Genesis 4:6-7 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.”
This passage of scripture has intrigued me ever since I read it a couple of years ago. God had required a sacrifice from Cain and Able. Able offered a lamb and was accepted, whereas Cain offered the fruits of the field. Cain’s offering was good, and probably filled with good intentions, however it was not according to God’s will or purpose. We learn more about this sacrifice in the New Testament. Paul tells us that Able offered a more perfect sacrifice.
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
From this text we learn that God had required an animal sacrifice instead of something else. Cain had the same instructions from God that Able had, yet he chose to offer something different. We can only assume that he possessed good intentions, otherwise why did he even offer a sacrifice. It may have been a real sacrifice for him to offer what he did, yet it was not according to God’s direction. God rejected that sacrifice on those grounds.
Our text provides us with more information regarding the attitude and responsibility of Cain for his actions. These verses also point out a fact that remains even to our day and age. Cain was responsible for his own actions!
After the rejection of his sacrifice, God speaks to Cain. Imagine, God speaking directly to us? So many desire this to happen, and declare that they would be faithful to such an experience. However, this was not the case with Cain. God asked Cain a direct question: “Why are you angry?” This was the first question. What was the cause of Cain’s anger? If Cain could have answered this question honestly, he might not have done what he was plotting. Our anger comes from within, not without. We permit ourselves to become angry. Recognizing what causes us to become angry will help us to deal effectively with our anger.
Next, God asked: “Why has your countenance fallen.” Not only was Cain angry, he was physically showing his anger by his body language. We cannot hide our emotions. Our body language speaks clearly to all what is happening within our hearts. The Lord said that it is from the heart that a man speaks, and it is from the heart that our outward appearance is controlled. Cain’s anger had caused his appearance to change. What was the real cause for his change in physical appearance? If we can determine this in our own life, then we shall have a different appearance.
Before Cain could answer this question, God reminds Cain that he was totally responsible for his attitude and actions. Regarding the sacrifice that was denied by God, we find that if Cain had offered according to God’s will, then he would have been accepted, just as his brother had been accepted. Change the sacrifice and be accepted. A simple task, yet a barrier so high that Cain could not see a way to overcome that barrier. He had permitted his anger to blind his eyes to reality. He could not see error in his own life. He was unwilling to repent.
We have a great lesson in these few words. If we do God’s will we shall be accepted by Him. If we determine to do according to our own wills, then we shall be rejected, just as Cain was rejected. God’s message to us, today, is to be obedient to His will and not ours. If we reject God’s will, then there are consequences that we must face.
The first consequence for rejecting God’s will is that sin lies at the door. The picture presented by this statement is of a lion who lies at our door and waits for us to open the door and become his victim. Sin is always just on the other side of the door of our hearts. Sin is always willing to come into our hearts, yet, there is a natural barrier between our hearts and sin. Sin cannot come into our lives unless we invite sin into our hearts. James teaches us this principle:
James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
The last statement by God is one of great encouragement: “But you should rule over it.” We have within us the power and ability to control our passions and to resist the power of sin in our lives. This was true with Cain and it is true with us today. If we permit sin to come into our lives, we cannot blame anyone but ourselves for sin in our lives. The way God addressed this issue was that we “should” rule over sin. We should not permit sin to rule in our lives. As Christians, we can, through Christ, not permit sin to rule in our lives.
Even with this case, we can see that God has always put the responsibility of sin on the individual. Cain did not inherit any sin from his father. He was responsible for his own sins, and he had the responsibility of ruling over his own life. When we sin, as James says, we are drawn away by our own desires, not some else. We are responsible for our own sins.
We know the sad end to Cain’s anger and attitude – he killed his brother. Cain permitted his anger to go unchecked and he let sin into his life. The fruit of that sin was the death of his brother. He became very cold and hardened as a result of his sin. God had to punish Cain, and Cain lived with the consequences of his sin the remaining days of his life.