God, in the scriptures, always teaches several lessons at once. So too with the story in Genesis 4 of Adam's first two sons, Cain and Abel. There is the immediate one, the story itself. But I'm betting that Mormons also note the allegory for the relationship between Christ and Satan in it; and also, the allegory for believers/non-believers. I'd like to point out today the ones I captured in my meditations today.
As the story opens, Cain is mentioned first, and therefore is presumably the eldest. Yet, it is Abel who finds anointing from God. This is a pattern that we see repeated over and over in the Old Testament- with Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, even Saul and David. God is not a respecter of seniority, or bloodline, or any other human means of subdivision. And we go on to see that Abel's anointing makes him arguably the first priest- the only one entrusted to make sacrifices of animals for the remission of sins (if you flash forward to the end of the Flood story, you see that man was not to get permission to slaughter animals for food for thousands of years.) Thus, Abel was the only one authorized to kill.
So here, we've already drawn two important lessons- so important that they would be repeated over and over. First, God chooses who He wants, especially in leadership positions; second, that God brings redemption down one pathway, and one alone.
That second one becomes emphasized as Cain brings his "sacrifice" only to see it rejected. Why was it rejected?
1. Cain was not the one chosen to do the job. Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, the laborers labor in vain." Many times, ministries go fruitless or prayers go unanswered for this very reason.
2. Cain was a farmer, and as we learned in the previous chapter of Genesis, farming was going to exact a toll in this new, fallen world. Thus, Cain had to work hard for what he raised, and I'm sure was very proud of his work. But, it was not the work that God would use for the purpose of forgiving sins. That didn't make it any less valuable- Abel fed the soul, and Cain fed the flesh. But Cain didn't see it that way. Some servants of God are born to worship, others to service, but Cain saw only the relationship Abel had with God- and saw it as more prestigious than service.
3. Thus, Cain offered out of pride, and it was rejected. But God only rejected it for THAT purpose. He did not reject it for its true value. In verse 7 He tells Cain, "If you do well, will you not be accepted?" But again, Cain didn't see it that way.
This teaches several lessons. First, to be a servant, you must seek the Lord's will for your ministry, not your own. Not all ministries are glorious; but all done in Christ are accepted. Second, hard work is blessed by God whether it is devotional or day-to-day. Third, here is our first Satan-to-Christ comparison. Satan, as Lucifer, was highly blessed by God, but in His pride wanted to be the Anointed- he wanted to be God. God did not create him to be a curse to mankind, He created Him to a great service. It was Satan who chose the wrong ministry, and became upset when it was not blessed. Fourth- Christ, on the other hand, was to be the one person through which the forgiveness of sins would come. Those who say there are many paths to forgiveness have lost sight of this first great lesson of the Bible.
So then comes the conversation between Cain and God. Cain is inflamed by pride, but God explains to him that there is nothing for him to be mad about. God also tells him, that with repentance and the proper attitude, his work would be blessed for what it was. Then God warns him that he is allowing sin into his heart- and he can overcome it, or let it destroy him. So here we learn: first, that God is not casting out unbelievers any more than He cast out Cain at this point. The door is always open. Second, sin is the thing that bars the door, and sin comes not from God but from us. Third, we can overcome sin, if we turn to God. But what does Cain do? He opts out of the conversation with God- he says nothing. And just like with the unbeliever, by cutting out God, he doesn't stand a chance against his sin.
Instead of adding his heart to the heart-to-heart with God, Cain turns towards the focus of his anger, Abel, and kills him. Why? Does it eliminate his rival for God's affection? Hardly. Or make him greater in the eyes of men? No, because this is purely between the two of them. It is pure and simple looking out for #1- getting rid of an annoyance. With Abel gone, and God ignored, Cain can now build his own "righteousness". And isn't that really the great divide between believers and non-believers: one listens to and obeys (or tries to) the Word of God; the other tries its best to silence that word, so they can do what they like without concern, conscience, or care. And you wonder why atheists are so "evangelical". Like Satan, when you set yourself up as your own "god" , you'd hardly want a light shined on you to show everyone how far away from that you really are.
Anyhow, we move on to that last stanza, the next-to-last meeting between Cain and God. Just like with Adam, God gives Cain a chance to ask forgiveness: "Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And just like Adam, Cain plays CYA. But he does it in a much different way. Unlike Adam, who first tries to hide everything, and then plays pass the buck (with its implied confession of guilt, though "it wasn't my fault"), Cain says the immortal line, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
And there's a lot to be said in that statement. First off, it was a direct lie- "I do not know." Second, it is the height of selfishness. What happens to the other guy is his business (never mind the fact that I did it to him). Third, and so like Satan in his time and atheists in ours, it is a smartass response to a God that deserves reverence- a God who knew Cain's sin and still gave him a chance to confess and repent.
But, as God then points out, you cannot hide your sins from Him- not by disbelief, disrespect, denial, lying, or not accepting responsibility. Like the drunk driving commercials basically say, "You will get caught. And you will pay for it." And you know what, just like drunk driving, you can get out of it, you can be forgiven. But if you just return to it, the consequences get increasingly worse. And eventually it will be a price you cannot get out from under.
"And Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” Cain's only idea of remorse has nothing to do with Abel's murder, only with the consequences that he himself faces. And God relents, and allows him not to pay full price for his sins on earth. And why would God do that? Same two reasons He does it for us. 1. While we breathe, we have the potential to repent and be redeemed. 2. Because when Cain thinks his earthly punishment is more than he can bear, he has no idea- and apparently no concern- for what awaits him beyond the pale. God has no intention on repaying on this earth alone. The greatest Biblical testimony against those who believe there is no Hell is God letting Cain "off the hook" here.
And a final couple of postscripts get added to the story at the end of chapter 4. The second, and most important one, is that Seth was then born and took the place of Abel. God's will unthwarted, God's holy line goes on. The first, and more in the line of today's story, is that of Cain's descendants, especially Lamech. By the time man's line got to him, he had so indoctrinated himself in the sin of Cain, that he felt that the fact that Cain "got off" allowed him free reign to do even worse, to wit;
"Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech!
For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” Each sin from an unbeliever encourages the next to do worse. Not surprisingly, then, that the verses before this spoke to the building of cities, the coming of technology, and the increasing knowledge of man. Thus the new slogan at the top of my blog ( and thanks ms nk rey, I told you I was going to use that!). Man, just like Lamech, advance farther and farther towards knowledge (perhaps should be in quotation marks) and farther and farther from wisdom.