One of the scripture passages I find puzzling is Gen. 4, which describes the story of Cain and Abel. In that section, we see that both Cain and Abel bring sacrifices to God as an act of worship. Abel’s sacrifice is accepted, and Cain’s was not.
The text does not tell us why one offering pleased God and the other did not. Many speculate, but the text is silent as to God’s reasoning. We also know from Leviticus, that both types of offerings were good and acceptable so, to say Abel’s offering was better than Cain’s seems to be a stretch.
What then is the point of the story? Notice what is said in verses six and seven,
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’”
It appears that Cain was struggling with God’s right to be in authority over him and reject his offering! He was mad that his act of worship was not accepted and he was going to take it out on Abel. Allen Ross makes an excellent observation in this passage when he says that in the Garden, Eve, was a sinless and unfallen being who was talked into sin by the evil one. In contrast, Cain was a fallen being, who could not be talked out of sin even by God!
The story is showing that God is God and Cain is not. God has the authority to accept and reject at his discretion even when things do not appear right or fair from our perspective. As John Gibson notes in verse six,
“‘If you do well’ means not ‘if you behave yourself,’ but ‘if you accept my decision,’ however, difficult it may be for you to understand.” In conclusion, Gibson goes on to say, “Cain is being counseled to take it on the chin like a man, and not to give way to pique and indignation.”
How could Cain have successfully endured this frustrating set of circumstances? He simply needed to submit to God’s authority and accept it, even though he did not understand. Acting in this way would have worked out well for him, and his countenance would have changed from anger to joy. If he chose to fulfill his feelings of resentment and anger toward God, sin was waiting to pounce on him and control him. Unfortunately, Cain chose the latter, and he then killed his brother.
What can I learn from this for my life today? I need to remember God is God and I am not. I need to live a life yielded to his leadership regardless of my ability to understand why things work the way the do. I need to trust and obey.
Father, I am sorry for the times I grumble and complain when things do not appear to be working out in a way that I think is right or fair in my life. I need to heed your warning to Cain and yield to your leadership in my life and let go of feelings of frustration and resentment. I need to live above my circumstances and trust you and your leadership in my life.
Following Jesus with you,