Devotional & Reflection
Genesis 4:1-16 - Crouching Sin, Hidden Dragon
Gen 1-2 saw mankind made in the image of God. We enjoyed a blissful vertical relationship with God and a harmonious horizontal relationship with each other. In Gen 3, mankind sinned and fractured the vertical relationship. Gen 4-11 records the fracture in horizontal relationship as a consequence of the broken vertical relationship.
In Gen 4, people often wonder why God favored Abel's offering but not Cain's. Some think it is because Abel offered an animal offering whereas Cain offered a cereal offering. Furthermore, Abel's offering involved a blood sacrifice. However, "a fruit or vegetable offering is neither superior nor inferior to an animal offering" and "the text does not indict Cain for not presenting the firstfruits." (Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, NICOT. See also Kidner, Genesis). The difference is probably an internal one because only God knows the underlying attitude of Cain's heart. This is supported by Heb 11:4, "By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did."
There are three things we can learn from this passage. First, we need to watch our heart. Second, sin is crouching at our door but third, we have the freedom of choice to respond and master sin. Like Cain, we may observe all the external rituals that seem to convey a holy exterior e.g. offering sacrifices, giving tithes, observing the law and even doing God's ministry - but we still fall short. It is the heart that matters (See 1 Sam 15:22; 16:7). Later on in Jewish history, the Pharisees or "the separated ones" started well. They believed that their forefathers were exiled to Babylon because they failed to keep the Mosaic Law. So they stressed the keeping of all the laws by individuals as well as by all people - the nation. They were so fervent to fulfill the Law that they even had interpretations surrounding the 613 commandments (248 positive, 365 negative) they believed were contained in the Law. However, even people who were so religious can degenerate over time because Jesus told his listeners to do everything the Pharisees told them to do but not to do what they do (Mat 23:3). Thus we need to watch our heart attitudes and relationship with God - not just the external "doing" for God because sin is crouching at the door. Sin is crouching to master us everywhere - masterfully disguised by the hidden serpent in the form of e.g. jealousy of Cain and Abel proportions in the marketplace; scantily clad bodies in the newspapers and movies; or even spiritual organizations losing its spirituality like the Pharisees. The challenge for all of us is to discern and master sin by the grace of God.
Reflect: What sin is crouching at the door of our hearts? How is our spiritual barometer - our heart relationship with God? Is it strong enough to master this sin? Are we more like Cain or Abel?
Tools For Reflection: To help us reflect on a passage, we put on our SPECS. Is there Sin crouching at the door or a Sin we need to confess? Is there a Promise to receive, an Example to follow or a Command to obey? Lastly, is there a Stumbling block we need to avoid?
In a narrative like this passage, we can also ask ourselves "How am I like or unlike the characters in the narrative (e.g. Cain or Abel)?"