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GEN. 4:1-16 - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Part 1
In the last few weeks we covered the first 5 verses of Genesis 4 and dealt with acceptable and unacceptable worship in the case of the offerings Cain and Abel brought before the LORD. Whatever the cause of God’s rejection of Cain’s offering; the narrative itself focuses our attention on Cain’s response. It’s here that the narrative is making its point. So, let’s look into the text.
The response of the oldest brother (4:5b-8). When Cain learned that God had “no regard” for his offering, “[he] became very angry and his face was downcast.” Cain became angry with God! Rather than being concerned about remedying the situation and pleasing God, he became very angry.
We gotta stop here and ask these questions of ourselves: How do we respond when God says no? When God convicts us and deals with the sin in our lives, how do we respond? Do we seek to make things right? Do we come before the Lord in worship and confession with a humble and contrite heart? Or, do we pout and get ticked off? The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, said it best, “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).
Then, in 4:6, the Lord pursues Cain with three consecutive questions: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” God was not pleased with Cain or his offering. These first two questions demonstrate that He was even more displeased by Cain’s response.
In 4:7, the Lord says, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” This clearly implies that Cain knew what was right. He knew the quality of offering to bring and chose not to bring it. He knew his heart was not right, but he chose not to address it. Yet, this verse also shows God’s grace, for Cain was still invited to bring the correct offering. God warned Cain and He wanted Cain to “do well,” but Cain hardened his heart.
Sin is like a wild animal ready to pounce and devour its victim. What a graphic picture the Lord paints! The Hebrew word used here connotes a wild animal that is coiled low, maybe even off in the shadows, ready to spring, rend, and kill. God does not simply say: “Sin will get you in trouble Cain.” That would have been minimizing the severity of any sin that is attempting to take control of us. By likening sin to a dangerous, predatory animal, God is not only attempting to grip our hearts, but also feeding us a whole lot of information about sin! God is saying that if Cain sins, his own sin will eventually CONSUME him. Sin is the suicidal action of the human soul against itself.
This image also implies that sin isn’t just a passing action; sinful actions create a dark reality in our lives that stays with us. Sin creates bad habits; it distorts our affections. They then control us and we begin losing control of ourselves. We are surrendering to something that wants to kill us! (Addictions, we lose control. Steal, kill destroy)!
What a reminder that we do indeed have a choice whether or not to sin. People are wrong when they say, “The Devil made me do it.” On the contrary, when we sin, we sin because of our refusal to rely on God’s power to “master it.” Paul puts it this way in 1 Peter 5:8 - “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking for someone to devour.”
Unfortunately, instead of heeding God’s warning, Cain ignored God’s words and allowed himself to be mastered by sin. This resulted in the very first murder. Moses writes of the tragic event in 4:8 - “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.” In his anger, Cain took the life of another human being...and his victim was his very own brother.
We might cringe at such a horrible act and think, “I could never do something like that.” But if we were honest, many of us would have to confess our own lists of people we’ve assassinated with our words or attitudes. A lesson we learn from the murder of Abel is that anger and jealousy can be very destructive. It is certainly not Abel’s fault that Cain’s sacrifice is not pleasing to God. But when God accepts Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s, Cain directs his anger, jealousy, and hatred toward his brother. (Pride, jealousy, anger, bitterness...) The history of crime shows that when given the opportunity, hatred often leads to murder. That is what Jesus was pointing to in Matthew 5 where He says hating your brother is really the same as murder.
You may be angry today. It might have been something, which happened this morning. Maybe you are mad at your mom and dad because they won’t let you go to a friend’s house after church. Or maybe something happened years ago. Perhaps a neighbor or someone in the church cheated you out of some money or took advantage of you in some way, and you still have a bitter attitude. Whatever type the anger is, you need to get control of it and get rid of it. Ephesians 4:27 says if you don’t control your anger, you give the Devil a foothold (lit. “a place”) in your life.
That is what Cain did. Uncontrolled anger and jealousy resulted in Abel’s death and destroyed Cain’s life too. Don’t let it happen in your life. Acknowledge that the attitude is wrong, confess it to the Lord, and ask His help in overcoming this destructive attitude.