TEXT: Genesis 4:5-7
It is one of the Bible’s most gripping scenes, a narrative with a juxtaposition of expectations. Let’s remember the larger scenario to the featured text (Genesis 4:5-7): Adam and Eve’s two sons have each brought offerings to the Lord. Abel presented a blood sacrifice, just as the LORD desired. But his brother Cain, a tiller of the ground, balked and carved his own independent path to Jehovah – he brought an offering of the fruit of his own efforts. God rejected the offering, dishonored by Cain’s attitude of unbelief perhaps more than the offering itself.
In the very opening pages of the Bible an unholy rivalry and confrontation begin, one that will continue through the time of man on earth. It involves a clash of wills and a demarcation of fundamental theology about soteriology or salvation. Will man acknowledge his sin before a holy God and his inability to save himself, and so embrace God’s offer of forgiveness through the blood sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary? (Romans 5:9). Or like Cain will there be resistance to such humility? Instead will there be insistence on man’s own goodness, man’s ability to save himself through his own merit and good works? Centuries later, long after the first couple’s off-spring passed, the Apostle Paul addressed the issue depicted in the two brother’s contrasting approach to God.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of
God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
But the story of the two brothers continues, including a post-worship exchange between God and Cain. The portraiture of grace continues. Angry that his self-help agenda met with God’s rejection, it seems that Cain stormed back to his tent to rant in isolation. Ah, sin does cut off the sinner! But the glorious message of the Gospel tells that it is God Who comes seeking the sinner. The Almighty comes to Cain – it is as though God is knocking at his door with a plea. God appeals to the man to reconsider and come the proper way. What a switch of expectations! God is the holy One, yet He comes to sinful man. Cain is the sinner who insulted and refused the Lord’s plan, yet God in His divine patience and love deems to come to him. Is this not a picture of what Christ would do?
As God addresses his creation, He tells Cain that “sin lieth at the door” (v.7b). What does this mean? One suggestion is that God has literally brought a suitable offering for Cain to present – it is standing right outside his tent. The holy God is not put off by His unholy offender. Indeed, God’s amazing grace persists and pours out in a Father’s longsuffering and patience with a willful child. What the sinful son would not do for himself, God did for him. But there is a second application made, which interprets God’s words as a stern warning: “sin lieth at the door.” There are consequences to sin. If Cain did not get ahold of his bad attitude and reign in his rebellious, warring spirit toward God, worse would come. The curse of rejecting God’s light is darkness. The consequence of an unchecked wounded spirit would be crippling bitterness, a terminal threat to the spirit and health of mankind. The pathetic “Oh, me!” of self-pity and self-indulgence must be exchanged for a humble appeal and genuine prayer of “O, God!”
It is time for personal accountability and even a confession. In recent months, unexpected and unwelcomed life interruptions and trials have come my way. My wife’s cancer battle continues. My brother recently spent days in a hospital intensive care unit. A great friend and trusted mentor died last month. My lot is the solitary task of sorting through nearly three decades of “stuff” in our basement and closets as Nancy and I prepare to relocate from Kentucky to Alabama. Then I came down with a painful eye infection that made even reading difficult. There are moments when this saint’s emotions become raw, my thinking skewed. I feel more like Cain than Abel in those moments.
What brings me out? What turns me around? I realize that Someone is knocking at my door, so-to-speak. God’s ominous words in Genesis 4:7 rouse my spirit: “sin lieth at the door.” I firmly believe that for every trial God allows to come my way, He also allots a generous portion of His grace to see me through (I Peter 5:5c) . . . but I must appropriate that grace! As Matt Chandler wrote, “Without a heart transformed by the grace of Christ, we just continue to manage external and internal darkness” (The Explicit Gospel).
Remember the humorous story about the man caught in a flood? Perched on the top of the roof of his house, he called out to God. A neighbor in a rowboat came by and offered to help. The man refused. Later a helicopter hovered overhead and dropped a rope to rescue him. The man refused. Eventually the waters swept him away and he awoke in glory. Although happy to be in Heaven, the man dared to confront the Lord, “Why didn’t you answer my prayers and rescue me?” And God answered, “Well, Son, I sent a rowboat and a helicopter, but you refused.”
But as I wrestle with my own “Attitude of Cain,” there is a second knock at my door. Just as the Lord is there to offer me His grace, so too the Devil creeps up and tempts me to indulge myself in anger, resentment, bitterness. The knock persists, and I must make a choice, whether to welcome God’s grace or to give place to the devil. I must appropriate the first but refuse the second. All those carnal ills must be refused admittance. A heart filled with grace has no room for bitterness or any of the “fruit of Cain.” However, in these very moments, Christ-followers find the path to God, even discovering that the journey makes us more like Him.
“It’s not the law of religion nor the principles of morality that define our highways
and pathways to God; only by the Grace of God are we led and drawn, to God. It is
His grace that conquers a multitude of flaws and in that grace, there is only favor.
Favor is not achieved; favor is received.” (Copied)
It is more than not being like Cain – I want to be like Jesus! The Apostle Peter saw suffering, if it is handled with God’s grace, as the means for believers to grow, to transform. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” ( I Peter 5:10/ESV).
Excuse me . . . there’s a knock at my door! ~ BRUCE PETERS