Cain, Abel and the Blood that Speaks a Better Word
September 3, 2017
What a sad story. The story of Cain and Abel. They were brothers who shared the same family name. But they did not share the same kingdom destiny.
One loved the world. The other loved the world that is to come. One cared about his own blood. The other cared about the blood of someone far greater than him. One died a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, not having believed in the promises of God. The other died a stranger and an exile on the earth, having greeted God’s promises from afar. One will rise again to eternal punishment in hell. The other will rise again to eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth.
Brothers and sisters, it is difficult and heartbreaking to see Cain reach his end.
First, we ought to lament when Cain failed to listen to the voice of God and turn back to him. The Lord warned Cain. He told him that sin was crouching at the door. He told him that he would be accepted if he did well. The Lord spoke to Cain. But Cain did not listen to God. He did not even reply. Instead, Cain turned away from God to give his sovereign Lord the silent treatment and turned to Abel to give his blood brother a not-so-silent treatment. And Cain filled the air with words of his own.
This is lamentable. Who are we to ignore God and his words? Who are we to speak in anger or pride? The writer of Ecclesiastes was on to something when he suggested the following: “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” Oh the sadness of Cain’s failure to listen to the voice of God and turn back to him! And the sadness continues today, as the non-believing world has stopped listening to God’s word.
Second, we ought to be horrified when Cain murdered Abel. The Lord made human beings in his image. And the Lord is sovereign over life and death. But Cain took life away from Abel. He committed the sin of murder. We consume so much media in our lives about people murdering people that we can be numb to it. Do not fall into that. Murder is profoundly wicked. You could imagine Cain’s darkly murmuring, “God, you didn’t accept my offering? You want a blood offering? Alright, I’ll give you a blood offering. I’ll give you my brother!”
This is horrifying. This heart of darkness; this act of murder. Who are we to murder others? Who are we to speak in anger or pride? Christ himself stated in Matthew 5 these words: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Oh the sadness of Cain’s murder of Abel! And the sadness continues today, as the non-believing world continues to murder and boil in anger without end.
Third, we ought to be sickened beyond belief with what Cain did when God put him on trial. The Lord asked Cain a question, and it was Cain’s final chance to turn back. “Where is Abel your brother?” The Lord did not ask this question because he didn’t know. He asked this question because he already knew everything. He was not asking as a detective. He was asking as a judge. And how did Cain answer God? Cain’s answer contained 1) a shameless lie - “I do not know…” - and 2) a defiant sarcasm - “… am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain knew exactly where his brother was. He murdered him in the field. And when God came to prosecute Cain in his divine courtroom, Cain had the unrepentant audacity and rebellious boldness to turn the tables on God and take the place of God and beat his chest for a courtroom of his own. Do you realize that Cain questioned God? “… am I my brother’s keeper?” That was a question. And that question was a spitting upon God’s glorious name.
This is unbelievable. For who can question God? Who can put God on trial? Who dares to boast in himself and claim sovereignty against the maker of heaven and earth? What Cain did was sickening beyond belief. When Job spoke to God, God said to him, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. // Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” Oh the sadness of what Cain did when God put him on trial! And the sadness continues today, as the non-believing world loves to sinfully question God.
Fourth, we ought to be sad with Cain’s response to God’s judgment. The Lord drove Cain away from the ground. And the Lord drove Cain away from him. Cain was cursed from the ground so that it would no longer yield to him. And Cain was hidden from the face of God and went away from the presence of the Lord. But the sad thing was that Cain was only remorseful about the consequences of his sin. He was not remorseful about the sin itself. He said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Cain was also hypocritical and ironic about everything. He who murdered was now afraid of being murdered by another. He did not want to keep his brother. And yet he desperately wanted the world to keep him. And so Cain feared man, not God.
This is sad. There was no faith. No repentance. No hope. No assurance. No love. No turning back to God. The consequences of sin came down upon him and yet all Cain basically said was, “I don’t deserve this!” The door of Eden was fully shut from him and yet Cain did not shed a single tear. This is sad. Oh the sadness of Cain’s response to God’s judgment! And the sadness continues today, as the non-believing world has learned to cope with being away from the presence of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, it is difficult and heartbreaking to see Cain reach his end. Cain loved the world. He cared about his own blood. He died a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth not having believed in the promises of God. He will rise again to eternal punishment in hell. That was his kingdom and that was his destiny.
But what about Abel? What would come of him? And how should we feel about him? The answer to these questions is amazing. For though we are not given much information about Abel in this text in Genesis, we are given more than enough information about Abel elsewhere in the Bible.
In Matthew 23:29-36 and Luke 11:45-52, our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the Pharisees and scribes and lawyers. Jesus was condemning them for rejecting all the prophets and their words about his salvation. And Jesus called Abel a prophet! The writer of Genesis may not have given us any words from Abel’s mouth. But we do know that Abel spoke to Cain and to the whole world. We know what he ultimately said. For Abel was a prophet who spoke the words of God.
And what did Abel say? Abel essentially and ultimately said this. “My only hope is in the promised savior! We have been exiled from the garden, but praise the Lord for his salvation! Nothing is more important than this! Cain, listen to me! I know that I am younger than you, but I have something better than what you have! Walk with me! Turn away from your sin! The head of the serpent will be crushed! This world is not all that there is in life. I am assured of a greater hope. I have a conviction of things not seen. Will you hope as I do? Will you see what I see? My brother, I believe in God, and that he rewards those who seek him. My brother, I believe that I am a stranger and an exile on this earth. I am seeking a homeland. I desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Cain, please listen to me! God promised us salvation! Why do you not believe?” This is the word of Abel.
Cain did not listen to the voice of Abel. And Abel died at Cain’s hand. But that did not stop the word of Abel. For afterward, what spoke was Abel’s blood. God said to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” That is amazing.
What did Abel’s blood say? Abel’s blood essentially said this. “There will now be justice. There must now be blood. There must now be condemnation.” This is the word of Abel’s blood.
But we now have a better word. According to Hebrews 12, we come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God. We come to innumerable angels in festal gathering. We come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. And we come to a blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
You see, the blood of Abel speaks against. But the blood of Jesus speaks for. The blood of Abel speaks justice and condemnation. The blood of Jesus speaks grace and forgiveness. Abel’s blood cried out for justice against sin. Jesus’ blood cried out for mercy for sinners. Abel’s blood spoke a good word. But Jesus’ blood speaks a better word.
And Abel believed in this blood. He cared about the blood of someone far greater than him. He loved the world that is to come. He died a stranger and an exile on the earth having greeted God’s promises from afar. He will rise again to eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth. That was his kingdom and that was his destiny.
When Jesus comes back and when we get to the new heavens and new earth, you will definitely have to set aside a time to meet with Abel. He is a very special man. He was the first person in human history to die. He was the first person to enter heaven spiritually to be with the Lord (imagine being the first and only human soul in heaven). And he holds the world record for longest wait in heaven for a resurrected body. When the kingdom of God comes, go meet him and embrace him. The story of Cain and Abel is a sad story. But don’t feel at all sorry for Abel. Yes, Abel died. But Abel have everlasting life in Christ Jesus. Abel did not lose. Abel won. And he had a joy that could not be taken away - not even by murder.
Brothers and sisters, let us be like Abel. Let us follow after him as he followed after the glory and the hope of Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, let us confess our sins and put them away and put on the new self - put on Christ. For sure, we who are in Christ belong to a different kingdom than that of Cain. But the sinfulness that Cain had is the same sinfulness that we are called to put to death. Scripture plainly tells us, just as it plainly told the saints of old in Israel, not to be like Cain. So do not go the way of Cain. And do not be so quick to compare yourself so favorably against him. You may not have actually murdered someone in your lifetime. But think about how many times you have been angry at another person. Let us confess our sins, put them away, and put on the new self.
Brothers and sisters, let us understand that justice and vengeance belongs to the Lord. We don’t know what the mark of Cain exactly looked like, but we do know that when God marked Cain, he made it clear that no one had the right to take the matter of life into their own hands. Cain was “protected” from imperfect human justice and sinful human vengeance. But the greater point is that God is sovereign over justice and vengeance. Paul writes in Romans 12, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Salvation belongs to the Lord. So does justice and vengeance. And God’s justice will happen at the end. You may not see it right now. You may see the wicked prosper and the unrighteous get away with things today. But perfect divine justice and righteous divine vengeance will prevail at the end. God is merely delaying it all. That is his common grace to the whole world. That is God’s long suffering and patience. But make no mistake, common grace will end one day. And God’s hammer will come down on the wicked. And the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Brothers and sisters, let us remember that there is enmity and spiritual warfare. Cain did not just murder his brother. Cain, according to 1 John 3:12, was “of the evil one.” And as a citizen of the kingdom of Satan, he attacked the lineage of God’s promise of an offspring of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. This enmity has played out in human history. Pharaoh commanded every son born to the Hebrews to be cast into the Nile (Exodus 1). When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah (2 Kings 11). King Herod ordered that all the male children in Bethelehem under two years of age be killed (Matthew 2). These are not merely stories of mean people doing mean things. These make up the one ultimate story of Satan’s attempt to stop the birth of the Redeemer and prevent God’s promise of salvation from coming true.
Brothers and sisters, let our hearts go out to the lost. Let us pray for non-believers and let us share the gospel with them so that they will not reject God’s promise of salvation in Christ Jesus. Think about someone you know who has not repented and believed in Jesus. Oh how sad would it be for that person to be hidden from God’s face! Oh how sad would be it be for that person to be gone from the presence of the Lord! Time is running out for them. But there is you. And you have what Abel looked forward to. You have Jesus.