************ Sermon on Genesis 4:9-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 13, 2011
"Blood That Cries Out"
Do you hear it? Do you hear it? (PAUSE). Do you hear the blood that is crying out? We can't. But God can and God does. God hears the cries of innocent blood that has been shed. That's what the story of Cain and Abel teaches us. In the same way, God – and only God – hears the cries of the martyred saints whose souls are gathered under heaven's altar. Remember what those souls cry out? "How long?" "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (Rev 6:10).
Only God can hear because blood has no voice. Only God can hear because martyred souls in heaven have no body and no voice with which to cry out. But God hears what we are unable to hear. Because He knows all things and sees all things and is everywhere present.
God hears the blood – the innocent blood – of Abel as it cries out. God hears the blood – the innocent blood – of all 50 million abortion victims in our country. God hears the innocent blood of the 185,000 victims killed by drunk drivers last year. God hears the innocent blood of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis. God hears the innocent blood of the 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Turks in 1915-1916. God hears the innocent blood of the 2 million Cambodians murdered by the Khmer Rouge in the mid-70's. God hears the cry of the innocent blood of the 800,000 people butchered to death in 1994 in the small East African nation of Rwanda. God hears the innocent blood of those murdered in the Mexican drug wars.
Do I have to continue? Shed innocent blood cries out to God! That point is made clear by our Bible reading.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday let's look at the blood that cries out.
I The Divine Investigator
A Our Scripture reading starts with a court room scene. As He did when Adam first fell into sin, God asks a series of questions in order to lead a sinner to repentance. What a difference – what a big difference – between Adam and Cain. When questioned by God about his sin, Adam finally told the truth; Cain lied and then made a joke about it (Gen 3:9-11; cf 4:9). Also, Adam repented whereas Cain hardened his heart. Furthermore, Adam accepted God's judgment in silence, but Cain protested fiercely (Gen 4:13-14) and was sent even further from Eden (Gen 4:16).
B God said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" (Gen 4:9). This is a legitimate question. After all, the brothers came from the same womb; as I mentioned in another message, some commentators believe they might have been twins – so in the same womb at the same time. They grew up as playmates. Even as adults they must have had regular contact with each other because both offer sacrifices at the same time. And, Abel had no concerns about taking a walk in the fields with Cain – as if it was something they often did. "Where is your brother Abel?" Why is he not at your side? Where is he?
Some commentators think Cain was asked about his brother the Sabbath after the murder was committed, when the sons of God came, as usual, to present themselves before the Lord in religious assembly. It was obvious that Abel was missing because his place in the assembly was empty. The God of heaven takes note of who is present and who is absent at His worship.
"Where is your brother Abel?" This does not mean that God does not know. Of course God knows what happened to Abel. Of course God knows where Abel's murdered body lies hidden or buried in the field. Of course God knows Cain to be guilty. Nothing is hidden from God. No sin is done in secret. God knows every evil deed we commit, even if no one else finds out.
"Where is your brother Abel?" Cain is asked because the last time the two brothers worshiped together Cain was angry with his brother. Cain is asked because he was the last one to be with his brother. Cain is asked because God wants him to confess his crime and repent of his sin. As the Lord's Supper reminds us, those who would be right with God must acknowledge their sin, confess their sin, and turn from their sin.
C "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied (Gen 4:9). The Divine Investigator asks His question and Cain pleads ignorance. On top of his sin of murder Cain now adds the sin of false witness. I want you to notice the increasing grip of sin. It started with the apple or pomegranate – the taking of the forbidden fruit. It moved on to a reluctant confession of sin. It escalated to murder and lies. Man is falling further and further into the grip of sin. Sin is escalating. For murder is far worse then eating a forbidden fruit. And lying is far greater than having a confession forced out of you.
"Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know." What a lie. What a bold-faced lie. Though a certain president and White House lawyers might try to argue that Cain's speech was true – for where indeed is the soul of Abel now? – Cain himself knows better. What we see is that Cain lies to God to protect himself.
D Then comes one of the classic lines of all ages: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9). Notice Cain's assumption here: that he is not his brother's keeper.
What do you think? Is Cain his brother's keeper? Or, to extend this and make it more personal, are you your brother's keeper? Many people assume the answer is "Yes. Yes, I am my brother's keeper. Yes, I need to look after my brother. Yes, I am responsible for my brother."
Are you your brother's keeper? Now remember, these are not the words of God. These are the words of a sinner, a murderer, a liar. That, at the very least, should make us think twice before using these words to justify or explain our behavior.
What I am about to say might surprise you. Did you know the Bible nowhere commands us to "keep" our brother? The command we are given is to love our brother. And, there is a huge difference between keeping and loving.
The Hebrew word for "keeper" means to "keep, watch, preserve, protect, be responsible for, have custody over." Zoos and prisons and nurseries have keepers. Zoo keepers and prison guards and nursery attendants have authority to control, regulate, preserve, and sustain. Furthermore, did you know that the word "keep" describes God's relationship to Israel? God is Israel's keeper and as such He never slumbers nor sleeps (Ps 121:4-8). Moses' prayer for the people of Israel is that the Lord bless them and keep them – a blessing that Pastor Godfrey and I sometime use at the end of our worship service. You know the words of the blessing:
(Num 6:24-26) "The LORD bless you and keep you; (25) the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; (26) the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."Keeping, in other words, is something God does!
"Am I my brother's keeper?" Do you hear what Cain is actually saying to God? Cain is accusing God of not doing His job. "God, you are Abel's keeper. So why have you not kept him and looked after him?" If Abel is missing and dead, God is to blame because God is Abel's keeper. Cain accuses God – instead of humbling himself and admitting he is his brother's murderer.
II The Divine Prosecutor
A After this, God shifts His role from Divine Investigator to Divine Prosecutor. "What have you done?" (Gen 4:10). This question should be punctuated with an exclamation point, not a question mark. For God is making an accusation, not seeking information.
"Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground" (Gen 4:10). Abel's spilled blood cries from the ground and is heard by God. In fact, Abel's blood continues to cry out:
(Heb 11:4) By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.Abel's blood still speaks, still cries, and is still heard by God. Six thousand years later and it still cries out. Six thousand years later and it is still heard by God.
The word used here for crying frequently describes the cry of the oppressed, be they the afflicted in Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:20), the overworked and exhausted Israelites in Egypt (Ex 3:7), or the oppressed stranger, widow, or orphan in Israel (Ex 22:21-24). The word is associated with the groans of innocent victims who are brutalized and harassed. Which reminds us that Abel, though a sinner, was but an innocent victim in the narrative in front of us.
What does the shed blood of innocent Abel do? The blood itself does not endanger Cain. Abel's blood is not some powerful force targeted at Cain. The shed blood simply cries out to God and leaves the matter to Him. In a similar way, the souls of the martyred dead under heaven's altar in Revelation 6 ask how long until God avenges their blood (Rev 6:10).
"Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground." Abel's blood cries out. Abel's blood cries out to God. Abel's blood cries out to God for revenge, vindication, justice. Recognizing that revenge is up to the Lord:
(Rom 12:19) "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. (Cf Deut 32:35; Nah 1:2)So Abel's blood continues to cry out. It can never be stilled until God banishes the wicked and unbelieving into everlasting hell fire.
B Furthermore, the blood not only cries for revenge but it also speaks of guilt – the guilt of Cain. As we read in Job:
(Job 20:27) The heavens will expose his guilt; the earth will rise up against him.The blood-drenched earth, as it were, cries out to God its verdict on Cain. "Guilty." "Guilty." "Guilty." That is its cry. The earth cannot be silent when it sees innocent blood being shed. It cries out to the God of heaven about the guilt of the guilty.
Similarly, as the Lord's Supper shows us, the innocent blood of Jesus cries out about our guilt, our sin, our shame.
C In the original Hebrew the word for "blood" is plural. So, crying out from the ground is "bloods." Isn't that a strange way of putting it? What is God saying? God is lumping all murders and genocides together. But, then, isn't that what Jesus does when He speaks to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees?
(Mt 23:35) And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah ... whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.Why does Jesus mention Abel and Zechariah? Because the death of Abel is recorded in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible; and, the death of Zechariah is recorded in 2 Chronicles, the last book of the Hebrew Bible. So, what we have is the first murder and the last murder, the beginning murder and the end murder. AND EVERY MURDER IN BETWEEN. Meaning what? Meaning that account is kept of every drop of innocent blood that has ever been shed.
D Do you hear the underlying message? The underlying message is that murder requires justice. The underlying message is that a person cannot take another's life with impunity. The underlying message is that sin has consequences.
Someday, those who take another's life will have to answer for it. Someday, those who take part in genocide – whether it is in Germany's gas chambers or Cambodia's killing fields or America's abortion factories – will be called to account for their deeds. Because God hears the blood – all the blood – that is crying out. Everyone who sheds blood will be called to account. Before God. Before the Almighty. Before the Creator of human life. Before He Who made every person in His image – holy and precious.
Murder and sin has consequences. Murder and sin cries out for retribution. God's justice will be exercised. Isn't that what we see in the Lord's Supper?
"Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground" (Gen 4:10).
Today, we remember and celebrate that another's innocent blood cries out to God. Today, we remember and celebrate that the innocent blood that cries out is the blood of Jesus. According to Hebrews, for those who believe, the blood of Jesus "speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Heb 12:24).
How does the blood of Jesus cry out a better word? Because Abel's innocent blood cries for revenge. But Jesus' innocent blood cries for pardon. If you believe in Jesus, if you have repented of your sins, then God hears the cry of Jesus' innocent blood. God hears – and though you are guilty – God forgives. Because for those who believe, the blood of Jesus becomes a cleansing flood (Heb 9:11-14; 1 Jn 1:7).
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