Devotions in Genesis (week 6 – ‘True and False Hope; True and False Worship: the Story of Cain and Abel.’)
Monday: read Genesis 3:15-4:1. Sin casts us forth from God, forcing us to find hope in the One to be born in Gen. 3:15. Adam believed in this Deliverer and so names his wife ‘Eve’, mother of the living: proof of his hope that she would give birth to this Savior. Eve also believes in this special Child. Some scholars translate Genesis 4:1 as her belief that she was holding Him in her arms: “I have brought forth a man, the Lord.” Clearly she believed that Cain was to be a child of destiny. Only time would expose how far short Cain fell from being the answer to his parents’ hope.
Meditate and Pray: Would we easily recognize the real Jesus if He walked up to us? Jesus knows how we can be led astray and secures our salvation by claiming us Himself, not waiting for us to claim Him with our often doubtful and blurry faith. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16).
Tuesday: Genesis 3:15 and 4:1-10. Adam and Eve hoped in Gen. 3:15’s promised victory of the Child over the serpent. But now their family was destroyed by the very one they had hoped would be their leader! Despite God’s searching ‘where’ question in Genesis 4:9, Cain refuses to repent and proves himself to ‘belong to the Evil One’ (1 John 3:12): not the holy offspring of the woman. What good could God possibly bring from such a disaster? Ah, don’t despair: God is able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, even through the shedding of innocent blood.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His plan to use the shedding of blood to free us from the guilt and power of sin. Just as Abel’s shed blood ‘cried’ to God demanding His response in Gen. 4:10, so the blood of Jesus speaks effectively to God of our deadly condition in sin, but with better words than the blood of Abel: calling not for our punishment with Cain, but for our forgiveness and redemption to new life (Hebrews 12:24).
Wednesday: read Genesis 4:2-8. ‘Abel’ means ‘vanity’: perhaps a foreboding about the child’s short life, or perhaps a commentary on the brevity of human life in general. But God’s estimate of Abel’s offering of the firstborn of the flock is of its enduring value because it came from his heart devotion to God. By human estimate, Cain the mighty first-born’s offering should have merited God’s favor. But when God chose to regard the ‘weaker’ Abel, the wrath of Cain – the proud, self-made future city builder of Gen. 4:17 – was implacable. Despite God’s warnings, Cain’s anger must have Abel’s blood.
Meditate and Pray: Cain hated Abel’s righteous faith because it exposed his own evil heart. Thus men hated Jesus because his perfect righteousness exposed their wickedness before God (John 15:23-25). Jesus warns that all who seek to follow Him by faith in His blood will share the same response from the world: “If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first” (John 15:18). Pray for courage to take up the cross and follow Jesus.
Thursday: read Genesis 4:10-24. Cain hardened himself against the hope of forgiveness. He feared punishment and being exposed to vengeance. Even God’s merciful mark upon him to protect him from such danger in Gen. 4:15 fails to turn him from his hard-hearted decision to leave the worship and presence of God in verse 16. The end result is that he produces great-grand-children who also are obsessed with murder and blood vendettas, as one of the first pieces of poetry in the Bible, composed by Cain’s descendant Lamech, shows (Genesis 4:23-24).
Meditate and Pray: Jesus was right when He said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” The only hope for the endless ethnic feuds and tragic fratricide in this world is for blood that “speaks a better thing than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). Thank Jesus now that His plan is to use His blood to ‘purchase men and women from every tribe and nation’, and to bind them into one redeemed people of God (Revelation 5:9-10).
Friday: read Genesis 4:25-26 and Hebrews 9:22. Abel’s offering points to one rule in the Bible: ‘Without blood, no forgiveness’ (Hebrews 9:22), and without forgiveness, no access to or worship of God. All acceptable worship of God centers on altars for bloody, burnt offerings. This is what we find at the end of our chapter. After Abel’s worship of the Lord through blood sacrifice, an act for which he paid with his life, what do we find the godly offspring of Seth, Adam’s third son, doing? ‘Calling on the name of the Lord’ (Genesis 4:26). How? By building altars for worship (Genesis 12:7, 8); with what sacrifices? Burnt offerings of animals in blood sacrifice (Genesis 8:20).
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the faith which you can share with Abel, by which you acknowledge your need for a bloody victim to take your place on the altar where your sin is paid for. That is the meaning of the cross: look to Jesus there on the cross and say with Abel and all believers in the Bible: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’ (John 1:29).