In cartoons anger is drawn by distorted face, glaring eyes and a smoke fumes rising from the shoulders. I doubt if Cain would have been like that in reality though the Bible says his face ‘fell.’ The Lord God used the occasion to ask him a question: “Why are you angry?”
The Genesis 4 record gives the occasion though with so little explanation. Both brothers had come to the altar to present a sacrifice to God. This had probably been a regular ritual since Adam and Eve had been evicted from Eden. They had violated God’s tenancy laws. The Lord provided a sacrifice to cover their treason and we assume Adam realised the ongoing need for such a practice. It was a reminder of failure; a testimony to mercy; a promise of a greater reality to which the sacrifice pointed.
For whatever reason the brothers, Cain and Abel, came together to present their sacrifices to God. The former offered the vegetables of the ground. Remember all of society at this time would have been vegetarian. But there was a problem with this being used in a sacrificial manner. The ground had been cursed (read Genesis 3) and it required self effort to sow plant and reap.
The latter brother offered an animal from his flock. From later references we realise this was reminding the offerer that to come before the Lord required the covering of a substitute. (This is one of the many teachings about Christ’s cross. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.) Abel’s was accepted. Cain’s rejected. We may rightly assume the reason for rejection was not following the principle set in Eden. Included would be the fact that Cain was giving back to God what God had cursed. (This is the danger today by Christians offering God worship whilst endorsing or practising lifestyles God’s word has called abominable)
When the Lord of glory asked the question of Cain it was to save the man from a greater calamity. He was envious of Abel and angry with God. As he couldn’t tackle the Almighty, Cain took it out on Abel. As it brewed in his heart the poison spread and dominated. The result was murder. That is always the outworking of unresolved issues and anger. Murder may not be as literal as what Cain did however many relationships, enterprises and personalities have been ‘slain’ by envy and anger.
Actually I believe the sacrificial act was the final ‘straw’ for Cain. It seems to me he had developed animosity towards his brother over an extended period. I wonder if that was another reason for Yahweh confronting him with “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?”
When I was going into Bible College my minister gave me a New Testament with a well known saying in it: ‘This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.’ Cain let sin dominate and smother God’s word and inquiry. The result stands as a constant warning to us all. We need to realise anger isn’t the real issue. We all experience this emotion, even Jesus. The issue is not allowing it to lead us to sin. (Ephesians 4:26, 31-32).
The ‘why’ is what the Lord also asks of us! Can we look Him in the eyes (as it were) and explain it? Will we confess it? Deal with it? And be cleansed and forgiven from it? The issue is therefore a sinful heart unbowed before the Lord which He is wanting to transform by grace through personal surrender. To ignore God’s question is to self destruct in time and beyond.
Ray (who heeded the question) Hawkins.