Genesis 4:1-16

March 16, 2014

Lent 2

Look UP, Look IN, Look OUT

Genesis 4:1-16


Intro:  I tried to be clever and come up with a Lenten series.  The whole Look UP, Look IN, Look OUT was just a restating of the flow of the worship service and it really does work with all of Scripture.  But I was confounded to build a Lenten series around it.  Frustrated with my lack of cleverness, I asked two of your elders for help and through their wisdom and praying, I’ve returned to preaching from Genesis.  Phew!  Peace in my soul!  So let’s see what God wishes to say to us this morning. 


Before we read Gen 4:1-16, I’ve got to tell you that there is a lot going on there.  It would make a great movie!  R-rated perhaps, due to violence, but a great movie! 


A brief recap of where we’ve been.  God created. Humanity had an intimate relationship with God, face to face. Satan tempted humanity to dismiss God’s authority and wisdom and love and get it all for themselves, and Eve fell for it.  Adam and Eve and Satan are confronted by God and given the consequences of their sin.  They are banished from the garden of Eden to which they would never return.  Are you ready for what comes next?  Read the whole thing!


1-2  The words that strike me most from this passage are “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.”  Childbirth is amazing as it is, but Adam and Eve were created from scratch!  Can you imagine the awe and wonder of bearing the first human child? and then – there it is! – this amazing creature from your own body.  It’s still amazing!  But imagine Eve with no birthing background!  She knows that this has only happened because of God’s plan and design.  Maybe they figured it out by watching the animals, but a human was unique and different.


3-5  The following three verses offer us a contrast between Cain and Abel.

Abel is a herdsman and Cain is a farmer. Or as another translation tells it, “Abel was a shepherd, while Cain owned a small vegetable farm.”[1]  Both are valid and God-honoring vocations.  They were both blessed in what they did.  Abel had fine sheep and Cain had good crops. 


Let me reread to you what happened next from this sweet retelling of this story from a book, Once Upon a Time: A Humorous Re-telling of The Genesis Stories.

p. 21


Let’s sit with that for a moment.  They both wanted to thank God.  Abel did it with all his best.  Cain did it with what he thought would be “good enough”.  There was a difference in attitude. 


What do you give God?  Is it your very best or what you think will suffice.  Oh, ouch.  When I enter into worship, am I bringing to God the best I have to offer?  Am I entering fully into worship, or am I just showing up?  When I put my money in the plate is it the best I have to offer him or is it what I think will keep him satisfied for now?  When I look OUT and see one need and meet it, do I go away smugly, thinking “God saw that, so he should be happy for now”, or does it open our eyes so that we offer ourselves as a vessel to be used in any situation?  When we are convicted of one sin in our lives and overcome it are we open to where God wants to work next in our lives or do we sit back in satisfaction thinking, “God should be happy with that adjustment, now I can coast.”


In reality, are you more like Cain or Abel.  It’s an important distinction to be aware of.  And perhaps we battle between the two every day.  God responded differently to each of them and Cain didn’t like God’s response to him.  God noticed and confronted Cain.  Now, my first reaction to this is, “I wish God would come talk directly to me!”  My second thought is, “Oh, he already has – it’s in the Book.”


6-7 But can we relate to where Cain is at?  Who among us likes to be called out and told the truth when we thought we could get away with something?  It’s not fun!  But God is being a father to Cain and offering him correction and warning.  He is not rejecting Cain as a person, he is rejecting Cain’s actions and then he is telling him how to improve.  Parents – have you ever been in this position?  You seek to help your child improve.  You tell them how to do it right.  You warn them of the consequences of continuing on a particular path.  And I bet that every single one of us has met with some sort of rebellion.  Amen?


Temptation caught Eve unaware.  Here, God is warning Cain that the opportunity to sin is just waiting.  He will need to overcome it.  He will need to stand against it.  God is telling him, “I’ve not given up on you, son, but you will need to tread carefully and make good choices.”  God has said the same to each of us.  God has made it clear that we each make a choice at every moment of the day, to either honor God or ignore him.  What decision are you making right now?  What decision did you make last night?  What decision will you make after church?


8 The evidence that Cain ignored God’s counsel is plain.  He takes the first opportunity and kills his brother Abel.  As one commentator put it, “The seed of the serpent strikes quickly at the seed of the woman in an attempt to prevent the fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 3:15.”[2]  I believe the enemy of God understands that his quest to overthrow God is futile so that he has been bent, since creation, on taking as many with him as he can, away from God.


9-10  And then, God gives Cain every opportunity to confess and own up to his sin and what does he do?  He lies!  So God tells him what he knows to be true.  There is no escaping the murder he has committed or the lie he has told.  And as with all sin, God explains the consequences in verses 11-12.


11-12 God had blessed Cain as a farmer but now he will be cursed.  Trying to get the ground to produce will be futile.  He will become a nomad.  Let’s see Cain’s response. He gets a little dramatic.                                   


13-14  Let me rephrase this again from the Once Upon A Time translation:  “Cain, overwhelmed by his punishment, replied, “But vagabonds are vulnerable to the whims of every group they meet.  I’ll have no friends and no support.  Any group that finds me can kill me.”[3]  My response to that, would be “Yup.  That’s right.  Good luck.  See ya.”  Isn’t that what he deserves?!  Yes!  But let’s finish this out with what God said instead.


15-16  “Not so”.  God, in his grace, tells this murdering, lying, rebellious, first born, “Not so.”  Even though Cain murdered his brother.  Even though Cain gave less than his best to God.  Even though Cain flat out rebelled against God’s counsel.  Even though Cain lied to God, God shows him mercy.  In his grace God offers this sinner protection.  Hmph.


In our Bible Study, Monday night we read in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God’s grace and forgiveness began with Eve and Adam and Cain.  God’s grace has not come to an end.  He forgives us.  I am in awe. 


Today, as we pray the Lord’s Prayer and we get to the part that reads “Forgive us our debts and we forgive our debtors”, let this story play in your heart.  God’s grace is big and we are called to follow suit.



Concl.  God is serious about what he requires from us.  Our best.  Our honesty.  Being in a right relationship with him and with one another.  He provides all we need to make these things possible.  His enemy prowls around seeking whom he can destroy.  Satan’s job is to trip us up, not in big ways but just in little ways so that it’s subtle and we won’t notice we’re walking down the wrong path until we feel we’re too far down the road to turn around and go back.  But here’s the good news of the gospel.  God’s offer of grace remains open to you.  Will you receive the grace he offers and live?


[1] W.J.A. Power, Once Upon a Time: A Humorous Re-telling of The Genesis Stories, Nashville: Abington Press, 1992), 21.

[2] John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Genesis, (New York: Evangelical Press, 2003), 146.

[3] Power, 23.