May 18, 2010

Examining The Scripture III: Why Has Your Countenance Fallen?

God warns Cain with a rhetorical question. What lesson do we learn about sin from God’s question and Cain's response?

"Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?

The symbolic language is “why has your countenance fallen” which means Cain’s anger was getting a hold on him and if he didn’t gain control over it it would consume him (Rad 105). It is like the old saying, “Where the mind leads the body follows”. It is along the same lines as the analogy that Jesus used when referring to murder and a person’s anger in the Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5:21-22) and that anyone who is angry at his brother is subject to judgment just like a murder. Why? Attitude determines action. Sin can affect the thought process adversely. As a man thinketh; so is he (Proverbs 23:7).

Sin is ever present and waiting for us to act on it. If we do what is right or what God has commanded we will be fine but if we turn away from God and what he has put forth for the well-being of man in disobedience, sin will gain the upper hand. It is also clear that God expects us subdue it which also means that he not only holds us responsible for our actions, He actually expects us to actively suppress sinful desires. Passively resisting sin would still be considered sin in this instance.

Inevitably we learn an enormous amount also from Cain's response to God's later question.

" Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said,“I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” Genesis 4:9

J. Vernon McGee seems to think it is all about heart intent, as do I, even though the text is not entirely clear (McGee 29). The reason God rejected Cains offering more than likely was related to the condition of his heart at the time of the offering. Abel offered the firstborn and their fat portions, the first and the best. Cain on the other hand offered "in the course of time" which means he "got around to it" and offered "fruit of the ground". Additionally, Jude 11 states, "They have gone the way of Cain". The way of Cain would indicate intent. For any human being to go in any "way" would require conscious thought, attitude or motivation to do so. We now in hindsight that Cain's "way" was wrong and evil. Again was see that attitude of the heart determines action of the man (Matthew 5:21-22). Although the offering was suitable for Cain, it was not suitable for God. Although we should not get so wound up it so much as to why God rejected rather we should observe Cain's reaction and the outcome.

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.
Genesis 4:3-5

This is no different than the heart condition behind believers as noted by Jesus Christ.

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me..." Matthew 15:8

God didn't want smoking carcasses or sacrifices in general as much as He wanted a "heart change". We need to sacrifice ourselves as "living sacrifices" as noted in Romans:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~Romans 12:1-2

As for Cain's response, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Yes, as a matter of fact, we are. We are to love God with all our hearts...and our neighbors who could very well be our brother. Addtionally we are not to take anothers life without cause or frivolously.

"And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” ~Luke 10:27

"...From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." Genesis 9:5-6

“You shall not murder.' ~Exodus 20:13

Whatever is in your heart eventually comes to the surface. If you can remove it from your heart, it will never see the light of day.

Mcgee, J. Vernon. "Genesis." Thru the Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1983. 29. Print.

Rad, Gerhard Von. "The Biblical Primeval History." Genesis: A Commentary (Old Testament Library). Revised ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1972. 105. Print.

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