Cain Rejects God’s Sovereignty
Key verse: 4:7
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
In the last passage we thought about the terrible choice Adam and Eve made when they decided to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We also thought about the consequences of their decision. First, their love relationship with God was broken. Instead of enjoying time with Him as He walked in the garden they now hid from Him out of fear. Second, their relationship with each other was also broken. Instead of accepting responsibility for what he did, Adam blamed Eve for giving him the fruit to eat. Third, God had to punish them. Because of what Eve did, all women now have to suffer to bear children and their desire was changed from a desire to know and love God to a desire for their husbands who rule over them. Because of what Adam did, the ground was cursed and now man has to struggle just to survive. Finally, God had to kick them out of the garden so that they could no longer “reach out his hand and take also form the tree of like and eat, and live forever”; man would “surely die” just as God had said.
In today’s passage we will see that the consequences of their sin did not stop there. Once sin entered the world, it spread and became worse. Genesis chapter 4 tells us about Adam and Eve’s first three children, Cain, Able and Seth. We also learn a little about the children’s descendants and the beginnings of human culture and civilization. May God bless our study of this passage and open our spiritual eyes to clearly see the terrible consequences of sin. May He also open our hearts to accept His words of warning and give us the strength to fight the spiritual battle to master sin.
First, Abel’s right attitude before God (1-5a). Look at verse one. “Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.’” Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve so Eve had never experienced the pain of childbirth that was part of her punishment from God. We can’t imagine how much she must have suffered, but even through this suffering Eve did not forget God or curse Him. Instead, she named her son Cain, thanking the LORD for his help in bringing him into the world. This shows us an often overlooked thanksgiving topic - we should thank God for helping us get through the difficult times in our life. Suffering can tempt us to forget about God, or worse yet, blame him for our misery. But when we suffer we should not forget God or blame Him, rather we should pray and ask for His strength to get us through the suffering. When the suffering is over we should praise and thank Him for helping us get through it.
Verse two tells us that Adam and Eve had a second son named Abel. Abel became a shepherd and took care of flocks while Cain became a farmer and worked the soil. In the course of time both Cain and Abel brought an offering to God. Let’s read verses 4b and 5a together; “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” Why would God accept Abel’s offering and not Cain’s? If we look at what they each offered to God we can get a sense of their attitude in their offering. The NIV says, “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil” as his offering. This suggests that Cain wasn’t concerned about offering the best he had to God, he thought it was good enough just to offer something to God. The Bible says that “Abel brought fat portions from some of the first born of his flock.” Abel chose the best and most precious portion of his flock, the first born. And from them, Abel offered the best portions to God, the fat portions. The first born of Abel’s flock were God’s first blessings to Abel as a shepherd. So Abel offered these back to God as thanksgiving. Abel had a right attitude in his offering to God but Cain did not, so God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.
This shows us that God looks at our hearts and not just the outward appearances of our actions. Both Cain and Abel brought something to God as an offering. They performed the same act, but God accepted one and rejected the other. Likewise, we can do the same things as other servants of God, but if our heart is not right with God, God will not accept it. When we offer something to God we should first examine our heart and ask ourselves why we are offering it. Are we offering it simply because we think we should offer something to God? Or are we offering something out of a thankful heart for everything God has given us? Are we offering just anything to God, or are we offering Him our very best? God is the source of everything we have and He deserves not only the best of our material goods, but the best of our hearts. That means we must make our offerings to God with heart felt thanks and offer the best that we have to Him.
Second, Cain rejects God’s sovereignty (5b-8). What was Cain’s reaction to God’s decision not to look with favor on his offering? Look at verse 5b. “So Cain was very angry and his face was downcast.” Cain was “very angry” that God accepted his brother’s offering but rejected his. What right did Cain have to angry about this? None. God is our creator. He is absolutely sovereign over us and over all creation. We have no right to get angry about what He decides to do. Instead of getting angry over a situation that God has put us in we should come to Him in prayer and ask Him how we can make the situation better. We should ask Him how we can be right with Him again.
Cain did not go to God to see how he could offer an acceptable offering. He just became very angry and went around sulking. God saw Cain’s pain and his problem. God loved Cain and did not want to leave him like this, so God went to Cain. Let’s read verse 7 together. “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’” God provided a way out for Cain; do what is right and you will be accepted. But Cain chose not to listen to God. Cain chose his own way to solve his anger problem. Look at verse 8. “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” There was no commandment against killing others yet, but Cain knew that God had accepted Abel and his offering so he also knew that killing Abel could not be right in God’s eyes. But Cain chose to do this. Cain rejected God’s words. Cain rejected God’s sovereignty.
God did not have to go to Cain, but He did because He loved him and wanted to accept him. Likewise, God did not have to send Jesus, but He did. God did this because He loves us and wants to have a right relationship with us. He wants to accept us, so He gave us Jesus and His word. But if we don’t accept Jesus and listen to Him, sin is crouching at our door. We all know that sin desires to have us because we are tempted every day. But just as God said to Cain, we must master sin. We can not do this on our own. We must accept Jesus in our hearts. Only Jesus can wash away the guilt of our sins so we can have a right relationship with God. Only Jesus can give us the strength to overcome the temptations of the devil. We must remember 1 Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Jesus is our way out. We must accept Him in our hearts so that we can stand up under the devil’s temptation and master sin. God’s words were Cain’s way out, but Cain did not listen to God - we must not make the same mistake.
Third, Cain’s punishment was more than he could bear (9-16). After Cain had killed his brother, God came and visited him again. God asked him, “Where is your brother Abel?” God did not ask Cain this because He wanted to know where Abel was. God knew exactly where Abel was and He knew how he got there. God asked Cain this question to help Cain repent. God wanted Cain to accept responsibility for what he had done and seek God’s forgiveness. But once again, Cain did not choose to do the right thing. Instead he chose to try to lie to God. Look at verse 9b. “’I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’” This answer reveals just how corrupted Cain’s heart had become. Somehow the devil had convinced Cain that he could outwit God just by lying to Him. This is how sin corrupts each of us. The more we sin the more we think we can get away with it. Sin is rejecting God’s sovereignty in our life. When we reject His sovereignty, we think we can do whatever we want. The more we do what we want, the more spiritually blind we become. Eventually we think that God can’t see us doing wrong, but He can. He knows exactly what each of us has done. So instead of trying to lie to God and deny our sins, we must bring them to Jesus and repent.
When God saw that Cain was not going to repent He had no choice but to confront Cain with his sin and punish him. God told Cain that Abel’s blood cried out to him from the ground. Then God cursed Cain, driving him from that land. God also cursed the work of Cain’s hands so that the ground would no longer yield crops for him. Because of what Cain did, God cursed him to be a restless wanderer on the earth. God had given Cain the opportunity to do what was right. When Cain chose to kill his brother instead, God gave him the opportunity to repent. When he chose not to repent, God had no choice but to punish him.
When Cain heard his punishment he could not accept it. Look at verses 13 and 14, “Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the face of the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’” What God did next is remarkable. Cain had rejected God’s sovereignty and then refused to repent before Him, yet God still loved Cain enough to put a mark of protection on him. God even promised to take revenge on anyone who killed Cain seven times over.
Cain’s punishment was more than he could bear. The same is true for us today. The punishment for our sins is more than we bear. But we don’t have to bear this punishment because Jesus has already born it for us. All we have to do is repent and accept Jesus. Let us not be like Cain who rejected God’s opportunity to repent.
Fourth, two family lines (17-26). Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod. He found a wife and started a family. The Bible traces this family genealogy for five generations after Cain. Cain’s great-great-great grandson was a man named Lamech. A brief look at Lamech’s life shows how much sin had spread and the direction this line of Adam and Eve’s family took. The first thing we learn about Lamech was that he was a polygamist. This is not how God established marriage. He made Adam one wife and established their marriage. According to God’s plan a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife - not his wives. The second thing we learn about Lamech and his family is that they were the forefathers of those who live in tents and raise livestock and those who play the harp and flute. Here we see the beginnings of human culture, but one thing is missing in this culture; there is no mention of God in the culture they established. And finally, we can see how corrupt and proud sin had made man. Look at verses 23 and 24. “Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.’” Sin had so corrupted Lamech that he claimed for himself the role of God. It was God who pronounced His vengeance for anyone who killed Cain, now Lamech not only pronounced this vengeance for himself, he multiplied by 10. Adam and Eve’s family line through Cain produced a Godless and proud civilization.
But there was a second line to Adam and Eve’s family. Look at verse 25. “Adam lay with his wife again and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, ‘God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.’” In this chapter we only learn of Adam and Eve’s grandson Enosh through this line, but the Bible tells us something very important about this side of Adam and Eve’s family. Look at verse 26b. “At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.” This side of the family did not leave God out of there lives. They called on the name of the LORD. It was this line of Adam and Eve’s family tree that would eventually produce Noah.
In this passage we thought about four main topics. First, we must have a right attitude before God and offer him the best of what we have out of a sincere, thankful heart. Second, we thought about Cain’s choice to reject the sovereignty of God and about how to avoid making the same mistake. Third, the consequences of rejecting God’s sovereignty are more than we can bear. We have all sinned and rejected His sovereignty but He has given us the opportunity to repent through Jesus. Fourth, we thought about the two lines of Adam and Eve’s family tree - one line rejected God and built a godless and proud society and the other called on the name of the LORD. May God help us to have a proper attitude before Him, to accept His words and His Son Jesus in our hearts, and to call on the name of the LORD everyday.