Genesis 4:1-5: Faith and works.
“Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.’ 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 But Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” NIV UK
Parents often comment how different their children are. They come from the same stock; they are raised in an identical home; but although they may share something of the family likeness, they are so unlike one another in very many ways. They can be ‘chalk and cheese’. You don’t necessarily have to be the parent to see this. It’s often obvious to others who know the family.
Any differences between Cain and Abel were not merely psychological or temperamental (or physical) but at the deepest level, they were spiritual. It is not clear from the Genesis account why God ‘’looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour’’ (4). It is sometimes suggested that it was because Abel brought an animal sacrifice for sins, whereas Cain didn’t. That may be the case, but the text does not explicitly say so. It seems clear to me that Cain brought something but Abel offered the best. But for the root answer we need to look elsewhere in the Bible:
‘’By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead’’ (Hebrews 11:4).
When God looked at Cain and Abel bringing their gifts, He saw what the human eye can’t. He saw the presence of faith in Abel’s heart, but there was not a trace of it in Cain. So Cain still speaks to us, long years after he was callously put into the ground. He talks to us about the importance of faith:
‘’And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’’ (Hebrews 11:6).
He also shows us that ‘’In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’’ (2 Timothy 3:12).
One other thing from today’s reading. If God rebukes you; if He shows you you your fault, anger may be an initial response (5b). But you must not permit it to remain as your long term reaction. The Lord is not out to irritate you. In His love and mercy He is wanting to bring you to repentance and to save you from yourself – as the next reading will show.
PRAYER: Lord, it is so good of you to take the time to show me my faults. Help me to respond with gratitude, and a humble and contrite heart.