In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 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, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 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 for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:3-7 ESV)
The story of Cain killing his brother Abel is well known. This is what leads to that terrible act. Cain is hurt. His offering is not accepted. The text doesn’t explain why. What is clear is that Cain longs to have the approval from God. Not getting it leads him to sadness and anger. His desire for God’s approval is not a bad thing, but what he does from it is of great concern. God breaks in and gives Cain a warning, “sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” We learn that there is a moment before sin that we must understand. It begins with desire, a desire that may not be bad in itself, but must be considered and understood before acted upon. Sin is always a choice. In the New Testament James shows us the nature of sin, Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:15 ESV) This is what we see happening with Cain. He makes his choice and kills his brother and unleashes generations that perpetuate his sin and more killing, more death. This is what we see in the next few verses.
Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:17, 18, 23, 24 ESV)
Sin leads to death. But in that moment of choice this is what we must consider: my desire can be traced back to recovering that which was lost in the fall. How can I get that? Death comes ultimately through sin, but life comes by trusting God to rescue me through Jesus. It’s always a terribly hard choice in the moment and we fail to make the right one at times. But hope is not lost. Even in the Genesis account hope remains for we read after this:
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:25, 26 ESV)
The seed of the woman that would crush the serpent’s head will come through Seth. The rescuer is coming. Patience and restraint is what our faith looks like in those moments of choice. Faith that God’s promised seed will come and in our case has come.
Can you recall a recent “moment of choice?”
Ask God to shape your faith that you might rule over sin.
Chronological Reading Plan plus Psalms: Ge 4-7, Ps 2