The Sixth Sunday after Trinity
O GOD, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” (Genesis 4:1-16: all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Today’s text present fundamental lessons on the Mind of God as opposed to the mind of man. Eve pronounced Cain to be a possession, but Abel was of so little worth that she made no mention at his birth. Like Adam as the first man (or son) who was carnal and the head of all born of woman in the flesh, so Christ was the second Adam (or Son in type) that was the federal head of all those born of the Spirit. The second exceeded the glory of the first by immeasurable dimension. In the Mind of God, Abel was called a prophet; but Cain was a murderer. Men often value a son by right of first-born, but God looks upon the heart. Even considered Cain a possession from God, but he became a grievous disappointment in time. The one she valued most was the one who destroyed both himself and the one she valued least. That is the carnal mind in action.
Our Bible text today exposes the age-old battle between good and evil, right and wrong, Hell and Heaven. Cain and Abel represent the starkly opposing sides of that battle.
“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Genesis 4:1-2) Who was Cain, and who was Abel?
Cain was the first born of woman (Eve). Just as his father, the first man, Adam represents the human race, fallen and rebellious, so does this son (Cain), being the first born upon earth, represent fallen man in the depravity of will and conscience. In every culture and custom, the first born usually occupies the seat of preeminence among the offspring of a family, but with God, it has always been just the opposite: Examples: (Adam –Christ, Cain-Abel, Ishmael-Isaac, and Esau-Jacob). He is a man, not cursed of God, but cursed by his own sins, unrepented. All who go into the fires of Hell go by their own merits. No one enters Heaven by their own merits – only by the Salvation made available through the grace and elective calling of God in Christ Jesus. Cain brought an offering to God which was the product of his own labors, and from a source that was cursed the earth. “ . . . . cursed is the ground for thy sake . . . . ” (Genesis 3:17) Cain preferred to do things HIS way without regard to the animal who shed their blood to cover the nakedness of his mother and father. “. . . Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22)
Abel was the first prophet born of woman. He honored God in his worship and obedience. He did not worship God according to his own desires, but in reverence and conformity to the will of God. Abel brought a blood sacrifice which was pleasing to God, and not a product of the labors of his own hand. “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” (Matthew 23:34-35)
Why was Cain’s offering refused? Because it was not honoring to God. It was a product of the sweat and labor of Cain in tilling the earth. The earth was cursed. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;” (Genesis 3:17) Cain was arrogant and presumptuous to bring an offering that he knew was not pleasing to God. He worshipped his OWN way and not the way laid down by God. “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.” (Genesis 4:3) God demands reverence in worship, not free-for-all orgy.
Abel brought forth a lamb for his offering. The lamb foreshadows that Lamb of God whose coming was necessary to redeem us from our sins. Abel, himself, foreshadows Christ. He was a prophet, and he laid down his life (at the hand of his brother) in making a sacrifice pleasing to God. The sacrifice of Christ was pleasing to God because it conformed to His plan to redeem fallen man. “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:” (Genesis 4:4) God does not need our good (or truly bad) works. He needs an acceptable offering. That offering is the Blood of Christ. He needs not money and sacrifice now that the sacrifice has been made – He needs a broken and contrite heart. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalms 51:17)
“But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”(Genesis 4:5) When we fail to bring that suitable offering to God mentioned above, why are we upset with God instead of ourselves? We are too much laboring to get God on Our side instead of getting our hearts and souls on His side. So we do wrong and are chastised. We sulk away angry and resentful as a child who has been refused the third popsicle. Being angry with God, contrary to many popular novels of deceit, is not a healthy proposition. Anger against God is a sin! When we embark on the road of harboring one sin, that one sin gives birth prolifically to many sins just as described in Psalms 1. Sin is a road that leads down and down to destruction.
“And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” (Genesis 4:6-7) The privilege of the first born was high honor in ancient times. God tells Cain, “If you do well, your sacrifice would be received and you would not have lost your birthright.” When Isaac blessed Jacob (the second born) he thought he was blessing Esau. Jacob deceived his father in getting that blessing of the first born. Isaac said: “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” (Genesis 27:29) But Cain did not well receive the chastisement of God. He made his prospects of greater damnation in that rejection.
“And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (Genesis 4:8) The implication here is that the ‘talk’ Cain had with Abel was not friendly. Perhaps Abel, being a prophet, reminded Cain of his obligation to bring a suitable offering of blood to God. Cain was rich in products grown from the soil – not sheep. So he wanted to offer that which was convenient to him. Doing things Our way always leads to ruin. It not only hurts us, but those to whom we owe love. Cain began in disobedience to proper worship, and ended with the murder of his only brother. The reverence and proper order in which we worship is important to God. We do not worship using those products of the world, but in an impeccable manner honoring to that One who bled and died for us.
“And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) Not only had Cain failed to be his brother’s keeper, but his murderer instead. How often we attempt to mitigate our sins by committing a greater one. One does not lie to God. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”. (Galatians 6:7) and “. . . ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)
“And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) Though the bodies of the righteous martyrs lie in the earth, their spirits cry unto God from the dust for their murders. Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Tale-Tale Heart’ illustrates this even if fiction.
“And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; 12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” (Genesis 4:11-12) I ask you, friends, what caused the curse to fall upon Cain – God, or Cain’s sins? I believe the answer will be perfectly honest to all who hear this sermon. It was the transgressions and rebellion of Cain that brought upon him the curse! It is the same for us in our day. God will take from us every privilege because we have renounced right to that privilege.
“And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.” (Genesis 4:13-14) Whether or not the punishment for our sins is greater than we can bear is irrelevant! We shall, indeed, bear them. Sin Always separates us from God. And who sins, God or us? We separate ourselves from God through our disobedience and disregard for the reverence owed Him in worship – if we worship at all. Even the world hates the reprobate of God.
“And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” (Genesis 4:15) Even though despised and hated for his perverted ways, murdering such a one is a sin against God because it would deprive God of the prospect of redemption for even a Peter (who denied Jesus thrice) and you and me for our sins of commission and omission. We shall leave it to God to condemn though we judge sin by His Holy Word. We do not know precisely the manner of ‘mark’ set upon Cain, but I believe it was not a visible mark, but one in the mind where judgments and decisions were made – much like the Mark of the Beast or the Seal of God mentioned in Revelations which was IN the forehead (where deliberative decisions are made and judgments enacted) and not ON it.
“And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” (Genesis 4:16) All who abide in their sins go out from the presence of the LORD. Remember that horribly fateful night when Judas departed from the presence of Christ and went out into an eternal dark night? “He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.” (John 13:30) Are you yet in the dark night, or have you come into the glowing Presence of Christ?
Perhaps it is high time that we put away our wedges of gold worship, and our musical idols of drums and sensual singing, and return to the reverence of our fathers in worshipping the Lord in the sole Beauty of Holiness.
“Prenez en Gré”
In Christ Alone
in TRINITY SEASON
† Jerry L. Ogles , D.D.
Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide & Chancellor, Faith Theological Seminary
“Metus improbo compescit, non clementia.” – Syrus, MAXIMS: Fear, not kindness, restrains the wicked!
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer – HOLY SCRIPTURE:
“If there were any word of God beside the Scripture, we could never be certain of God’s Word; and if we be uncertain of God’s Word, the devil might bring in among us a new word, a new doctrine, a new faith, a new church, a new god, yea himself to be a god. If the Church and the Christian faith did not stay itself upon the Word of God certain, as upon a sure and strong foundation, no man could know whether he had a right faith, and whether he were in the true Church of Christ, or a synagogue of Satan.”