************ Sermon on Genesis 4:11-15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 20, 2011
When a child is born, and baptized, there are so many hopes and promises and expectations. I know that is the case with Ben and Katrina upon the birth and baptism of Klaas Gerrit. I know that is the case with every set of parents and grandparents who are here this morning.
I am sure there were all sorts of hopes and promises and expectations when Cain and Abel were born. Being the first set of parents, Adam and Eve must have delighted and marveled as they watched their children grow and become strong. But then Abel was murdered. And, in today's passage, we see that Cain is driven from the land. So, just like that Adam and Eve lost their first two children.
How do you think Adam and Eve felt, as parents, when this happened? What was all going through their hearts and minds? Did they have doubts and worries about themselves as parents? Did they give up on all their hopes and promises and expectations?
And, what kind of prayers do you think Adam and Eve offered to the Lord? Did they pray about the sibling rivalry? Did they pray for Cain's temper – that he would learn to control it? Did they pray that Cain would repent after he killed Abel?
I Cain's Judgment
A Our text begins with God's judgment upon Cain. A judgment which starts with God's curse: "Now you are under a curse ..." (Gen 4:11). Moses tells us here that God's curse was pronounced directly upon Cain. This is important because even though Adam and Eve suffered the effects of the fall, curses were not placed immediately upon their heads (Gen 3:16-19). Instead, the ground was cursed (Gen 3:17) and so was the serpent (Gen 3:14). Cain, in other words, was treated exactly the same as the serpent.
Cain was under the same curse as the serpent and its master, the devil. Meaning what? Meaning that Cain was of the seed of the serpent and the devil and not of the seed of the woman and the church. The New Testament tells us that everyone who does not trust and believe in Jesus are like Cain and are children of the devil (Jn 8:39-47; 1 Jn 3:12-15).
Cain was under the same curse as the serpent and the devil. Meaning what? Meaning also that Cain lay under the wrath and judgment of God as it is revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men (Rom 1:18).
Cain was under the curse of God. I hope no one here knows the extent and weight of a divine curse, how far it reaches, how deep it pierces. How awful it is when God pronounces a curse on a man. Think of Jesus crying out and suffering upon the cross as He lay under God's curse.
B Later passages of Scripture testify repeatedly of God's desire to forgive penitent sinners. Remember what God said as He showed His back to Moses?
(Ex 34:6-7) "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, (7) maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin ..."We know God is this way because of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Meaning what in the case of Cain? Meaning that Cain could have been forgiven the sin of murder had he turned from his iniquity. Cain could have been forgiven had he only repented. If Cain had only been like the penitent tax collector he would have been forgiven. Remember what we are told about the tax collector?
Or, think of God's words through Ezekiel:
(Ezek 18:23) Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Cf Ezek 33:11)
(Lk 18:13) But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'Jesus tells us this man went home justified before God (Lk 18:14). That could have been Cain. And, that can also be you if you only repent and believe. There is forgiveness with God for the greatest of sins and the greatest of sinners if only they repent and believe.
Cain did not repent and believe so he lay under the curse of God.
We all deserve to be under the same curse as Cain – you, me, Ben, Katrina, Klaas Gerrit. Adam and Eve also deserved to be under God's curse; but they weren't because God had mercy in store for them. And, in Christ, God has mercy in store for us who repent and believe as well. Isn't that one of the things we celebrate in baptism this morning?
C "Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground." "Driven." Doesn't that word sound familiar? Isn't that the word used to describe what God did to Adam and Eve when they were forced out of the Garden (Gen 3:24)? "Driven." A show of force. Not something gentle and kind. Not something Cain did on his own. Something forced upon him. We need to think of bouncers showing someone the door; or, we need to think of cowboys doing a cattle-drive. So, Cain was forced out of the land in the same way as Adam and Eve were forced out of the Garden.
So what? What does this mean? Look at how this is explained in verse 12:
(Gen 4:12) When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.We notice two things here. First, God's curse means the ground will not grow crops for Cain. God has put a curse on Cain and over Cain so his work bears no fruit. Maybe God made it so no rain ever fell on Cain's crops. Maybe God poisoned the soil with too many salts. Maybe God sent harmful nematodes or bugs or rodents that ate the seeds and seedlings before they had a chance to grow.
Do you realize what this means for Cain? It means his way of making a living has been taken away from him. Cain is like a doctor who loses her medical license or a lawyer who is disbarred or a minister who is deposed or an accountant who is black-listed by the IRS. Just like that they lose their occupation and can no longer make a living from it. That is what happened to Cain.
Second, Cain will be a "restless wanderer on the earth." Now, think about this in terms of crops. To help you think let me ask what might sound like a silly question: "Who harvests crops?" Do shepherds harvest crops? Do nomads harvest crops? Did Israel in the wilderness harvest crops? Do fugitives harvest crops? No, No, No, No. Crops are harvested by people who live in one place. Who have a fixed location. Who have put down roots in a community. Who have the time to work the soil, plant the crops, cultivate out the weeds, irrigate the land, and wait patiently for the harvest time to come.
God's curse means Cain is a "restless wanderer." The Hebrew word is used to describe the movement of Hanna's lips as she prayed fervently for a child (1 Sam 1:13). In Lamentations the same word describes the wanderings of a blind man and homeless vagabonds (Lam 4:14-15). The verb is also used to describe the shaking of the earth (Is 24:20). This is Cain. Forever moving. Restless. Wandering. Shaking. No sense of belonging. No identification with a community. Rootless. Detached. This means Cain has been banished from the community. The man who disclaimed any responsibility for his brother will now lose the welfare and protection that only the family provides.
Ruth and I were woken up by the door bell this past Thursday night. I threw on some clothes. An armed police officer was standing outside my door with a flashlight. He wanted to look over the house and yard and be assured of our safety because someone had been seen jumping over the wall of our subdivision. We are thankful nothing was found.At the time of Adam and Eve and Cain, protection did not come from the police or from an army. Protection came from the family. Which means Cain was deprived of all protection and was highly vulnerable.
The ground will grow no crops. Cain will be a restless wanderer. This, then, is Cain's fate because he lies under the curse of God. Do you see the irony? Cain, once a farmer, is now removed from the soil and civilization. Not even a migrant worker. He has become a Gypsy.
D The Old Testament Israelite hearing or reading the narrative for the first time must have been surprised that God does not kill Cain for his crime. Wasn't the Old Testament rule that of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life? However, the murder did happen before the Law itself was given and before God announced that the shedding of human blood was forbidden (Gen 9:4-6). No human had ever died before and perhaps Cain did not fully realize the consequence of his actions. We see here that God's mercy triumphs God's judgment – just as mercy triumphs judgment at the cross.
II Cain's Appeal
A As soon as God issued His judgment, Cain filed his appeal. "My punishment is more than I can bear," he says (Gen 4:13). So Cain wasted no time in presenting his objections to the sentence he was given. How unlike Adam and Eve who offered no protest against their punishment and expulsion from the Garden. In his opinion, Cain felt his judgment was too harsh. "My punishment is more than I can bear" (Gen 4:13). Notice, Cain speaks not of the greatness of his sin but of the size of his punishment.
There really is nothing new under the sun, is there? Condemned prisoners today are simply doing what Cain did many years ago. But that is the way of sinful man. We all try to minimize the crime and reduce the punishment; we try to minimize the sin and reduce its judgment. Or we try to hide the sin and deny the sin and pretend ignorance of the sin.
Note this carefully: impenitent, unhumbled hearts learn nothing from God's rebukes or God's judgments. They are so busy thinking themselves wronged by their sentence, so wrapped up in themselves, that they actually harden their hearts. Look at Pharaoh. Isn't that how he responded to the ten plagues? He didn't learn from them. He didn't repent because of them. He simply hardened his heart against the Lord.
Cain raises four points. First, "Today you are driving me from the land." Cain acknowledges he is being driven from the land in the same way as Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden. Second, "and I will be hidden from your presence." Cain is wrong when he says this. Since God is omnipresent, it is not possible to go out from God's presence. Third, "I will be a restless wanderer on the earth." Fourth, "and whoever finds me will kill me" (Gen 4:14). Ironic, isn't it? He who killed his brother is worried that others will kill him.
B "Whoever finds me will kill me" (Gen 4:14). Doesn't this statement kind of jar you, surprise you, even shock you? This statement suggests there are people in the world besides Adam, Eve, and Cain. The existence of others is also indicated later by the reference to Cain's wife (Gen 4:17).
Who are these people and where do they come from? The only possible Biblical answer is that Adam and Eve had sons and daughters besides Cain, Abel, and Seth (cf Gen 5:4). This means Cain's wife would be his sister and those who might kill Cain are of the family or clan of Abel.
"Whoever finds me will kill me" (Gen 4:14). Cain's words suggests a fairly large population. We know people lived longer back then and we can assume they were very fruitful. John Calvin suggests that children back then were often born in pairs as twins. One commentator who studied the genealogies of Genesis says that by the time Cain was four hundred years old the earth's population would easily have approached 100,000 people. In similar fashion, one of our members wrote me that in fifty years at least 30,000 calves have been born on his dairy. And, of course, Klaas Gerrit Crawford is only the latest of several hundred descendants of the grandparents and great-grandparents before him.
"Whoever finds me will kill me" (Gen 4:14). Cain's words suggests that the Cain of our Scripture reading was much older than generally supposed. Sunday School papers and paintings all depict Cain and Abel offering sacrifices as young men. Their depiction is that Cain killed Abel in his youthful passion. A better image is that Cain killed Abel after building up centuries of resentment and anger. Sin was crouching like a lion at Cain's door for a long, long time (cf Gen 4:7). How important it is to let go of our sinful resentments and anger before they consume us and control us (cf Gen 4:7).
III God's Gracious Response
In response, God graciously says something and God graciously does something. God could have responded with a harsh word because Cain was so arrogant as to contend with God about his punishment. God could have also responded by striking Cain dead because Cain failed to acknowledge God's holiness. Listen to God's response:
(Gen 4:15) But the LORD said to him, "Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.God promises Cain protection. And, God gives Cain a sign of protection.
Let's talk about the sign for a moment. Throughout the ages, more than one group has said the sign shows Cain is under the curse of God. They further said the sign of the curse was black skin. This kind of thinking has been wrongly used this to justify apartheid, racism, and discrimination against blacks. Instead, Scripture makes clear that God marked Cain with a sign which showed that Cain was under God's protection. That Cain was off-limits. That no one but God could take revenge on him.
The text does not give us enough information as to what exactly the sign may be. But whatever it is, it is enough to protect Cain from family members intent on revenge.
That was enough for Cain. "So Cain went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden" (Gen 4:16). Do you hear the similarity, again, to Adam and Eve? Adam and Eve were driven east of Eden (Gen 3:24). Now, Cain is driven further east. In other words, Cain is driven further from the presence of God in Eden than were Adam and Eve. Driven from God's physical presence but not from God's protection.
Cain is driven east from God's presence and lived in the land of Nod. "Nod" means "wandering." He who had been sentenced to be a wanderer settled in the land of wandering.
Do you know what we hear and see in this passage? We hear the voice of both law and grace. We hear the full message of the Gospel. That sin cannot be ignored or justified. That Cain must pay a penalty for his actions. That the God Who pronounces the sentence also promises His protection. That Cain is both banned and blessed. That he leaves God's presence at Eden but not God's protection. We see, then, that God's concern for the innocent blood of Abel is matched only by His gracious care for the sinner.
This means that in the Gospel narrative in front of us we hear our own story. Like Cain, we are restless wanderers. Like Cain, we lie under the judgment of God. Like Cain, our sin needs to be paid for – either by ourselves or by Christ. And, like Cain, we need God's protection and God's blessing.
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