Where’s Jesus? Cain, Abel and others (Genesis 4)

Murder is bad, and fratricide is a horrific form of murder for it reveals so many ugly things about a family – disfunction, hatred, poor parenting, bad relationships, jealousy, etc.  All these are part of what leads a person to kill his or her brother.  The sheer violence recorded in the Bible is amazing, after only 3 chapters, God’s Word tells us of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain and then it goes on to record the heart of one of Cain’s progeny.  Where is Jesus in a story like this? Cain and Abel represent two types of people.  There are those who worship God right and those who worship God by their own ideas of what is right.  The Word tells us,

Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock (Genesis 4:3-4a).

Now this in and of itself doesn’t tell us much for the OT is full of examples of grain offerings and other produce offerings, even Jesus tells us that we should tithe off of our mint, cummin and dill (Matthew 23:23) but more than that we should obey God.  And that is where we find the principle of right and wrong worship in the Scriptures for God asks Cain,

Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? (Genesis 4:6-7a).

Cain refused to worship God in the way God had instructed and it lead to a deadly set of results – a brother lost, family estrangement, separation from God and ultimately a family line that enters into the first polygamous marriage and brags about its sin,

I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.  If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times (Genesis 4:23-24).

And then there is Abel, a true worshipper of God, killed for following the Lord.  Does this align with the New Testament?  Absolutely, Jesus was a true worshipper of God killed by men who followed rules taught by their forefathers and not by God almighty.

They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. (Matthew 15:9)

His blood was spilled on the ground and cries out to God, but unlike the shedding of Abel’s blood that brings a curse, the shedding of Christ’s blood brings a blessing, for his blood allows men and women to repent and find relief from the curse of disobedience.

Each and every one of us lives as Cain’s in this world, we all worship God in our own way and make an absolute mess of our life and the lives of those we come into contact.  In fact, the Word tells us there is no one who freely worships God (Romans 3:11-13).  And so everyone is under the curse of Cain, driven from God’s presence, guilty of bloodshed, but then Jesus comes and calls us home.  He takes us by the hand and leads us away from the cities we have built with our own hands and into the city built by the hands of God.  For he promises,

I go to prepare a place for you… (John 14:3)

Jesus allows us to be grafted into his perfect life of worship and to receive all the benefits of being ïn Christ.”  Jesus is even here, in the story of fratricide pointing us back to the Father and his loving embrace, calling us to worship aright and to return to the fold. Let us call on the name of the Lord, for he promises to be found by those who seek him and that if we confess our sins (self-directed worship) we will be forgiven (1 John 1:9-10). Will you believe, repent and obey?


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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