Lesson 20

God's Way or Man's Way?

Introduction
In this lesson we will study Genesis 4:1-16 and come to understand what life was like after Adam and Eve sinned. We will notice just how quickly man began to change what God had established, and how he responded to God.

You Decide
Each one of us has only two basic choices when we determine to do something. We can either do it God's way (as revealed in the Scriptures) or go against God's will (or go our own way). It was exactly the same for the first inhabitants of this earth, and it seems that their immediate offspring did not learn from their parent's mistake.

Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel each chose to do things God's way or their own way, and the consequences of this are seen in this chapter. 

1. Cain was a "tiller of the ground." He would have worked extremely hard to make his crops grow (see Genesis 3:18-19). 
2. Abel was a shepherd.

When it came to bring their offerings to the Lord we clearly see their spiritual condition. Would they please God or displease Him by ignoring His word?

1. Abel brought a lamb as a burnt sacrifice to God. He would have learned that this was the correct way to worship God from Adam (see Genesis 3:21). Abel fully understood that he was a sinner in need of the atoning blood. God accepted Abel's faith and response to Him.
2. Cain brought the fruit of the ground as an offering. This was rejected by God for three basic reasons:
a) The ground was cursed (see Genesis 3:17).
b) Cain thought that his hard work was sufficient as a sacrifice to God. Surely God won't reject good works! This is the foundation of all Christless religions.
c) He did not see himself as a sinner in need of the atonement. In effect he continued the alternative spirituality introduced by Satan.

Cain was furious when God rejected his offering. He was mad at God, and he was jealous of Abel. Like so many today, he thought that God was being unfair by making only one way to Him. He was insulted by his brother's correct approach to God. We can imagine him saying to Abel, "What right have you to say that your religion is the only way to God?" 

Who Set the Standard?
Obviously God Himself did when He slew the animals to make clothing for Adam and Eve. Cain chose to have nothing to do with Abel's religion based upon God's word. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." This standard became encapsulated in the Law of Moses "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). By rejecting the standard Cain revealed he had no faith in God, that he disrespected His word, and that he disbelieved the promise of the coming Messiah who would die for sinners (see Genesis 3:15).

The First Murder
From that moment Cain planned to rid himself of Abel. He thought that by killing Abel God would have no choice but to accept his religious approach. False religion has always deeply hated, persecuted and sought to destroy the truth. 1 John 3:12-13 informs us that we should not live our lives as Cain did "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you", but also reveals that he followed Satan instead of God. In Jude :11, speaking of all false religious practitioners, "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain."

Cain Confronted
God confronted Cain with his sin and wickedness. Cain had the same choice as his brother but because of self-righteousness chose the wrong way (Genesis 4:7). Instead of asking for forgiveness he compounded his sin by murdering Abel. His brother is buried and out of sight, but Cain did not count on condemnation.
Cain tried to mask his guilt by claiming that he was not his brother's guardian. He pleaded innocence, and that he was ignorant of the whereabouts of Abel. God reveals to Cain that, though he has killed Abel's flesh, his brother is not really dead, but was in His presence.

Cain's Punishment
The punishment Cain received was four-fold:

1. He would not be permitted to have fellowship with God.
2. The ground would be cursed even further.
3. He would travel the earth like a fugitive running from justice, knowing that one day he will be caught.
4. He would be a vagabond never being able to settle or rest.

Now, though not fully understanding appreciating what he had done, Cain prays for mercy. Does he repent over his wickedness? No, he is still concerned for himself, and even suggests that God is being cruel. He fears that God may use another person to kill him. Cain would live out his earthly existence in fear and torment. The mark set upon Cain was to hinder anyone murdering him. What the mark was the Scripture does not say.

Conclusion
Even in wrath God remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2). God is always just in His dealing with sinful man. Such mercy keeps the door open for the sinner to turn to Him in the future.

Download the MS Word version of this study

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