The Countenance of Cain
April 7-8, 2018
Here we are in the early part of the book of Genesis. What we've been setting so far of course, is that at this point Adam and Eve have sinned and they've been cast out of the garden, no way to return in. Angel has been placed, so that they cannot return. Now, they are at the point where they're needing to build a new life different from the one that they had when they walked with God in the cool of the evening.
I love that picture, what they missed, walking with God, the nearness and the closeness, what they missed. Now, they're rebuilding their lives. It tells us in Genesis 4 that they begin to have a family. They have two sons, of course Cain and Abel. It's important to recognize-- In fact, the Scripture tells us that they had many more sons and daughters, of course Seth we know of. Adam lived more than 900 years, so they had a lot of kids. Our story is really about their first sons, Cain and Abel.
The focus of the story is that when they become grown men, Cain is a tiller of the ground, which is to say, he brings the produce, he brings the vegetables and whatnot for everyone. Then it tells us that Abel, he was the keeper of the flocks. He was the shepherd of the family for everyone. Each of them then in the course of time, brings an offering unto the Lord. Cain on his part, he brings an offering of the work of his hands, the produce of the ground. Abel for his part, he brings the lamb from the flock. There is where the issue arises.
Let's read the story and understand. There's so much in these verses for us. Let's start reading in verse 1. Now of the man, literally, the name Adam means man. Now, the man had relations with his wife. Literally, he knew Eve, beautiful picture for us of the nearness and intimacy God meant when He created marriage. He had relations with his wife Eve. She conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, "I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord." Then again, she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now, Abel was the keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. It came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel for his part, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. In other words, he brought a lamb. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering, He had no regard. Cain became angry about this. His countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen?"
Verse 7 is such an important verse, it is so keen. It's filled with such amazing insight. He says, "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up, but if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door and its desire is for you, but you must master it." Cain told Abel his brother. It came about that when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. What a tragic turn. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He knew were Abel was, but He wanted him to say it.
"Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?" which is a very famous line. We're going to look at this because there's such a key. He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. Now, you are cursed from the ground which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand, so when you cultivate the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. You shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth."
I. The Way of Cain is the Way of Pain
Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is too great to bear." There are more verses of course, but I want us to look at these because there's so much insight that we can apply it to our lives starting with this that the way of Cain is the way of pain, easy to remember, but a great truth. In the Scripture, he talks about the way of Cain. Eve conceives, she bears a son and she names him Cain, which actually means, “possession” or “virtue”. I have received a virtuous possession, which is interesting.
It gives you the idea that her first birth experience is filled with joy and with pride and her firstborn. Could this be the fulfillment of that promise that God had said, that one of her seed would crush the head of Satan and settle this matter. She didn't understand when this would be fulfilled. She just knew that one of her seed would crush the head of that serpent and settle that matter. Could this be the one? "I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord."
But her hopes were dashed, because what she saw instead was that he became a man who won't live as God wants him to live. Why? How did this happen? He wasn't hanging out with the wrong crowd. There was no wrong crowd. There was no crowd. He was in influence from the world because there was no one in the world, he wasn't watching wrong movies, he wasn't playing violent video games, he wasn't connected to the internet. What happened?
I suggest to you that what happened is that they are now seeing the direct results of the fall of man. It is now seen in their children. From this point forward, all children will be born with the sin nature. You can see it yourself, you don't have to teach a child to be selfish, they're born that way. You have to teach them to share because that's not natural for them. In fact, if you don't teach them to share, they will be selfish all their lives. Cain as the firstborn, after the fall, seems to have a strong spirit of rebellion.
In fact, in the book of Jude, which comes right before Revelation, He touches on what we could call the low points of human history, the low points. This is Jude 1:11,"Woe to them for they've gone the way of Cain. They rushed headlong into the error of Balaam and they perished in the rebellion of Korah."
A. Self-reliance separates you from God
These are the low points and Cain starts it out. We learn a great lesson out of Genesis 4 starting with this, that self-reliance separates you from God. Here he is, he's a tiller of the ground, thus he's strong and he's ready, he's working the ground by the sweat of his brow, but this is the result of the consequences of sin. In fact, Genesis 3:19, He told Adam, "By the sweat of your face, you will eat bread until you return to the ground." Instead of seeing this condition as the reason for humility, it's because of sin that I have to sweat, but instead apparently, he sees that as a point of pride like, "Look what I have done by the sweat of my brow." Cain brings an offering to God. Now at first, you'll think, "Well that's a good thing."
There's an issue because what he brings, is he brings the result of his own work, the sweat of his brow, "Look what I have done?" You can cut a sense behind it, the pride because God has no regard for it nor for him. God wanted the lamb. We're going to see and understand why He wanted the lamb offered. If you look at the Old Testament and you see all these offerings of course that are spoken of, but whenever you see an offering, you have to recognize that it represents something. Offering represented, an offering to Lord the represented something.
What was it that his offering represented? It represented the work of his hands. "Look what I have done. I bring to you Oh Lord the work that I have done." but that's not what He wanted. It represented the wrong thing because what God wanted was a lamb because the lamb spoke to God's provision that God would give for the covering of their sin and their shame and their nakedness, if we go all the way back to the fall of Adam and Eve. After they fell, remember reading the account of it, they hid from the Lord.
They sewed together fig leaves to hide their nakedness and their shame which neither did a good job nor was comfortable. The Lord confronted them of course, we know, and then afterward provided for them a covering of animal skins. God's provision, way better, comfortable, but in order for that to be, an animal had to give its life because it pictures that God is the one who covers the nakedness and the sin and the shame. Now, they are to bring a lamb because it represents something.
It represents what God is going to do and the covering of sin and shame for all of man. It points to the Lamb of God. Here though, Cain, he brings the work of his hands, the sweat of his brow. It's not what God wanted. The problem of self-reliance, the problem of self-focused and self-first. The self-reliance is that when things go well then you're filled up with pride, "It was the work of my hands, see what I did." When things go badly oftentimes, it's anger that results from it and you see it right here. In fact, there's a great verse in the book of Habakkuk that just speaks to it, this addresses the heart of man. Habakkuk 2:4, "As for the proud one, his soul is not right within him" Now, the righteous will live by faith, what a contrast? As for the proud one, his soul is not right. Have you ever had a time when you knew that your soul was just not right? You're just spiritually yucky, your soul is not right and you know your soul is not right.
As for the proud one, that's what we're speaking to. Things aren't going well and he's angry, first result is anger. It's interesting, I raised--My wife and I raised five kids and, of course, now we're raising our granddaughter. At some point, each one of those five kids was a teenager, and I saw an interesting thing. Whenever they got in trouble, the oftentimes, whenever they got in trouble, whenever they did something to get in trouble oftentimes, the first response was to be angry. Would you think well, "Why are you angry, you ought to be humble." Now, you can think that until we look at our own selves, because we were there ourselves, it's the nature of man we're speaking to, we were there ourselves.
I look back, I was a teenager-- For the record, I was mostly a good kid, I just point that out a little bit there. I remember, I was a teenager and I had this job at the restaurant, one day, I was at the beach with my family and I had to be at work at a certain time, but I was having a good time. I kept putting it off as far as leaving, I kept putting it off, I'm putting it off and putting it off and finally was like, "I got to go." I tried to get there, I was more than an hour late. Come an hour late to work. Here's the interesting thing, I show up, I'm an hour late and I'm angry. Here I am at the restaurant, huffing and puffing, finally, the manager came and said, "Why are you angry?"
To be honest with you, it was the first time I even thought of why. I said, "Well, I'm angry with myself," the manager said, "No, that's not right to be angry about, except don't take it out on us. You ought to be humble and just apologize." He called me up short, then he made me think. That's the nature right there, that's our problem, that's like the nature of man and that's what we're seeing in Genesis 4, that's the nature of man right there.
B. God sees the heart behind the offering
Then, it shows us another thing, it shows us that God sees the heart behind the offering. The name Abel, it means vapor or breath, there could be several reasons why Eve chose that name, but it probably wasn't because he was the stronger of the two brothers, he's the one tending the flocks. Reminds me of David, David was the smallest of the brothers and the youngest, they gave him the job of watching the flock while the brothers did other important things. What was interesting is that God speaks to-- Because it speaks to the heart. Notice 1 Samuel 16:12, the Lord said to Samuel… Samuel is the prophet who is going to be anointing thing the future king.
The Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance, or at the height of his stature, for God sees not as man sees." Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart, and this is a great lesson. Genesis 4:4, it says that Abel, he brings the firstlings of the flock, the lamp, and the fat portions and it says, "The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering." It's a great difference from being seen by men and being seen by God, it's a very big difference. In fact, Jesus at one point was teaching the crowds, and He said, "Beware of the scribes." These are some the Jewish leaders.
He said, "Beware of the scribes, they like to walk around in long robes and respectful greetings and they love places of honor at banquets. Then, for appearance sake, they offer long prayers, but they also devour the houses of widows" Then He said, He looked and He saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury and He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins, and he said, "She has put in more than all of them, for they gave out of their surplus, but she gave out of her poverty." God sees the heart, that's the whole point.
In fact, you know what's interesting? In Malachi 1, it got to the point where when they would bring an offering because the law prescribed that they would bring a lamb. This was all through the Old Testament that the law which asked that they bring a lamb, of course, which represented in picture, that provision that God would bring as He would bring that Son of God who would be that covering of sin. It got to the point, Malachi 1, which is the last book of the Old Testament that when they were to bring a lamb, they would bring the sickly lamb, or the lame or the blind-- It's just going to die anyway.
"This law prescribes that we are to bring a lamb, we'll go give that one, he's going to die anyway, give that one to the Lord, he's about half dead." The Lord confronts this through the prophet Malachi, he's confronting this, and He says, "Really, you're bringing-- He's going to die, he's blind. You try bringing that to the governor to pay your taxes with and see what happens" He says. It's like he's speaking to the heart behind it because this is such an important thing, what's the heart behind it? If a man brings wilted flowers to his wife on Val-- There's a message there. What's the heart behind it because God sees the heart behind it.
Do we bring an offering today, do we bring a sacrifice today? Sure. When you lift up a voice of praise, He calls it a sacrifice of praise. When you bring a sacrifice of praise, is it not the heart that God sees, is it not the heart that God desires to see? Why are we bringing worship? Because we want to give to the Lord from our heart, we want to express our thanks, we want to give our adoration, we want to-- It's a connection of our soul, we want to say, "Thank you God for all that you're doing," it's an expression from the heart is it not? He calls it a sacrifice of praise.
Here's what I'm trying to say, I'm saying that God sees the heart behind it. You can have a person who can't hold a tune in a bucket, they're just singing with all their heart, I suggest to you that God sees that as something very beautiful, because God sees the heart behind it, which is the whole point. Here comes Abel, and God sees the heart behind it. You see, doing what God asks, God is the one who said, "Bring this lamb," because of what it says, it points to God's provision. He tells us in Hebrews 11:4, you know Hebrews 11, that's a famous after because we call it the Hall of Faith. It highlights the men and women of the Old Testament that lived according to faith.
It says. Hebrews 11:4, "By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain. Through which he obtained a testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he's dead he still speaks," his heart, his offering is an example of that, the heart that comes with it. It says, "By faith." What does the scripture say? It says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." He heard the Word of the Lord that spoke to him that said, "Bring a lamb." why? Because the lamb spoke to God's provision. What God would provide, what God would give.
In fact, it says in Hebrews 9:22, it says, "Now, according to the law-- One may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin." God has been pointing to the cross from the very beginning, all through history, He's pointing to the cross, till He comes. Then, remember that fateful day when John the Baptist is baptizing people in the Jordan and Jesus appears on the bank of the river. John called out, he says, "Look, behold, look. You see, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world He has come. The fulfillment of all of those years he's now arrived, the lamb of God is here."
Now, I suggest to you that we are now looking back towards that very thing, the offering of His Son when He was crucified on the cross and raised from the grave on the third day. We commemorate it every time we take communion. We are remembering the very thing. They look forward, we look back. Let's look at 1 Corinthians 11:26, "In the same way, He took the cup after supper, saying this cup is the new covenant initiated in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
You remember because it is the high point of history because God is the one who brings the answer to man's sin and man's shame and men's nakedness. All right, back to Genesis 4, then we see this out of the story, that the joy of the Lord is your strength. Here's how we see it, the Lord did not regard Cain for his offering, Cain becomes angry. His countenance fell. The Lord then said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen?"
II. The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength
Then he adds this, "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up, but the joy of the Lord is your strength." If you do well, if your soul is right within you, your countenance will be lifted up. In other words, he's showing us a very important principle, keep yourself in the love of God. That's what He's showing us. This is the key, keep yourself in the love of God. On our Wednesday study, we've already seen two men that have stood out in their generation, Enoch and Noah.
A. Keep yourself in the love of God
The reason they stood out is because it says, they walked with God. They understood that very point, keep yourself in the love of God. In fact, it tells us in the book of Jude, this is chapter 1:20 and 21, it says, "But you beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God." We must understand this point, keep yourself in the love of God. What happens if you don't put wood on the fire? What happens if you don't water your lawn? What happens if you neglect your marriage?
The answer to all of those questions is the same thing, you have to keep adding wood to the fire or it will die. You have to keep adding water to the lawn or it will die. You have to keep adding to your relationship, keep adding to your relationship or it will die. What He's speaking to is keep yourself in the love of God, continue to walk in the nearness of God. In fact, Psalm 73:28, he says, "As for me." he writes "the nearness of God is my good. Keep yourself in the love of God and build yourselves up on your most holy things." How do you do that?
Well, it tells us by praying, when you're praying and you're praying in the Holy Spirit, the presence of God is part of that praying. Then it tells us of course that God inhabits the praises of his people. When you're worshiping, you're bringing your heart, God is in the midst of it. You're keeping yourself in the love of God when you bring your heart into it. The Scripture describes that the Word of God is the presence of God, Jesus is the word of God.
When you're in the presence of the Lord and receiving His Word, His Word is sent with power, it does not return void without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it and so you are in the presence of God. You're being built up in your most holy faith, the Word of God is sending power. Reminds me of a funny story. One day, I was coming down the stairs. There's some kids playing in the lobby. I love kids, so I stopped. I'm talking to them, playing with them. This one little girl Mia, she was seven at the time.
She came up to me. She says, "Pastor, I listen to you every night." "Really, every night?" She's "Yes. Every night, I ask my mom to put on Pastor Rich. She gets an mp3 and she puts on. Every night, I listen to you. I can't go to bed until I've listened to you. "I said, "Really?" I said, "Why do you do that?" She says, "Because it puts me to sleep."
Well, I have that gift, which reminds me when I was going to Bible College. I was listening to Pastor Chuck. I had his-- Through the Bible. Good, solid meet, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, meet. I'm listening to Pastor Chuck, but here's the thing, I was tired. I had two jobs, I was going to school full-time and I was barely getting any sleep. I know. In the afternoon, after lunch and I'm listening in the library. I've got the headphones on and I'm listening Pastor Chuck. If you listen to him, he's got this big, rich, deep voice.
It was so soothing. I fell asleep listening to Pastor Chuck teach the Word of God. When I woke up, what holy sleep it was.
Here's the famous, Scripture says, Romans 10:17, "Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." even if you're sleeping. The whole point is he sends it in power. Keep yourself in the love of God. Here's why… because He adds this caution. Notice verse 7, is that "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up, but if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door." What a picture.
B. Sin is crouching at the door
That is a powerful picture right there. Sin is crouching at the door and its desire is to master you. I mentioned a couple Wednesdays ago, a good title for the message might be Crouching Sin, Hidden Master, because of the danger he's speaking to because it's such a picture for us crouching sin. What it reminds me of is that illustration, that sin is like having a pet tiger. You think you got it under control, you think you got it tamed, but you don't know when it's going to be the master because that's the point. Sin is crouching at the door.
Its desire is to master you, to have you. Reminds me of the famous team, Siegfried & Roy, who had tamed tigers and used them in their show, until a 380 lb. tiger almost killed Roy Horn. It's a picture of power. Sin is crouching at the door and you must master it. It said you must master because if you don't master it, it will master you. In fact, Paul speaks to this. He says it very powerfully in 1 Corinthians 6.
He says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." That is a powerful statement. Why? I will not be mastered anything so that God would master, be the captain of my soul, be the commander. You must master it, sin is crouching at the door and its desire is to have you. It will master you if you don't master it. A powerful point. It reminds me of the story of a pastor who had been given a pastorate in a small town.
He's coming in and trying to get to know the people of the town. He notices an old woman, who was bitter and cantankerous and angry, and everybody knows her. He begins to inquire what is her story. Someone said, "It's a story of tragedy, when she was young, she was engaged to be married, but her fiancée ran off with her best friend. She's never let go of it." and there you see her. She's become a bitter, cantankerous old woman. The pastor was like, "This is a lesson." What happened is that she had been hurt.
She chose to hold on to that hurt. She chose unforgiveness. She chose it and then she chose it and then she chose it and she chose it again and again and again. Then after a while, she didn't have to choose it anymore, for she had become it. She was now a bitter person. It had mastered her. It's a great point for us. You must master it for it will master you.
C. Be your brother’s keeper
Then he tells us a great point that brings us to this conclusion. Cain told his brother, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Well, yes you are. Be your brother's keeper.
We know the rest of the story. "Where is Abel, your brother? I suggest to you that, that answer that Cain gave was insolent and disrespectful. I think Cain's heart is wrong in every level. Insolent and disrespectful. Yes, we should be-- We are our brother's keeper. Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor." Yes, be concerned.
There is a saying, that phrase there, "Am I my brothers' keeper?" is a famous saying, but there's another one equally famous that is an answer to it. "He ain't heavy, he's my brother." Very famous, right? It Comes from Roe Fulkerson who wrote an article in 1924. He wrote, "I met this spindly, physically weak lad who was carrying a young baby staggering towards the neighborhood park. I said to him, 'Pretty big load for such a small kid.' and the boy said, 'Mister, he ain't heavy, he's my brother." It's a famous line. It speaks to the heart. We should have that heart. I remember one time I was helping my brother move and we were carrying something super heavy down the stairs, and he said, "I'm sorry that's so heavy," and I said, "It ain't heavy, you're my brother."
That should be our heart. It's just not because we had someone who helped us, when we cannot help ourselves. Is it not Christ whose blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel? It's what it says in the book of Hebrews 12:24 it says, "You who have come to Jesus, you've come to the mediator of a new covenant, and you've come to the sprinkled blood which speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." What does it say in Genesis 4, "His blood cries out from the ground."
What did the blood of Abel say? What did it cry out? I think it cried out vengeance. Justice. Vengeance. Eye for an eye. Life for a life. The blood of Jesus speaks a better word. It's grace. It's mercy. It's forgiveness. The blood of Jesus is the only sacrifice that God recognizes. It's the only sacrifice that God recognizes.
All others are self-made, man-made provision. God doesn't recognize, but one and that's the offering of His Son. God is the one who gave it. Acts 4:12, "There is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under Heaven, that's been given amongst men by which we must be saved." Some criticized that, "There is only one way?"
The amazing thing that there is that way. It's God's answer. God is the one who has reached out. He is the one who's covered our shame and drawn us into a relationship of nearness and a relationship of love. That's the point. I don't know how you're doing with the Lord, but I know this, I know that He wants a relationship of nearness. Too many people they walk quite far, they walk quite distant, but God draws us, wants us to draw near.