When God first made men and women, He didn’t intend that they should ever die. He hoped they would love Him and obey Him and live with Him in perfect harmony for all eternity. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, that all changed.
God had warned Adam and Eve of the terrible results of disobeying His simple command not to eat the fruit. And, exactly as God had warned, when they ate the fruit - death came into the world. Now one day everyone must die. But even worse than that, since Adam and Eve’s disobedience, men and women had stopped knowing God properly and doing the things that made Him happy - because of the evil that now lived inside them. (PAUSE)
During Adam and Eve’s lifetime they had many sons and daughters. But it’s not all these sons and daughters I want to tell you about, it’s their first son Cain and what happened between him and his younger brother Abel, that interest me!
As they grew up, Cain and Abel both became farmers. Cain worked in the fields, growing all kinds of grain, vegetables and fruit. While Abel decided to work with animals and became a shepherd looking after sheep.
And although Adam and Eve had broken their relationship with God, and things weren’t how they were supposed to be. God hadn’t been forgotten and He still spoke with Adam and Eve and their children. So Cain and Abel grew up knowing God and that they still needed to show respect to Him and gratitude for all He did. So when harvest time came the two of them decided that they ought to give a sacrifice to God – a special gift to show that they hadn’t forgotten Him and that they were grateful for all He’d given them.
Abel spent quite some time deciding what it was he should bring God to say ‘thank you’. And after much thought, he decided he should give something precious. Something valuable and important to show God how much He meant to Abel. (P) As a shepherd, the most important thing Abel had were his sheep, and the most valued sheep he had were the young lambs of the best sheep in the flock – healthy lambs without anything wrong with them. If Abel gave God something as important as that, surely it would show just how grateful he was. And so Abel brought several of his best lambs to God.
Meanwhile, as it was harvest time, Cain knew that he really ought to be giving something to God as a ‘thank you’ for the wonderful crops he’d just harvested. But what to bring? (P) Well - did it really matter what he brought? Wasn’t it all the same to God anyway? (P) So instead of thinking about it and making sure he brought something that would please God, Cain rummaged through what he could find easily and brought that! (PAUSE)
You know, God doesn’t just look at the gifts we bring Him, He looks at the attitude we have as we bring Him our gifts. It’s easy to give something to God that doesn’t cost much, but it’s much harder to bring something to God that costs a great deal! Abel loved God, and because of that he gave God something that cost him a lot. But Cain didn’t really care and only gave a bit of what he had. Just enough to show that he’d ‘done his duty’!
When God saw what Abel had brought Him, He accepted both Abel and his gift. But when He saw what Cain had given - He rejected Cain - and his gift - because Cain hadn’t treated God with the respect He deserved. (P) But when Cain realised that Abel and his gift had been accepted - while he and his gift had been rejected – you could tell by his face how angry and upset he was. (PAUSE)
So God spoke to Cain.
‘Why are you so angry Cain?’ God asked. ‘Why do you look so miserable? It doesn’t have to stay like this! You can change things if you act in the right way! (P) But watch out! Because if you refuse to act in the right way, the evil desires of sin are waiting to take you captive and destroy you! You mustn’t let that happen, you must fight against these evil desires and make sure they don’t ruin your life!’
But Cain wouldn’t listen. And now everyone would see how terrible the curse of death really was!
‘Hey Abel! You up for a walk in the fields?’
‘Yeah sure Cain, I could do with a change of scene, let’s go!’
But Cain didn’t care about a change of scene - all he wanted to do was get rid of his ‘perfect’ little brother! And in his jealousy and rage he attacked and murdered Abel where he thought no one could see – leaving Abel’s lifeless body in a pool of blood in a lonely field.
Sin was beginning to show how terrible it was with the first ever murder, coming from Cain’s bitterness and jealously. It didn’t need to happen, if only Cain hadn’t been so proud and, and, asked God to help him do what was right. But Cain only cared about himself, he didn’t care about God anymore! The desires of sin, to put himself first and do exactly what he wanted, had taken him over. And now Adam and Eve, Abel’s father and mother, would really know how terrible the curse of death was – the curse they’d brought into the world by disobeying God’s command. - It’d cost them their son! (PAUSE)
But Cain had been mistaken to think no one had seen what he’d done, because God watches everything we do. (P) He spoke to Cain, ‘Where’s your brother? Where’s Abel?’
‘How on earth on should I know,’ replied Cain angrily. ‘Am I supposed to keep track of his every movement?’
But you can’t fool God. ‘What have you done Cain?’ He asked. ‘I hear the blood of your brother Abel crying out to me from the ground! (P) And now you must be punished for this evil thing you have done. (P) I hereby banish you from your home and from the ground you have made unclean with your own brother’s blood. This ground will no longer produce wonderful harvests for you - no matter how hard you work. From this time on you will become a homeless wanderer going from place to place!’
But still, even as God told Cain his punishment, Cain wouldn’t say sorry for the evil thing he’d done. He didn’t seem to care that he’d murdered his own brother! All he could do was complain about the harshness of his punishment without any concern or sorrow for the life he’d taken.
‘This is too much God! I can’t cope with this! You’ve banished me from my homeland and from your presence and now you’re making me a wandering fugitive. Surely anyone who sees me now will try ‘n kill me?’
But still God cared for poor foolish Cain even though Cain wouldn’t turn back and say sorry and be forgiven. (P) ‘They won’t kill you Cain,’ He said. ‘For I will give seven times your punishment to anyone who does.’ And then to protect Cain, and to warn anyone else who might wish to kill him - not to, God placed a special mark on Cain as a warning.
And in His love God also remembered Eve in the loss of her son Abel, and some time later gave her another son. She named him Seth which means ‘granted’, because when he was born she said, ‘God has granted me another son in place of Abel’. And it was one of Seth’s descendants who many years later found himself in very deep water! But that’s another story!