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Still Waters: Two Brothers

Genesis 4:1-7 “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

Banished from the Garden of Eden, Adam began his life under the curse. In faith, he had named his wife “Eve,” and she gave birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. The eldest son, Cain, was a “tiller of the ground.” This was certainly a noble and necessary occupation. Abel chose the occupation of being a shepherd, and holds the distinction of being the first shepherd mentioned in Scripture in a long line of keepers of sheep. When it came time to present their offerings to the Lord, Cain brought to the Lord some of the produce he had grown, and Abel brought one of the firstlings of his flock. They would have been aware of the necessity of bringing some type of sacrificial offering to God through the teachings of Adam and Eve, who had learned this just after their fall in the Garden. God had rejected their “fig leaf” religion, instead slaying animals that He might clothe them with the animals’ skins. Therefore, from the very beginning, Adam and Eve and their descendants would understand the necessity of a blood sacrifice for the remission of their sins. Notice what Paul would write later; “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22) This is something that both Cain and Abel knew when they came before God to present their sacrifices to Him because of sin. Rather than following the teaching of His father, Cain brought the “fruit of the ground” as an offering. God refused Cain’s offering. Abel brought to God one of the “firstlings of his flock,” and God accepted his offering.

Three New Testament writers referred to Cain. In Hebrews 11:4, Paul wrote, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” In 1 John 3:12, John wrote, “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.” Finally, in Jude 1:11; Jude wrote, “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” With the added light given in the New Testament, we learn that Cain was not a man of faith, that he was guilty of murderous hatred and jealousy, and that he endeavored to justify himself before God through the works of his own hands. The “way of Cain” was his religious belief and practice that stubbornly refused to come to God His way and insisted on inventing his own system of sacrifice for sin. Cain was the first of those who would follow that refuse the faith that God has ordained, choosing rather to endeavor to come to God by some means more acceptable to them. Cain’s “works were evil,” and he refused to face those works and come to God accordingly. By far, the vast majority of humanity follow the way of Cain today, either by simply refusing to acknowledge their sin, or to refuse to accept the reality of God at all. Many follow his way in presenting themselves to God through their own erroneous belief system.

Like his brother, Abel was a sinner. He inherited sin from his parents, and, according to the Psalms, was not just a sinner by birth, but also by choice. (See Psalms 51:5; Romans 3:10-23) Recognizing his sin, Abel knew full well the need of some type of sacrifice if he was to present himself to God. He brought to God a sacrifice, one of the sheep of his flock. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice that was offered through faith. (Hebrews 11:4)

These two brothers provide for us a picture of all humanity. Unfortunately, most follow the “way of Cain.” They insist that they have no need for a Sin Substitute, that they are acceptable to God just as they are. Deception has convinced them that the works of their hands will make them right with God. There are, however, those who are like Abel. Realizing they are sinners, and believing in the Blessed Savior, they have fled to Him as their Sacrifice for sins. Of the two brothers, only Abel was accepted by God, and the Word of God declared Him righteous. Both Cain and Abel were sinners. Both were separated from God because of their sin, but Abel was declared righteous because of his faith. “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)

There is an interesting revelation given in our passage. When Cain was angered because God had rejected his offering while accepting his brother’s. God said to him, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” It was as though God was giving Cain an opportunity to follow his brother’s example of faith. But, if he refused to do so, the answer was, “...if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” Sin is pictured as a ravening beast, a lion if you will, which “lieth” or, literally “crouches” at the door, awaiting the opportunity to pounce upon his prey. Satan is referred to as a “roaring lion...seeking whom he may devour.” The only way to escape “his desire,” or Satan’s efforts to devour is by trusting in Jesus Christ, the Supreme sacrifice for sins. It is only through faith in the Savior that we are able to “rule over him,” or to overcome Satan’s evil desire toward us. Beloved, none are able to overcome Satan’s evil desire toward them, a desire to deceive and eventually damn them eternally, except through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Have you been saved?

Pastor Steve Smith


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