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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Going Deep: Reflecting on the Sermon Cain and Abel

I've meaning to reflect on the Sunday Sermons and I get all these thoughts while I am sitting at church and while driving home with my family. We often discuss them in the car with my family. I have often thought it would be appropriate to have a Sunday school class after the service to discuss the sermon. This is often an element missing in our churches. We are left with all this information and thoughts but with no one to digest them with. Well, here is an attempt to do that here.

Recently our pastor started a series on the book of Genesis called "God of Wonders." Over all, the sermons are great but always leave me thinking. Now, having earned my Masters in Divinity over ten years ago, I think, gives me an edge. However, I often wonder why are we not asking these questions to our members. Why aren't we challenging to go deep. But let me get on with it. Before I start though, I begin with a presupposition that the bible is historical accurate and that the events are to be interpreted literally unless otherwise stated or the immediate or remote context indicates to be the case (these are basic interpretation-hermeneutical-principles).

We all know the story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis 4. Both were born to Adam and Eve after the Fall. Both were brothers. Cain whose name means "the man" was the firstborn. He was a farmer. Abel whose name means "breath" was a shepherd. Both were probably adults by the time this takes place. They probably had more brothers and sisters since Adam lived 930 years. We don't know what transpired when they were growing up. But we know that both came before God and presented their offerings. Abel brought fat from his firstborn animals and it pleased God. Cain brought some of the fruit of the soil and God was displeased with him. Why? Here's is where we begin to speculate. Some say that Abel brought the best while Cain did not. Others say that Abel had faith (see Hebrews 11:4) whereas Cain did not. Our pastor said today that it was how they worshipped God. He gave applications related to our worship. But I think it goes deeper than that. All this might be true but what we are told is that it was related to sin or his actions (see 1 John 3:12). How did Cain sin? Was he a man without faith?

Immediately after this Cain becomes angry and downcast. What was going through his mind? Why was he so angry, especially toward Abel. I am going to assume that this is not the first time that they both presented their offerings to God. Maybe this happened over and over to the point where Cain became jealous of Abel. I really don't think that a single event would cause him to become so angry to the point of murdering his brother in a premeditated way. I think Cain had become so bitter towards Abel (and God of course) that it dominated his life (thus God says, "sin desires to have you or control you"). Did he get plenty of warnings from God? I think so. God must have told him to be righteous. But he had become so blinded by his own bitterness that he could no longer respond to truth. There are powerful lessons learned here. Think.

We know what happened next. We don't know the details but we read that he killed Abel. God called him and asked where his brother was. He answers by saying he is not his brother's keeper. He actually was, being the firstborn, but he denies it. God knew what happened but he asks him first. I can hear some asking questions about God's sovereignty. Why didn't God stop him? Why did he allow the first murder? I am afraid we can't answer this question just like we can't answer why he allowed Adam and Even to eat of the forbidden fruit. All I can say here is that man is capable of much evil even in the presence of God himself.

Cain is punished by being sent out of the presence of God. The land will no longer give him what he wants and he is a marked man so that no one is killed. Cain leaves and marries (obviously someone from his own lineage but who knows how old he was) and has children. Very little to we know about him after this. We don't know how long he lived or how he died.

Did Cain ever repent of what he did to Abel? We don't know. All we know is that he lamented the punishment he received from God.

To me, this event goes deep into the problem of man. Sin. Evil. It will control us if we let it. It comes in various forms. It makes us insensitive to truth. It leads to bondage of the will. It leads to destruction. It doesn't have to control us. Let's learn from Abel. Abel was sensitive to God. He listened. He had faith in God. He was a righteous man. He speaks even though he is dead.
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