Genesis 4 is the first account of a generation born outside the Garden of Eden. The sin-nature has been effectively transferred from Adam and Eve to their children through birth. It has become like an infectious disease passed from person to person since their removal from the Garden of Eden.
Human history demonstrates that we are not better without God. Without God our view of good and evil is murky. Without God, we often choose what feels good no matter the consequence or how our decision impacts others.
Adam and Eve appear to have made amends with God evidenced by Eve giving thanks to God for the birth of Cain. She uses the name “LORD” which was God’s most sacred name in Israel. Translated from the Hebrew name “Yahweh,” this was the name that defined God’s covenant relationship with His people.
It’s here we are introduced to the first two children born to Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. We know very little about them, except their name and occupation. Cain is a farmer. Abel is a shepherd.
Both occupations hold a very sacred place in scripture. In John 15 God is described as a “vinedresser” aka gardener. Kind David, a man after God’s own heart, was a shepherd.
“³Cain brought some (italics mine) of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” Genesis 4:3-5
Why did God accept Abel’s offering and not Cain’s offering?
#1 Some vs. first
Cain brought “some” of his harvest where Abel brought the “first-born” of his flock as an offering. The word “some” is in direct contrast with the description “first” indicating Cain’s offering was an “after-thought.”
Cain brought the unwanted portions of his harvest and kept the best for himself. Abel brought the best of his flock to God as an offering. Abel had no assurance that the rest of his flock would be healthy, but instead of keeping it for himself, he gave it to God. Abel’s offering declared his trust in God to provide for Him.
The “firstfruits” offering was an important principle in the life of God’s people. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” The principle of “firstfruits” was a means to honor and thanks to God for what we have.
Cain allowed pride to prevent him from honoring God. Instead of giving God his best, he put himself first. He stole the honor which belonged to God.
#2 Correction vs. rejection
God explained to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted.” God’s correction was not a rejection of Cain but his offering. God clarified to Cain what He needed to do.
“11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12
Most people do not like to be disciplined. It is viewed as a negative experience. God disciplines so we do not repeat the wrong action over and over. Discipline is an act of love. Refusing it leads to poor decision making and makes us vulnerable to sin.
God told Cain that it’s possible for him to rule over sin. One way we rule over sin is repentance. Repentance erases our bad decision or past mistake like it never happened. Consequences sting-less when we know we are forgiven.
Give God your best, not your leftovers. Honor God with the firstfruits of your time, money, abilities, and energy. God will honor you when you honor Him. It’s in our sacrifice that we discover the faithfulness of God to be on point.