Monday, July 26, 2010

Cain Became Furious

In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented an offering -some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let’s go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Genesis 4:3-8 (HCSB)

The first violent sin was the result of unresolved anger.  Perhaps that is why Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, "Fool!" will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, "You moron!" will be subject to hellfire.
Matthew 5:21-22 (HCSB)

or why John said:

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
1 John 3:15 (HCSB)

That unresolved anger can lead to violence whether verbal, emotional, psychological, or physical there can be no question.  That is why this is such an important issue to address. 

There are two way to interpret what God says to Cain.  Traditionally God gives us a admonition.  He warns that unresolved feelings of anger and feeling down give sin a foothold in your life.  I imagine a predatory animal just waiting to pounce.  It seems that sin is a opportunist taking advantage of our emotional state to do it's dirty work.  In this case the goal is to do what is right, rule over sin, or it will rule over you. 

The second way is looking that the interpretation from Hebrew to English more literally.  The word interpreted sin in this verse is "chatta-ah" in Hebrew.  This word can either be interpreted sin or sin offering.  If we go toward the latter then it would seem that God was giving Cain instruction on what to do with his sin.  Consider this translation:

And Jehovah saith unto Cain, "Why hast thou displeasure? and why hath thy countenance fallen? Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it."
Genesis 4:6-7 (YLT)

In this case he says if you have done well then there is acceptance.  We know that God did not accept his sacrifice so then God goes on to say there is a sin offering at the opening (door) waiting for him to rule over it.  If this is the interpretation then I believe the whole interaction makes sense.  Cain offers a first fruits or grain offering offering to the Lord from the produce of the ground (See Lev 2:14).  Abel did this as well, however he (either in place of or in addition to) brings an animal sacrifice.  It is clear later in the Old Testament and then fulfilled in the New Testament that there is no remission of sin without a sin offering. 

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the most holy place by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood.
Hebrews 13:11-12 (HCSB)

So Abel's offering was not accepted because it was substantively better but rather it was a more complete (excellent) sacrifice offered in faith that God would remove sin (i.e., be approved as righteous before God; see Heb 11:4).  What is more if we follow this interpretation God provided Cain a second chance by putting a sin offering (at the door) which Cain subsequently rejected and went out and murdered his brother.  How often do we do the same when it comes to being angry.  We do not go out a literally kill someone, but we do reject the grace that God provides us and move into the greater consequences of greater sin brought about by passionate anger. 

Regardless of which interpretation you would follow there is action that is needed when it comes to dealing with anger.  Perhaps in this case we could take it to have double meaning (which does occasionally happen in the Bible) since they do not contradict each other.  First we must guard against sinful anger by doing what is right in the first place with a spirit of sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2).  Second, if we are angry we must be on guard to not sin (Eph 4:26).  If we do not guard ourselves then we will likely fall into sinful response in our anger.  Finally, if we do sin there is a provision of God's grace waiting at the door (Rev 3:19-20).  We must receive this provision of grace and allow Christ to overcome our anger at the moment it comes to us. 

Three principles:

  • Protective: Do what is right.
  • Awareness: Be on guard against sinful anger
  • Restorative: Repent of anger and trust in God's grace through Jesus

May God Richly Bless You