by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 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, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor.” Genesis 4:2b-5a
Cain and Abel are literally the first children and brothers on the planet, as in ever [which means they were also the first two people ever to have bellybuttons!] Cain became the first big brother of all human history when Abel was born. In Hebrew, Cain means spear–though it can also mean possession or acquired–and Abel means breath.
It’s curious to me how Adam and Eve came to name their first child either spear or possession because it would seem that they had no need of either of these words at the time. Remember that all creatures were made vegetarian and it wasn’t until after the flood when man would hunt for food that animals would fear and attack man [Genesis 9:2-3]. So a spear wouldn’t seem all that necessary at the time Cain was born, unless of course the animals were already eating one another as a result of sin destroying their created nature. In which case, when Abel became the first shepherd in world history, he would’ve needed to defend his flocks against some of the planet’s first predators.
Cain, on the other hand, worked the soil, which is exactly what God told Adam would need to be done as a direct result of sin entering the world. The ground would be cursed to produce thorns and thistles, and Adam [and his offspring forever after] would raise their food by working the soil [Genesis 3:17-19].
So why is it then, that God is happy with Abel’s firstborn fat offering and not Cain’s garden produce offering? The Genesis account doesn’t tell us why. As readers, we don’t learn the intent behind the lesson until Hebrews 11. But God’s lesson to Cain is intended to be the primary focus here, not the theology behind it.
Do you see the lesson? God’s truth that we must understand in our own lives? God is our holy Creator. He is sovereign and He is just. We were created in His image. We demand a sovereign authority and justice. But being polluted with sin we’ve distorted justice to fit ourselves as sovereign authority [us as our own god] and cry, “That’s not fair!” [How many of you thought exactly that the first time you read this account? Be honest.]
But Cain is not in trouble here. He’s simply being instructed in what God finds acceptable and what He finds unacceptable. What Cain chooses to do with this instruction shows who is on the throne of his heart–God or Cain. And that is the truth that we all need to understand.
Unfortunately, in the world we live in, when people hear that God is not pleased with their behavior they ignore/deny His existence and they ridicule/persecute anyone who tries to live God’s way.
What do you do when the Holy Spirit shows you something in your life that is unacceptable to a holy God? How are you tuning your ears to the Holy Spirit so that you can be instructed by Him?