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The Mark of Cain
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9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"
10 And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground.
11 "So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.
12 "When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth."
13 And Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear!
14 "Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me."
15 And the LORD said to him, "Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.
I had occasion recently to speak to a young man about a theft he had committed. The fellow had stolen some collectors cards from a store, brought them home, and then after they were found, he hid them again and lied to his parents about hiding them. The sad irony is that, like Achan after the battle of Jericho (Joshua 7), this young man had to hide the very things that he coveted and stole; he could not even enjoy them publicly, lest everyone know his sin. I did indeed tell this young man about the story of Achan, and of how Jesus saves us from the death we deserve for our sins, but it also occurred to me that starting so young at theft and deceit is something that could leave a mark on his life--a mark like the mark of Cain.
I know there are many who will point out that it was the Lord who put the mark on Cain, so that others would not kill him for his crime. But when I look back at Cain's several sins, I realize that the mark on him is less a physical mark than a spiritual mark, and it is one he put there himself.
3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD.
4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
6 So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
7 "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
So where was Cain's first sin? He didn't respect or love the Lord enough to bring Him a true offering. Cain brought what he felt like bringing, whereas Abel brought the firstborn of his flock. Already, Cain was showing his true colors. And then when he saw how the Lord didn't respect his offering, he got angry.
I often ask myself and my children why we get angry. There is, of course, righteous anger, the kind of anger that comes from seeing someone wronged and the perpetrator getting away with it. Righteous anger can lead to righteous behavior, as we stand up for the things and people God loves. A good example of righteous anger is David when he first saw how Goliath was insulting Israel and the Lord God. (1 Samuel 17:26-29) Righteous anger comes from our love for God and for our fellow man. David's righteous anger led him to courage beyond all of Israel's armies, to face the giant of Gath with nothing but a sling and five stones.
But the anger Cain felt has anything but righteous. It was an anger born of frustration and embarrassment, an anger that had more to do with being caught treating someone wrong than at seeing someone else doing wrong. I see Cain's anger all the time in children as they lash out in impatience at a sibling, as they throw a toy to keep from sharing it, as they rant and cry when they don't get their way. I see Cain's anger when children don't get their way. Cain was angry because he thought the little he did should have been good enough, and he was angry because his brother Abel did something more. Cain's wasn't righteous anger, it was selfish anger.
Look at how the Lord reacted to Cain's anger. God didn't lash back at Cain, He told Cain to keep his anger in check and to "do well." God uses this same language throughout the book of Deuteronomy, when He says that if the Israelites keep His Word, then it will "go well" for them. The Hebrew word used is about causing happiness and about blessing others and being blessed. The Lord is essentially saying, "If you bless others, then you will be accepted." As we can see from subsequent events, Cain didn't rule over his sin, and so instead of changing his way and doing well, he let his anger take over and committed the first murder.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God
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