh day, was that coincidental? Absolutely not. It was a result of revelation.
I think that revelation, thirdly, would be given in chapter 3 verse 21: “Now the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and (personal) He clothed them.” I think what had happened in the Garden, as we studied earlier, Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin with fig leaves. That was not sufficient, because that was the work of their own hands. God kills some animals and takes the skins and He comes along and clothes them. I think in that clothing He gave them added revelation. There is only one way to atone for sin. You cannot cover it with the leaf of a tree. You must cover, atone for it--by the way, atonement means covering. You must do that by the shedding of blood. By the giving of another life. Fig leaves will never atone. So I think God refused Cain’s offering because first of all it was bloodless.
Secondly, because it was the fruit of his own hands. It was the fruit of his own hands. This is the religion of the world from the time of Cain. We will approach God by the works of our hands. We will seek to satisfy a holy God by something that we do. That was insufficient. Because our own works can never atone for sin.
Thirdly, I think it was because it was the fruit of the ground. It was the fruit of the ground. Cain ignored the curse. chapter 3 verse 17, look back with me at the passage we studied earlier. “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you’ve listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying you shall not eat from it. (Note the curse.) Cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.’” The earth had been cursed. There is nothing from this earth by the works of our hands that ever satisfy a holy God. Cain tried. I think he rebelled against known revelation. Revelation from God. Seeing that they both brought an offering on the Sabbath day. Now, notice what happens when God confronts Cain. “For Cain (verse 5 of chapter 4) and his offering God took no regard that as He turned his back on the offering. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your countenance fallen?’” Well again, it’s almost as if God says, “Cain, you know what you’re supposed to do. Why, now that you’ve disobeyed, are you angry at me?” Notice what he says. “If you do well, (what would that be? Obviously, if you do what I tell you to do) will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not well, sin is crouching at the door.” The word crouch is used by the ancients of a lion who is crouching and ready to pounce on his prey. He says, “If you disregard my will, my revelation, my word, sin like a lion is crouching at your door ready to pounce. You are open prey.” Notice what he says in the next phrase. “And sin’s desire is for you.” Does that ring a bell? You remember in chapter 3, verse 16, notice what God told the woman. “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth and in pain you shall bring forth children. Yet your desire shall be for your husband.” Same phrase here in referring to Cain’s sin. In other words, “Your sin has the desire to control you.” Just because of the fall women now try to control their husbands. It’s part of the fall. Part of the curse. It is part of sin, where a woman tries to manipulate and control her husband. So you disregard my will and sin will manipulate you. Sin will control you if you disregard my will.
Now, I want you to notice the five-fold result of Cain’s sin. By the way, Cain’s sin was not murder. Cain’s sin was disobedience. Murder is the first of five results of his sin. If you’re taking notes, that’s the first result. Five things happen because Cain disobeyed God’s revelation. The first thing: he murdered his brother. Look at verse 8: “And Cain told Abel, his brother, (what was he telling him? He was telling him about God. Perhaps he was arguing that God was playing favorites. We don’t know.) And it came about when they were in the field that Cain rose up against his brother and killed him.” The Bible refers to Abel as a prophet. Perhaps, if we could go back in time, we could watch two men out in the field. We can’t hear what they’re saying, but we note that there’s a heated argument going on. Cain is raising his fist to heaven. Abel is perhaps pleading that he repent. Finally Cain in his heated passion picks up a blunt instrument or even takes his hands and beats Abel to death there in the field. He rose up and he killed him.
I want you to notice the second result of his sin. That is, if you’re taking notes: he lied to God. “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’” You know how, when Adam sinned, God comes along and asks him a question? Well here again, he’s talking to the second generation. He gives him a chance to repent. He says, “Where is Abel your brother?” Note Cain’s response: “I don’t know.” That’s a lie. He knows the exact spot where he’s buried Abel. So that no one will discover his sin. So he lies. He says, “I don’t know.” And then he asks the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” By the way, let me ask you a question. What is the answer to that? Am I my brother’s keeper? Is the answer yes or no? The answer is yes, you are your brother’s keeper. You do have a responsibility for your brother. Not only that family member but of course in the New Testament, in the body of Christ, you and I have a responsibility for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. There is a great sense where I am to know and I am to be concerned about where my brother is spiritually. Where his life is. Where she resides in a relationship with God. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. And he said, verse 10, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” He murders his brother and then lies to God. Isn’t that so true of us? One of the first things to follow sin is a lie. Children lie to parents because they’re living in sin. Parents lie to children to justify perhaps their sin. Husbands lie to wives, and wives lie to husbands. Why? Because there’s sin at the door. To cover it, to clothe it we begin telling one lie after another. Soon it multiplies and becomes a tangled web, and we begin wondering “What did I say?” Somebody said, “You never have to worry about what you said if you tell the truth.” So he began lying.
I want you to notice the third effect of his sin. He lost his first love. He lost his first love. Look at verse 11: “And now you are cursed from the ground which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it shall no longer yield its strengths to you.” Now, we can only understand this if we try to understand tonight Cain. There’s a breed of men out there called farmers, and they love the earth. Their greatest joy is watching the stalks of corn wave in the breeze. They get no more satisfaction out of anything other than knowing that their barns are filled with fresh hay. They love the ground. Love it. It’s their love, their life. Cain chose the occupation because he loved the ground. He loved the earth. It was his greatest joy to plant seed and see it grow and multiply. He brought to God the best things his hands had produced by his labor. He loved it, and God took it away from him. In effect He said, “Cain, the earth is cursed but now the earth is going to ignore your hand. That means, Cain, that you’re going to go out there and plant seed, and nothing is going to happen.” That would be the nightmare of a farmer. I can imagine that Cain probably went out immediately to test, and he probably planted some seed and watered it and watched over it for a few months, perhaps kneeling there trying to coax it out of the ground, watering the ground with his tears. “Please grow.” Yet the curse stood true. The earth ignored Cain, a man who loved it so much. The tragedy of sin.
I want you to notice fourthly that Cain lost his sense of permanence and direction. The last part of verse 12: “You shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” In other words, you’re going to leave this place and you’re going to spend the rest of you life wandering around. There again we cannot help to understand this unless we think in terms of what a farmer is like. Most farmers are born, they grow up, they live and they die in the same town. I was born in Worthington, Minnesota, just next to Butterfield, Minnesota. It’s a farming community. I haven’t been back in ten years. We used to go back every summer, and I can still remember in my mind’s eye that little main street, the general store that was run for many decades by my aunt and uncle. All of the people in town knew each other. They were people of the earth. They farmed. In fact, my father was raised in a farmer’s home, and he sold his inheritance and joined the Air Force and moved to the city. That’s how I was raised in the city. There in that little town of Worthington and Butterfield life is so simple. They live close to the ground, and you know the roots are deep. They’ve lived there all their lives. There’s a real sense of permanence. Nothing exciting in our definition ever happens. In fact, their version of a crime wave would be some teenagers riding through town at eleven o’clock at night on their motorcycles or something. Nothing really flamboyant ever occurs. It’s simply you get up and you farm, you eat, you go to bed. And yet, they love it that way. You couldn’t pull them into Raleigh if you tried.
I want you to think in terms of that when you think of Cain. Perhaps you read and I’m sure you’ve heard about all of the farmers over the last decade that have lost their farms. You and I will never understand unless you’ve been raised on a farm the agony of their hearts--to auction off what has been in the family for decades, generations, years. This is their life! Their roots! They live in the same home where grandpa and grandma lived, and now they’re losing it. See that’s how he felt. That’s the tragedy of sin. Because God would virtually tell Cain, “Yank up all the roots. From now on, you wander. No more permanence. No more stability.”
Fifthly, the last effect of his sin was that he lost his fellowship with God. Cain said in verse 13, I hope you can understand this a little better, “Cain said to the Lord, my punishment is too great to bear. Behold thou hast driven me from this day from the face of the ground and from thy face I shall be hidden, and I shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and it will come about that whoever finds me will kill me. So the Lord said to him, ‘Whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord appointed a sign” (not a mark but a sign for Cain--we don’t know what it was but something whereby, when everyone saw, they knew they weren’t to touch Cain.) Cain was to live under the curse for his entire life. Then verse 16: “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord. (There’s the phrase.) Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and he dwelt in the land of Nod.” Nod is the Hebrew word which means the land of wandering. He would wander the rest of his life. It’s interesting that Cain rebelled against the curse because the text tells us that he tried to build the city to gain some kind of permanence. The Hebrew text indicates this is not a completion of the work. In other words, he began to build, he never finished, his children probably finished for him. He continued wandering - a fugitive from God. No sign of repentance. No sign of confession. You never hear Cain say, “Okay, Lord, just a second. I’ll go and get a lamb and be right back.” Uh-uh! He took his basket of fruit, and we have every indication that he walked away from God forever.
It tells us in verse 18 of his family: “To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad became the father of Mehujael; and Mehujael became the father of Methushael; and Methushael became the father of Lamech. And Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of one was Adah. The name of the other Zillah. And Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents.” This guy invented the tent and he took us home with him. “...and have livestock. And his brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and the pipe. As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron.” You know it didn’t take millions of years for them to discover how to use iron and bronze. “...and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. And Lamech said to his wives (in his proud heart) ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to my voice, you wives of Lamech, give heed to my speech, for I have killed a man for wounding me; and a boy for striking me. If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamaech seventy-sevenfold.” In other words, I am more wicked than my father, and I am proud of it. “And Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, ‘God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel; for Cain killed him.’ And to Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
Let me give you two thoughts. Two thoughts from the life, the biography of Cain. It’s brief, and yet it’s painful. The man who rejected the revelation of God took his own approach to God in his own hands and said, “I’ll come to you, God, in my way.” And like those today who say they will approach God their way, God rejects them. The first thought is this: Disobedience to God never makes sense. The price is too great. The penalty is more severe than any enjoyment you or I could ever receive from sin. Disobeying God never, never makes sense. I can remember growing up, listening to my father at the Friday night Bible study. He would ask the question, and I use to chuckle because I knew what was coming. He would ask the question. Men, give me three logical reasons why you sin. It was great. These guys pop up their hands, the devil made me do it. You know all these things. He’d go around and finally prove to them there’s no logical reason, no sensible reason why you or I would ever disobey God. Disobedience never, never makes sense.
Secondly, obedience to God begins with a choice. Obedience to God begins with a choice. I want you to note. I haven’t spent any time on this, but this is probably a sermon in itself. Both boys were born into the same home. Both boys had the same advantages. Both had the same amount of revelation from God. Yet they proved to us that obedience is dependent upon choice. One chose to follow the revelation of God. The other one chose to disobey the revelation of God. One came with pride, the other one with humility. An interesting thought. One came the way God suggested. The other one came his own way.
I love the story--and we will close with this. Of Charlotte Elliott who was a very troubled young lady. She was not a Christian, in fact, was rebelling against what she knew was true. She had been raised in a godly home. Finally, one evening her parents out of desperation invited a visiting preacher into their home for dinner. He came in and began talking about the Lord at the table. They were asking questions that he would answer that would perhaps probe into the heart of their daughter so that she would come to Christ. Finally she blew up, and in a rage stomped off. They finished their meal in silence. Finally she, sorry for her outburst, came back to the table. The family had been dismissed and only the preacher was there. He began urging her to choose Christ. She was so overwhelmed with all of her pride, with all of her sense of worth, that it took some talking to reveal to her that she was in fact a sinner. Finally, after an hour or two of discussion, the record reads that she broke down. Then the greatest obstacle to her mind and heart was the fact that she was too sinful for God to ever accept her. She was too filled with herself, her own works. The pastor began saying, “Charlotte, you’ve got to come to God just like you are. Come to God just like you are.” Still the light didn’t break. He left. She stayed up all night with those words ringing in her mind, until finally the Spirit of God made it clear. Her own testimony is written in a way that we sing. In fact we sang it this morning. I want to read you the words that Charlotte Elliott wrote. “Just as I am without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me. And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God I come, I come. Just as I am and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot. To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God I come, I come. Just as I am though tossed about with many a conflict many a doubt fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God I come, I come. Just as I am thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve. Because, thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
The hope for our lives, men and women, as you well know, is the hope that Abel found in coming to God his way just as he was - a sinner. We’ve found the obedience of one and the rejection of another because he came in the way that he wanted. Oh, what a delight to know that, when I come to God by the way of the cross, just as I am. By the way, Jesus continually accepts us on that same basis that we just as we are have gone to Him. We can rest, just as we are, in Christ, forgiven, pardoned, and relieved. What a relief that is. Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for again your word. It’s an awesome thought to think that Cain in his pride never came to you in repentance. It’s also painful to think that Abel who obeyed you would lose his life because of that obedience. The same thing can happen today. I pray, Father, that, if there is someone even here tonight who has never approached You by the way You’ve revealed, that is by the way of the blood of the Lamb, that they would not rest until they rest in Thee. Thank you again, Lord, for the relief, the pardon, the joy that we can have, and challenge us to obey Your word, whether we understand it or not. Help us to have a distaste for disobedience and a love for obedience. In your name, Amen.