Monday, December 2, 2013

Heed the warning signs...

Week 49:

Genesis 4:3-8 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.  ”While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Cain.  We hear very little about him in the Bible.  In fact, only a few verses are written about his life.  He is mentioned later in reference in a few places; otherwise, we know just this story.  However, I can learn a lot from this story of Cain.  What stands out the most to me are the warning signs that God pointed out to Cain and Cain’s choice to ignore the warnings. 

So, let’s look at Cain and what led up to his downfall.  It is obvious that Cain’s offering did not please God.  For whatever reason, Cain had offered, quite possibly, a half-hearted sacrifice to God.  I see this in the language of the two offerings.  Cain’s offering was “some of the fruits” and Abel’s was “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.”  Notice that Abel’s was more detailed and fit within the criteria of the future offerings by the people of God.  That detail tells me that Cain had given less than God desired.

Besides Cain offering less that his best, he began to be angry with God because the offering did not met God’s standard.  Now, to be angry about not hitting the mark is okay.  But, apparently, Cain’s anger went deeper.  Perhaps he felt shamed by God.  Or maybe, he just did not want to own his shortfall with God.  Whatever conclusion we could come to, Cain projected the anger he should have had with himself onto God and the situation.  I believe this is why God asks Cain why he is angry.  Furthermore, God gives Cain an opportunity at redemption by asking him, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?”  Not only does God give Cain a chance at redeeming himself and getting himself back into integrity with God; God also warns Cain what is going on in his heart.  God recognizes the warning sign of Cain’s misguided anger and what may follow. 

What is Cain thinking during this period of time?  Maybe Cain knew beforehand that he was cutting corners with his offering.  Once God called him on it, he did not want to feel any guilt for his action.  It appears that Cain refused to take ownership for his choice and begins the blame game.  By making this choice, Cain may have started to feel like he is not measuring up to his brother’s righteous offering.  Cain starts to believe he doesn’t have what it takes to meet God’s standards.  He is angry and refuses to be angry at himself about his own choice.  Now Cain has created a playground for unhealthy anger and turns it on the only source he can control, his peer and brother, Abel. 

Wow!  How many times in my life do I miss the mark somewhere?  I know I am missing the mark, yet I refuse to take responsibility for myself and my choice and blame other things, project onto others, and act out of unhealthy anger.  From that act of unhealthy anger, I sin in some way; further doing damage to my heart and circumstances.  Yet, all along, God is there giving me a redemption opportunity and a warning sign. 

How do I avoid going the way of Cain?  Several things come to mind here.  One, when I know I am or may be missing the mark, I need to take a step back and take responsibility for me and my choice.  This requires some humility and submission.  So what if I do not realize I am missing the mark?  This leads me to the second thing I need to do.  When I become angry with the response I received for my action, I need to stop and look at the anger.  Is my anger healthy?  If not, why?  Who do I need to be angry with (usually myself around my choice)?  Once I have recognized my anger, I can trace it back to my original choice.

Once I am at this place, I need to recognize the opportunity for redemption that God has offered.  This may be clouded by my guilt and shame feelings around my choice.  It is here that I need to take a step back and listen for God and what he is showing me.  Beyond recognizing the redemption opportunity, I need to pay attention to the warning sign from God.  For me to do this, I must draw my attention back to the source of my anger.  Once I am there, I can see my anger for what it is and hopefully take responsibility for my choice and choose a better path, a path of integrity with God.  One way to do this is to simply stop and ask God to shed His light on my situation.  When I do this, I must listen and pay attention to what happens next.  This is quite possibly the most difficult thing for me due to my lack of patience.  For me, silence and reflection is the key. 

Even though there is very little written about Cain, we can learn a lot from his story.  In our fast-paced society, we/I need to slow down and look inward at what needs to change in order to bring a favorable offering to God.  I must heed the warning signs. 


1.      Where have you missed the mark and become angry?
2.      When you miss the mark, what do you believe about yourself?
3.      Who in your life has suffered from projected anger for your choices?
4.      Think of an example where you missed the redemption opportunity and the situation went further than you desired.
5.      Looking back, what was the warning sign God was showing you?
6.      This week, reflect on this story and how it may apply to your life.    

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