The Way of Cain

Last week we discussed the ongoing witness of Abel as a man of faith. He being dead, yet speaks.  Just as Abel is a strong and effective image of righteousness, so his counterpart and older brother, Cain, forever stands as a representative of unrighteousness.

  • Our focus was on the difference between Abel’s acceptable sacrifice and Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice.  We concluded that Cain did not please God with his offering because it was not according to God’s expressed commandment, and thus not by faith. But Cain’s sin did not end with this one unacceptable sacrifice. His displeasure at God’s judgment, God’s discourse with him, and his treacherous decision to murder his brother are the rest of the story.

Genesis 4:3 -8 (read scripture)3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 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.” 8 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.

Cain is an example of the slippery slope of sin. One sin leads to another. Cain represents  those who travel  this road and end up some place they never intended or expected. So the Bible describes his legacy as the “way of Cain”. (Jude 11Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain. ) He is numbered with such infamous men as Balaam and Korah, as the father of rebellion.

I.  Tracing the Way of Cain:  The description of Cain’s disobedience as a “way” suggests not only that others have followed in the same type of error, but also that his disobedience was a process, rather than a one time action. When we review the particulars of the events in Genesis 3, this becomes evident. The apostle John depicts Cain’s error in 1 John 3:1212 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. John says that Cain works (plural) were wicked.  We can identify the specific sins of Cain in the Genesis account.

A.  Unbelief – that led to Disobedience:  Hebrews 11 clearly indicates that Cain’s failure to please God with his sacrifice was because he did not do it in faith (as Abel did).  The implication of these words (and Rom. 10:17) is that God had previously commanded the type of sacrifice He wanted and Cain did not comply.  Those who do not respect the words of God, even to the slightest detail, are headed for disobedience.  Luke 6:4646 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?

1.  God’s absolute authority is at stake. Therefore God reacts sternly towards those who ignore His commands; even if their intentions are honorable. When King Saul offered a sacrifice to God, in conjunction with a plea for His help, he did it without God’s authority. The priest alone was authorized to offer such a sacrifice. Samuel, the priest, spoke God’s mind on the matter in 1 Sam 15:22-23 22 So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.  23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”

B.  Envy– that led to anger: Cain’s problems went beyond the unacceptable nature of his own sacrifice. He also stumbled over the acceptability of his brother’s sacrifice. Gen 4:4-5And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. Cain’s anger was born from envy of Abel’s acceptance and bitterness from his own rejection.  Just as he was unwilling to accept God’s words before, so now he is unwilling to receive God’s judgments.

1.    Although anger itself is not a sin, Cain’s anger was unjustified. He was not angry at sin, but righteousness.  He was displeased at another’s blessing. This is the definition of envy.  Nelson’s Bible Dictionary defines envy as “A feeling of resentment and jealousy toward another person because of his possessions or good qualities.” (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

2.   James 3:14-164 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 1 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. Satan shows early on how effectively he can use an envious attitude to create division and “every evil thing”.

3.  When you hear of someone else receiving some good thing, what is your first thought?  If it is about ourselves, then we need to pay attention.  Cain’s envious thoughts caused him to be angry with his brother (and possibly with God). It did not end there.

C.  Anger – that led to Resentment – Cain’s anger showed on his face (his “countenance fell”, v. 5 – his face was downcast – NIV).  You can be angry without showing it, but it is difficult.  (we are going to consider the implications and dangers of anger in tonight’s lesson)

1. God is concerned with Cain’s anger (and Satan’s opportunity), so He speaks.  Gen.  4:6-7 – Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (NIV)  God’s words are a warning against further sin. He wants Cain (and us) to be aware of the danger of uncontrolled emotions.  The image of sin “crouching at the door” – ready to pounce on him.

  • Eph 4:26-27 – In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. (NIV) If anger is left unresolved, it goes underground and becomes resentment, and provides Satan access (a foothold).
  • Joseph and his brothers – anger gone to seed. Gen 37:3-4 –  Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. After he told them his dreams, it says in vs. 8 – they hated him even more. When given the opportunity they were ready to kill him. Satan was crouching at the door.

D.   Resentment – that led to Murder – Genesis 4:88 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. This is the sin that we most identify with Cain. He was the first murderer.  The influence of Satan on the human race was devastating. The impact of that first murder has not waned since that day.  – over  16,000 people murdered in this country last year – over 1200 right here in Florida.  (of course these statistics do not reflect the 42 million children of this world who are murdered each year through abortion)

1.  Do you know who kills who the most?  Spouses kill spouses.  1/3 of all female murder victims are killed by their husbands or live-in boyfriends.  Why? There may be multiple factors, but unresolved anger that becomes resentment is near the top of the list. Hatred that turns violent.

2.  But this killing was more than just a random act. This was the effort of evil to eradicate good. It was Satan’s answer to the obedient faith that God expected and received by His people. It prefigured the most heinous murder in the history of mankind, when righteous Jesus would be struck down by the lawless hands of those who hated his righteous acts.

E.  Murder- that led to Lying: Genesis 4:9- 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” There is little doubt that Cain knew “where” his brother was. And God was not asking because He did not know. The question was rhetorical and the purpose was to bring Cain face to face with his sin. But when sin begets sin,  so often lying is somewhere in the process.

1.  God hates lying: These 6 things the Lord hates, yes, 7 are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood.(Prov. 6:16-19) Telling lies is pervasive because there are so many reasons to do it.

a.   We lie to make ourselves look good, to keep out of trouble, to obtain what we do not have, to win the approval of others, to get people to vote for us, to justify our actions or promote our agenda. Cain lied to evade the responsibility for his sin.

b.   We also lie because it appears we can get away with it- that there are no consequences.  But God hears every lie, and he is never deluded or deceived.  Ananias and his wife Saphirra found out that lying and hypocrisy are foolish and consequential.  Revelation 21:88 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

II.   The End of the Way: After God exposed Cain’s treachery, He told him the consequences of his actions. Gen 4:10-1610 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so ; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod,  east of Eden. (NIV)

A.   “Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (v. 10)-  Some suggest that Cain buried Abel’s body in an attempt to hide the crime. But the voice of Abel’s blood cried for justice. The sanctitiy of human life demanded it, and still does. As we mentioned last week, God will balance all the scales.

B.   But God places Cain under a curse  (v. 11) as a disciplinary measure and to make known the heinous nature of his crime. In response to his parent’s sin, God drove Adam and Eve from the garden and made them earn their food through hard work. Cain had been living that, and worked to produce a crop from the ground. But now the ground itself would refuse to cooperate, and his inability to support himself will force him to move around.

C.  “My punishment is more than I can bear…” ( v. 13) Cain sees this as cruel and unusual punishment and complains that God is being too severe. God’s answer reassures Cain that anyone who does what Cain has done will also be punished even more severely.

1.  God’s words here reinforce for us the principle of God’s prerogative for justice and vengeance. No one had the right from God to take it into his own hands and kill Cain.

  • Rom 12:17-19 – Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. I cannot return evil with evil, but I must give place to my anger and allow God to provide justice and vengeance.  Paul goes on to say in chapter 13 that God has ordained the civil authorities as his agents to punish the evildoers.

2.  The same proud spirit that refuses to listen to God’s instructions and presumes his approval, also is ready to question his judgments and argue against His actions.  This spirit is depicted for us in Jude’s words that we referenced at the beginning of our lesson.  Jude 8-11 – Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said,”The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. There is nothing more disturbing and profoundly ludicrous than men and women who revile and speak evil of the God of the universe.  It is a picture that contrasts the way of God’s faithful people, as Cain contrasts Abel.

D.   So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence…(v. 16) – God’s numerous attempts to bring Cain to repentance and submission were unsuccessful. In the end Cain left God behind and sought to live his own way in the land of Nod.  The scriptures record more of Cain’s family seemingly to chronicle the development of the humanistic spirit that does not recognize God, and His influence is absent from their lives.  It is not until God allows Eve to give birth to another son, Seth, that the hope of redemption and salvation are rekindled.  Gen 4:26 – “At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.”

Note: some suggest that Eve’s remark at the birth of Cain (Gen 4:1 – “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” ) indicates that she anticipated that Cain would be the “man” through whom the promise of Gen. 3:15 would be fulfilled.  If that is accurate, how wrong she was!  Cain was not the Messiah, but the representation of those who would, in their His own time, put the Messiah on the cross.

1.  So when Seth was born Adam said, – For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” (Gen 4:25)  There was still hope. God’s promise could not be undone, even in the midst of violence, when men were departing from God.

2.  All of Cain’s family died in the judgment of Noah’s flood.  But his legacy continues even today.  There are many who are still walking in the way of Cain. In the end, they will also go out” from the presence of the Lord”.

Conclusion: Tonight we will consider the sin of anger. Cain’s unwillingness to control his anger got him in a lot of trouble. It does us as well.  After Jude describes the devastating impact of the false teachers and worldly people who follow in the way of Cain, he speaks directly to the Christians of his day:

Jude 20-21 – But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Be like Abel, not like Cain – walk by faith, not by sight.

Scroll to Top