Everyone has a story. Some are more tragic than others.
The story of Cain and Abel begins with two offerings. Two brothers named Cain and Abel brought their offerings to the Lord. Abel’s offering was acceptable to God but Cain’s was not. Since we know that the Lord is just and fair, and because of the way we see Him at work throughout the Bible, we know that God must have clearly communicated to both Cain and Abel — and to their parents, Adam and Eve — the types of offerings that were expected.
Abel brought an animal sacrifice. The animal died as both a substitute for Abel and an atonement for his sins. The animal paid the penalty — death — that Abel deserved for the sins he had committed in his life. The blood of the animal symbolically covered over Abel’s sins as an atonement for the sins.
Meanwhile, Cain simply brought some grain and presented it before the Lord. On that day, this was not the type of sacrifice the Lord had required. The Lord was displeased. Cain’s offering was rejected. Cain was downcast. He was furious, filled with rage. He was at a point of decision.
Sin Crouching at the Door
God spoke to Cain. He asked Cain why he was so furious. Cain had an opportunity in that moment to turn away from his sin and return to the Lord. God was giving him a second chance. Cain could have chosen to present an acceptable sacrifice of worship to the Lord. He could have found forgiveness, peace and joy. His sin would have been atoned for and an animal could have been the substitute for his sin.
But Cain chose the other path. God warned him that sin was crouching at the door, ready to pounce on him and rule over him. Cain gave into temptation. Cain went down the slippery slope of sin.
Cain coerced his brother to go out into a field, where Cain attacked him. Cain murdered Abel. The blood of Abel was now on Cain’s hands.
Judgment and Mercy
God is a just God. He holds us accountable for our actions. After the murder of Abel, the Lord spoke to Cain, asking him: “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain answered with the question that rings throughout history: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain wanted the answer to be “no” but in fact the answer was “yes.”
In his justice, God banished Cain from that place, and made Cain a restless wanderer about the earth, unable to farm the fields as he had once done. In his mercy, God places a mark of protection upon Cain so that those who encountered him would not take his life. Cain ultimately paid the penalty for his sin — death.
In a clear demonstration of God’s justice and mercy combined, He blessed Adam and Eve with another son, Seth. Through the line of Seth, the Messiah would be born, Jesus of Nazareth. And in the person of Jesus the justice of God and the mercy of God would meet upon the cross. Jesus died for us as our substitute and the atonement for our sin, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s mercy and grace is available to all who believe.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, take a moment to thank God for Jesus and the salvation He has brought to your life. And take a moment to pray for the Lord use you to care about your brothers and sisters — we are our brother’s keeper — and to be a blessing to them. The greatest blessing you can be to them is to tell them the good news of Jesus so that they can put their trust in Him.
Genesis 4:1-16, 25
1 Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the LORD’s help.” 2 Then she also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of flocks, but Cain worked the ground.
3 In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? 7 If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” 10 Then He said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground! 11 So now you are cursed, alienated, from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood you have shed. 12 If you work the ground, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
13 But Cain answered the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Since You are banishing me today from the soil, and I must hide myself from Your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the LORD replied to him, “In that case, whoever kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” And He placed a mark on Cain so that whoever found him would not kill him. 16 Then Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden….
25 Adam was intimate with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, for she said, “God has given me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”