1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man [with the help of] the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As long as there have been siblings, there have been sibling rivalries because sin came into the world before siblings did. After Adam and Eve fell and brought the curse of sin and death upon all of humanity, God made several promises. To the serpent, God promised that He would send an offspring of the woman to crush his head. To Eve, God promised that He would greatly multiply her pain in childbirth. And to Adam, God promised that He would have to get his food by the sweat of his brow. There were several other important promises, but keep those specific promises in your mind as we consider this text today.
As life went on after the Fall, Adam and Eve experienced the reality of God’s promises. Adam had to labor, toil, and sweat among thorns and thistles to provide food for himself and his wife. Time passed, and Eve conceived. Nine months and a lot of pain later, she gave birth to her first offspring, a son whom she named Cain. Because those two promises of God were so evident and in their faces every day, Adam and Eve also believed God’s deliverance from the serpent was just as imminent. They thought, wrongly, that Cain was the promised offspring who would crush the serpent’s head.
What Eve says after Cain’s birth is not translated well in any English version. All the popular translations add words to it because the translators don’t think Eve is actually saying what she is saying. So, I added brackets around the extra words on your bulletin. Eve literally said, “I have gotten a man, the Lord” (no “with the help of”). Eve was certain that Cain was the God-promised Messiah. Adam and Eve raised Cain teaching him about the promises God had made, and over time, Cain grew to believe as his parents did that he would crush Satan’s head and deliver his family from the curse of sin. Cain had a messiah complex.
Now, somewhere in there, Adam and Eve had another son Abel. I’m sure Adam and Eve loved Abel, but they didn’t treat him the same as they treated Cain. This is seen even in Abel’s name which means ‘breath’ or ‘vapor.’ But, beyond that, Adam and Eve gave Cain the important job of working the field, but Abel was tasked with being a shepherd. This is significant because God had not yet allowed people to eat meat. So, Cain was the provider of their daily sustenance. Abel was sent into the fields to keep his eye on sheep.
Now, here is where it gets interesting. Both brothers bring offerings to God. Abel brings offerings from the firstborn of the flocks, and Cain brings offerings from his crops. God has regard for Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Why is that? Some might say it was because Cain didn’t bring best portions of his crops. That could be, but there is probably something else going on here.
Who made the first sacrifice in the Bible? It wasn’t Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel. It was God. Remember, the first thing Adam and Eve realized after they ate the forbidden fruit was that they were naked. So, they tried to cover themselves with plants – fig leaves. It didn’t work so well. But God came and covered their nakedness and shame by slaughtering an animal and covering them with skins. Plants weren’t enough to cover Adam and Eve’s sin. Blood was needed. In fact, Scripture says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).
Long story short, Abel followed God’s order of offering animals for a sacrifice. But Cain, who has been raised with a Messiah complex, is doing something different. He figures he can offer God the works of his hands. But then Cain recognizes God’s rejection of his offering, gets jealous, gets warned, gets mad, gets violent, and gets punished.
You probably don’t feel too sorry for Cain. He killed his brother without remorse. Cain refused to keep Abel, the keeper of sheep. When God announces Cain’s punishment that the ground Cain works will be cursed and that Cain will be a fugitive and a homeless wanderer, you think that it is just and right. I would guess that you are not sympathetic to Cain’s statement, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” If that is you, repent.
In every sinful heart is the same Messiah complex that Cain had. We heard another example of it in the Gospel lesson (Lk. 18:9-14). The Pharisee comes to the Temple thanking God that he isn’t like other men. The essence of his prayer is, “God, thanks for making me someone whose sins are little and whose good works are big.” This Pharisee wants God to take a good look at him and give him a high-five because he is a full bottle of Awesome Sauce. Like Cain, the Pharisee offers God a sacrifice, but God had no regard for it.
You see, the only way to approach God is through an offering, a sacrifice. Examine your life and ask yourself why you believe God will hear your prayers, why God will notice you, why God will have regard for you. But remember, you don’t get to pick which sacrifices are pleasing to God. Your good works are not enough, and your perceived lack of sin is nothing but an illusion of your own fallen mind. If you think and believe otherwise, sin isn’t just crouching at your door. Sin is your master. Repent.
Psalm 51:17says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Abel’s blood cried out from the ground for vengeance upon Cain’s sin. But there is a better blood that cries out to God. The blood of Jesus was shed for you upon the cross. Jesus’ nail-pierced heel has crushed the head of the devil. Jesus, the promised Messiah, offered His own body for the condemnation of your sin in place of your body. Christ’s shed blood flowed down the ground, and His blood even now cries out not for vengeance but for your forgiveness. The earth has opened its mouth to receive Jesus’ blood, and because it has, the earth now cries out to God for your forgiveness.
When you sin, when your spirit is broken, when you are crushed under the weight of your transgression, you can plead, “God be merciful to me, the sinner” (more accurate translation of Lk. 18:13). And He is. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.