Alright guys, before we get started on this dialogue let me explain the format:
- I’m not editing these questions at all. They are as asked by Joey. (In case you’re just checking in, click here to read about who Joey is and why we’re having this conversation.)
- While you are welcome to get in on the conversation, it is first of all a dialogue between Joey and me. Therefore I will be addressing my comments to Joey like I would in a private e-mail exchange. We do, however, invite you to jump into the conversation.
Alright, here we go! Joey’s first question:
Why in the heck did God put down Cain when he offered him his harvest of fruits & veggies? (see these verses if you need some background on this story)
On the surface, it looks like God is simply a meat lover, praising the “fat” animal offering of Abel. But I think it goes beyond that. I think it is a test of Cain’s merit, a “do the right thing,” moment. Of course he fails miserably. If there were back story on this fine tale, I’d suspect that Cain has a history of acting out in anger, and not taking criticism lightly. “Do the right thing and you will be accepted,” implies something deeper than an offering.
It’s just that in the story, there’s no set-up that offering fruit is bad. So it’s got to be about something else.
And what about the mark of Cain? Is God protecting Cain with the mark? Punishing him? Or setting an example for Cain’s countrymen to refrain from “the sin that is crouching at their doors?”
Cain goes on to have children and build a city. Which could be interpreted as God letting him slide for a most horrid crime.
Great questions Joey!
You demonstrated some great insight when you wrote, “On the surface, it looks like God is simply a meat lover, praising the “fat” animal offering of Abel. But I think it goes beyond that.” You’re right. It does go beyond that. God is not the “Cosmic Carnivore.” So why then does he seem indifferent to the “green” offering that Cain the farmer offered?
Later on in the Scriptures we read these words, “the life of any creature is in its blood. I have given you the blood so you can make atonement for your sins. It is the blood, representing life, that brings you atonement” (Leviticus 17:11).
Follow me on this…
After Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God they incurred God’s displeasure and the promised punishment (death – see 2:15-17). People who study these things commonly believe that God’s anger was appeased by a sacrifice. Instead of carrying out His promise of death on Adam and Eve, He carried out His promise on an animal. This sacrifice was made on behalf of Adam and Eve and stood as their substitute in death. Where they deserved death, they received life (3:21f.) Where is that sacrifice? 3:21 says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Again, it is commonly thought that this animal was the first sacrifice for sin and therefore set a sacrificial precedent = atonement comes through the shedding of blood. In other words, where there is sin, there must be death.
So God was not so much “anti-green” as He was insistent upon the right sacrifice = blood. Cain brought his own idea of redemption to God and it was rejected. Though a “right way” was made available to him, he rejected it in place of his own “redemption” which clearly was not sufficient.
Regarding Cain’s “mark”, it points to the mercy of God. Cain deserved to be crushed. But God had mercy on him. How could this be? St. Paul, later in the Scriptures, answers this question:
Romans 3:24-26 God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. 25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times [for instance, Cain]. 26 And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.
The bottom line in all of this, Joey, is that Cain, you, me, and everyone else is far from perfect. We are not crushed because God is merciful, and He can be merciful because He took out all of His wrath on the ultimate sacrifice… Jesus Christ. Check out these verses:
Romans 3:22-25 22 We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. 23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. 25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.
Alright. It’s your turn. What do you think?