I’ve been studying Genesis 4 recently, trying to figure out the story of Cain and Abel so that it can be shared with children. (I’ve also been trying to organize flower bouquets for the wedding – more on that later.)
Here’s the story of Cain and Abel:
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 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 rule over it.”
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. (NIV)
After reading this I had three questions:
- What sets Abel apart from Cain?
- How does this murder story relate to the life of a third grader who lives in the New Testament when we no longer need to burn sacrifices to God?
- How does this story about the first brothers connect with the whole story of the Bible?
If you have similar questions I’d encourage you to click the link to this sermon about Cain and Abel. God used this sermon from 2013 found in a Google search and a bunch of silk ribbon to speak to my heart this week.
What sets Abel apart from Cain?
God doesn’t with hold His favor from Cain because Cain brings fruit or because God is barbaric and “likes” blood better. But God doesn’t with hold His favor from Cain “just because” either.
You are totally allowed to give fruit to God (Nehemiah 10, Leviticus 19:24). It’s recorded in the Bible as being used as a tithe to take care of the people working in the house of God and as a praise offering. God made fruit, so it belongs to Him (Genesis 1:11).
Some of the sources I looked at suggested that Cain didn’t give of his best fruit when he gave his fruit offering to God (maybe the apples were bruised). “Best” is a biblical principle. Offerings are supposed to be of the very best that you have (Leviticus 1-2), but everyone’s best is different. Think about the widow’s offering.
However, in Genesis 4, it seems the emphasis is more on the type of offering than on the quality of the offering. So why was the fruit in this instance not favorable to God?
Genesis 3:21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Readers can infer that an animal had to be killed to get the skin off it for the fur clothes. God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve because they realized they were naked after they sinned. This set a precedent that disobeying God is made up for only by the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Why blood? Blood gives life.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Cain and Abel fall into this category of “all.” If the offerings they were giving to God were atonement offerings then they needed to include the shedding of blood. They would have learned this offering “direction” from Adam and Eve, their parents, or directly from God, since He is seen speaking to Cain throughout the text. God says to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” Cain tried to just be awesome to get God’s favor instead of obeying God.
How does this murder story relate to the life of a third grader who lives in the New Testament when we no longer need to burn sacrifices to God?
In the New Testament, Cain is mentioned in the book of Jude and Abel is mentioned in Hebrews.
Jude 4& 11 “…They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord…They have taken the way of Cain…”
The way of Cain is described as using God’s grace as a license, as doing whatever appears good, but might not be obedient to God. Cain thought his works would bring him favor with God, but it is through grace we are saved.
Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.”
“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This just as well as could be said about Abel. And about us.
Abel was the first martyr to be murdered for seeking after God. God still showed grace to Cain even after he brought a disobedient offering and killed his brother.
I still didn’t feel like I was understanding the story.
How does this story about the first brothers connect with the whole story of the Bible?
I’ve been working really hard to make my flowers and the flowers for my bridesmaids for the wedding. I’m using a glue gun to assemble ribbon and gems and brooches. So many people have been graciously helping here and there, but I determined earlier this week that I still had at least 15 hours (and a lot of worry) to put into this project over the next 30 days. It’s feasible, but here’s what just happened:
Kris’ grandma gave us money to spend on our wedding right from the start. Kris pulled me aside the other night and kindly suggested that we use this money to buy real flowers. He could tell that my efforts towards the flowers were distracting me from other more important things and were weighing me down. I’ve got a good husband-to-be.
One Easter during college I sat in church behind my friend’s dad. I remarked about the huge amount of beautiful flowers covering the stage and asked him if he thought they were real. He replied that they were all fake and that he hoped that didn’t reflect the state of our hearts at Easter.
Cain was trying to do a good job his own way. He was working really hard to make his fruit offering good for God. This reminds me of my ribbon bouquets.
Abel believed that God provided the animal so that the blood could cover his sins. God made flowers! If Abel was a bride, I think he would probably just use the flower money his Grandma-To-Be provided for the flowers and accept the grace.
Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–“
The story of the two brothers connects right up to today. It’s bigger than flowers – I hope you get that. God just used my flower situation to show this to me. God offers a free gift of salvation through grace. Are we going to believe Him? Or are we going to work really hard to please Him? Let’s choose Abel’s bouquet.
Photo from: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/4152