24th September 2006
Strange stories part.3
Murder so soon!
The account that we have read is one of the saddest that we can find in the bible. I do not say that merely because Cain murdered his brother so soon after creation. First generation man was capable of the most heinous crime; that is the sad thing. From our perspective Adam’s sin was just a minor infringement and we would probably expect sinfulness to be progressive. What I mean by that is; it seems logical that sin over a period of years or centuries would progressively get worse as the generations learn evil ways from each other. What the story of Cain tells us is that:
· Sin is caught and not taught.
· Man is capable of the most awful crimes.
· Sin affects others.
1) Sin is caught and not taught.
Who was it that taught Cain to be jealous of his brother?
Why did Abel offer a sacrifice that was acceptable to God and Cain did not?
What made Cain so filled with jealousy that he actually killed his younger brother?
These are difficult questions. The account is recorded in the bible for us to learn from. So what is it that we can learn?
As I have said sin is caught and not taught. Anyone who has children; or even observes them knows that you do not have to teach a child to be naughty they merely have the ability right from birth! One of the saddest things to happen in the 20th century was the development of AIDS. This virus seems to have had it’s inception amongst the homosexual fraternity and was at first regarded by some as judgement upon what many might term as gross sin. It was not long before the virus was widespread outside of homosexual circles and beyond the effects of immorality. I have seen innocent children dying of the disease in an orphanage in Romania. They caught the disease there, not because of their personal sin or even because of the immorality of their parents but simply because infected blood had come from the USA and the children were being given daily injections of nutrients instead of feeding them wholesome food. The needle was used from child to child and the disease was spread in no time! One little needle affected a whole orphanage! This is like sin, the devil injected SIN into Adam and Eve and they have passed it on to their children and so on. Sin is not merely in the genes it has become a part of the human personality. It is not locked away in some section of our brain that could be operated on. It is in the very heart of man; not in the blood pump as some might suggest, but it is central to man’s personality.
This being the case what can we do about it? That question is like saying; “I would like to change the colour of my blood.” Some might think that the royal family have blue blood and so are different but if you were to cut one of them you would find that their blood is also red and not blue. The very nature of blood is that it is red and there is nothing that you can do about it. Sin is equally a reality! King David said of himself (he was also speaking on behalf of all humanity) “surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5 You see sin is caught and not taught. We could say that our parents are guilty of passing it on but that would be unfair because as we have seen sin is an integral part of our nature. There is nothing that we can do about it! Just as Viorika died of AIDS in that orphanage in Piatra Niamt because the disease infected her so we will all die due to sin. That is the judgement passed on by God to humanity when Adam and Eve ate the fruit!
By this argument are we then saying that the sins of the children is the fault of the parent? This is a very modern train of thought. We are often given to think that the child who turns bad is due to a bad upbringing. There are many parents in the world today who “beat themselves” because their child has gone off the rails. It is true that parents do have an influence for both good and bad upon their children but the bible never gives the impression that the sins of the child are the responsibility of the parent. The account of Cain is a good example, which demonstrate that to us.
2) Sinful man is capable of the most awful crimes.
It is true to say that Adam was guilty for sin entering the world but what was to follow within his own family was the fault of Cain. If we were to devise a story of what the first recorded sin against humanity might be I wonder whether we would come up with jealousy, which led to murder.
Both Cain and Abel were farmers, Cain worked the soil and Abel was a shepherd. Both of them came to God with gifts of worship, Abel’s sacrificed lamb was acceptable to God but Cain’s offering of grain was unacceptable. God spoke with Cain about the upset that was caused by his unacceptable offering but instead of “taking it up with God” Cain went out and murdered Abel. We could make much of the acceptable and unacceptable offering but that is not the purpose of our study tonight. Except that we must say that Abel had learned that there is no approach to God without the shedding of blood and Cain thought that he could approach God with the labours of his hands (works!)
If we think back to our last point that “sin is caught and not taught” then we should not be too surprised that the first sin against mankind would result in the ultimate inhumanity that we can commit; murder!
What Cain was displaying at the beginning of human history is the total depravity of man. This description was of course coined by John Calvin and is one of the tenets of Calvinism. John Calvin did not merely think it up he observed it from accounts such as this in scripture; he also knew it from his own heart and the evidence of mankind. Cain was not merely first generation man who was slightly tainted by sin; he was born in sin and shapen in iniquity, as was Abel also. Abel discovered that there was away to the gracious heart of God, Cain killed Abel because he was jealous of Abel’s faith and acceptance. If that is not depraved I do not know what is, and all of this right at the very beginning of time!
Ever since that time man has fought and died over religion, many blame God but as we can see from this account God is not to be blamed. In actual fact by His grace He came to Cain and spoke with him giving him every opportunity to ask why his gift was unacceptable. But Cain was happy in his false religion he did not want to change his way so therefore the one who followed truth was the object of his wrath.
What we learn so far from this story is that each individual is responsible for their own personal sinfulness and that from the beginning of time after the fall all men became totally depraved and all are capable of the most heinous crimes. Thankfully part of our God-given nature is a conscience, which prevents most of us going as far as Cain did! But to God the sin of disobedience as with Adam is every bit as depraved as murder. We might not fully appreciate that but with God all sin is an abomination and He hates it.
The final thing that we will observe from this account tonight is that:
3) Sin affects others!
From the facts that we have of the account we can find no evidence that Abel deserved the anger of Cain. There is no pre-history that might give us the impression that there was an on-going problem between the 2 men. In fact as far as the account is concerned the years between birth and adulthood are completely ignored. God is clearly not intending us to see anything but the sinfulness of sin. The truth is Cain was jealous of Abel and that jealousy led to deception. He conned Abel to go to the field and it was there that the innocent and unsuspecting Abel was attacked and killed by his own brother.
Abel had done no wrong but Cain’s sin affected him. This I suppose is obvious to all but do we remember that our sin affects others. We might not go as far as Cain but our personal sin does affect others. I recently was speaking with a Pastor in England who is going through great difficulties and may even be “kicked out” of the church because a man who has been convicted of child abuse and violence towards his own wife and children has persuaded a proportion of the church that the Pastor had set him up by claiming that he was having an affair with his wife. There is no truth in it whatsoever but the sin of that man who professes faith is affecting not just one man but also both families and the church.
Beware our sins affect others.
It is not just that our sin affects others it affects God as well!
After Cain had killed Abel, God came to him and asked where his brother was which brought about the excuse that has been used from that time to this; “am I my brothers keeper?” Cain was about to learn that he had touched something sacred. Many years later Job said that “life is God’s to give and God’s to take.” Cain had taken what was God’s right and made it his own. He was ejected from God’s presence it seems from the passage forever! This is a sobering thought. Up until this time man had been in relationship with God even though unity had been broken; God had kept a relationship going. Now Cain would be protected from others but he would be outside of God’s covenant care. This means that he was not saved from the penalty of his sin but even so he was under God’s safe keeping.
As we know from the rest of the bible God has no desire that man should go the way of Cain but wants all men to be in relationship with Him. Abel’s offering is the key to how this would come about. We have already said that it was acceptable to God because somehow Abel had learned the concept that acceptance by God for the sinner comes through sacrifice. We know of course that God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice because it pointed to the ultimate sacrifice; not the blood of innocent animals but that of God the Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. You see sin affects others but it affects God even more. A sacrifice had to be made and the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of mankind was the sin of the Ideal Man. The Perfect Son of God!
Sinful man is totally depraved by his sin; he alone is responsible and he affects others by his sinful ways.
But the greatest affect is upon God Himself who never stopped loving mankind but by His love, grace and mercy sacrificed His Son that all who will repent and believe on Him as the Only Lord and Saviour will be saved!