The next two weeks are going to be a little different for our scripture studies. This week, we are going to look at a story from the Old Testament and learn what not to do. Next week, we will be studying New Testament scriptures that will aid us in conflict resolution. Let’s get started . . .
Text: Genesis 4:1-15
Key Verse(s): (I couldn’t choose just one; so, this time, there are two!) “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’” (Genesis 4:6-7)
“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” (Hebrews 12:15)
- Digging Deeper with the Main Text When looking at larger portions of scripture, it can sometimes be helpful to break it up in chunks and look at it piece by piece.
- Genesis 4:1-2a: “Cain sounds like a Hebrew term that can mean ‘produce’ or ‘acquire.’ [Abel] (Hebrew habel) means ‘breath,’ ‘vapor,’ or ‘meaningless,’ anticipating his tragically brief life (compare Ecc. 1:2).”1
- Genesis 4:2b-5: Why did God reject Cain’s gift but accept Abel’s?
- I have often struggled with this. I wondered, Did He reject Cain’s grain offering because it wasn’t a blood sacrifice? But that isn’t fair because Cain gave of what He had and Abel gave of what he had. I have come to believe that it was more about the motives of Cain’s heart (see also Hebrews 11:4 and 1 John 3:12), and the Life Application Study Bible also notes that it may have been an indicator of the quality of Cain’s gift. While Abel brought the “firstborn of his flock” (the best), Cain only brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground” (may insinuate less than the best—an). Regardless, we should remember that God knows the motives of our heart and the intentions behind our actions—He can tell the difference between something done or said out of obligation and it being done/said out of love.
- Genesis 4:6-7: When did Cain first sin? I also find it interesting that the Lord gave Cain a warning, a way out (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
- Remember, that emotion, even the emotion of anger is not sin. It is what we do in/with our anger that can produce sinful actions. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sin go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to devil.” In other words, do not let your anger fester (healthy processing instead); otherwise, in doing so, you will give the devil a foothold in your life.
- Genesis 4:8: What kind of emotional response did Cain have? Was he an exploder (blaming or shaming) or a stuffer (collecting retaliation rocks or building barriers)? Lysa TerKeurst writes in her book Unglued, “Wallowing in jealous thoughts actually leads to death. Death of contentment. Death of friendships. Death of peace. And certainly death of joy.”2 (See also James 1:15).
- Genesis 4:9-12: Do not be fooled by the lie that we are only to look out for own our interests. Check out Philippians 2:4, Galatians 6:2, 10 and James 5:19-20.
- Genesis 4:13-15: What was Cain’s response to his punishment? Do you believe that he was truly sorry? How did God display his mercy even in Cain’s life/punishment? (See also Psalm 103:8.)
- Side Note: I find it incredible that I had chosen this passage of scripture, well before I read (or reread, I should say, since I first read the book a couple years ago) these words on the first page of Chapter 9 in Lysa’s book:
Sometimes my unglued feelings come in a roar of stinging conversations and runaway emotions. Other times I get the great unglued when my thoughts entangle around what she has and I don’t. And the she I’m talking about could be anyone—a friend, neighbor, or picture in a magazine. I stand in front of the mirror and all I see is what’s lacking. What I am not. What I don’t have. What I can’t do. . . . Then I think of her. Who she is. What she has. What she can do. And it all just splits me open like a plow cutting a line in the soil to sow seed. Scripture warns where this thinking leads [see Galatians 6:7-8].3
- Going Deeper with the Key Verses Try doing the following with our key verses for this week:
- Read it in various translations.
- Mark down any cross-references you find particularly helpful.
- Circle, highlight and/or look up any key words or words/phrases you find challenging.
- Try a form of verse personalization—as both a warning and an exhortation.
- Personal Application When you read over the main text and key verses, ask yourselves these questions:
- Who are You, Lord?
- What do You want from me?
1 NLT Parallel Study Bible © 2011 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL 60188.
2 Unglued © 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530.