Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Mark of Cain

Let's take a look at one of the more interesting fellows in the book of Genesis, a man of many firsts, a man of infamy, Cain.

[Genesis 4:1 NKJV] "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD.""
Cain was the first son. [Genesis 4:2 NKJV] "Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground."
Cain is the first recorded farmer. [Genesis 4:3 NKJV] "And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD."

We have no idea why Cain chose to make an offering to the LORD. I believe we might see a clue later on, but for now, we don't know why. Being a man of firsts, Cain is now the first recorded person to make an offering.
[Genesis 4:4 NKJV] "Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,"
[Genesis 4:5 NKJV] "but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell."

Cain is the first person with a rejected offering, and the first person recorded to get angry.

[Genesis 4:6 NKJV] "So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?"

[Genesis 4:7 NKJV] ""If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire [is] for you, but you should rule over it.""

God takes the time to speak to Cain. Amazing. And instead of saying "Your offering is lame, I rejected it.", God offers Cain words of consolation and encouragement!

[Genesis 4:8 NKJV] "Now 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 killed him."

Now there is the first for which Cain is so famous; being the first murderer. We don't have any details on the murder, but we will see blood was involved. Did Cain clobber Abel over the head with a rock? Jab him with a pointy stick? We do not know the details of the crime, but there is One who does.

[Genesis 4:9 NKJV] "Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where [is] Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. [Am] I my brother's keeper?""

And now we get the famous quote "Am I my brother's keeper"? This quote gets used by people all the time, and many people have no idea it comes from the Bible. I heard the President use the phrase "Brother's keeper" in a speech. A play on Cain's words gets turned into "and I'll be my brother's keeper" in the song "Hold us together" by Matt Maher.

So, when Cain answers God with a lame "I don't know", I can only conclude that Cain does not believe God knows what happened to Abel. Cain believes in God, which is pretty easy to do when God simply shows up and decides to talk to you. Cain even made an offering to God, but that offering was rejected. But is it possible that Cain believed in God the way that pagans do; thinking God was just one of many gods; a forest spirit, a "God of the harvest" who wanted a table of fruits and vegetables laid out before him, in order to secure better crops next year? I would suspect it might have been something like that. Cain did not truly know or grasp the greatness of who God was.
Abel, however did know something about God. Abel somehow put it together that if God had to slay an animal in order to clothe Adam and Eve, then blood must be required to cover our sinful ways. Blood was important. Abel may not have realized the depth of the model represented by a blood sacrifice, but his offering painted a model of Jesus on the cross, sacrificed to cover our sins with His blood. Abel somehow got it.

[Genesis 4:10 NKJV] "And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground."

The blood cried out. God lets Cain know he saw the whole thing. Cain was not dealing with some fairy god of the woodland creatures, some regional god, a god of the hills but not the valleys; but the awesome creator of the universe! Is there anything that can be hid from God? Nope.

[Genesis 4:11 NKJV] ""So now you [are] cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand."

[Genesis 4:12 NKJV] ""When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.""

Here is something Cain wasn't the first at, being cursed. Adam and Eve got that one when they were driven out of the Garden of Eden. But he does win the first for being specifically labeled a fugitive. We tend to hear the word "fugitive" and think "fugitive from justice". In this case, though, God has handed out the judgment, and cast Cain out from the area.

[Genesis 4:13 NKJV] "And Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment [is] greater than I can bear!"

[Genesis 4:14 NKJV] ""Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen [that] anyone who finds me will kill me.""

[Genesis 4:15 NKJV] "And the LORD said to him, "Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him."

 There is a band "Avenged Sevenfold", so now you know where the term comes from. God puts a mark on Cain, and that's another first for Cain. The first "marked man". Driven out and left to fend for himself.  Cursed. Fugitive. Vagabond.

[Genesis 4:16 NKJV] "Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden."

Cain went on to raise a family and all, but he was always known for killing his brother Abel. Interesting that God marked Cain for his protection, that others wouldn't kill Cain in retribution. We don't even know where these other people came from; I guess God just created more folks beyond Adam and Eve. Regardless of how they showed up, the mark of Cain kept him alive as well as identified him.

So each day Cain woke up and knew he was a marked man. Did this kill his relationship with God? The last words we have recorded between God and Cain was God promising to take vengeance on whoever killed Cain. Seems like God was still looking out for Cain, in spite of what Cain did.

I believe God offers us far more mercy than even Cain received. Cain was protected by a mark, but we are covered by the blood of Jesus! That is, if you choose to believe. The mark of Cain was a warning; the blood of Jesus has power.

[1 John 1:6 NKJV] "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."
[1 John 1:7 NKJV] "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
[1 John 1:8 NKJV] "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
[1 John 1:9 NKJV] "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
[1 John 1:10 NKJV] "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."

We're just sinners, some of use choose to be saved by grace. Jesus offered himself so that we could have more than just a mark of protection, we can have complete forgiveness for our evil deeds. We just need to ask. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to wash us clean! That's amazing. Not just forgiveness, but to be washed clean. Available for the asking!

There is no point kidding ourselves; we have all sinned. I sure know I have. I need a savior. I don't need a mark to scare away attackers, I need the One who can forgive and forget, the one who washes me clean. What about you? I tell you what this world needs, this world needs Jesus.