Genesis 4:8, “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.”
When Jesus taught that the divine prohibition against murder meant that we also must not hate our brother (Matt. 5:21–22), He was not introducing a new interpretation of the Mosaic law. Instead, He simply took the larger canonical context of the sixth commandment into account, and He therefore presented the “good and necessary consequence” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.6) of this stipulation. As Leviticus 19:17 states, we must not hate our brother in our hearts, because if we do, we might incur a greater sin.
We concluded our study last week with a sober reminder of the need to guard our hearts against hatred and other “invisible” sins. Though such things are wicked in themselves, if we nurse grudges, dwell on lustful images, or covet the blessings of others, our evil desires will likely become concrete actions (James 1:14–15). If this happens we will suffer consequences for bringing reproach on the name of Jesus (2 Sam. 12:1–23; 1 Tim. 1:18–20).
Cain’s murderous rage against Abel translates into action when he kills his brother in today’s passage (Gen. 4:8). The text tells us “Cain spoke to Abel,” possibly to entice him to come to the location where the crime takes place. Because Cain takes Abel’s life out in the field where there is little possibility of someone coming to his aid, it is obvious his crime is premeditated (Deut. 22:25–27).
Adam’s sin plunged all his descendants into tragedy, but in many ways, his eldest son’s villainy is worse than his own. Disharmony entered Adam and Eve’s relationship by his sin (Gen. 3:12), but it did not blossom into murder. When God sees Cain begin his descent into madness, He warned him to guard himself (4:7). Finally, the enormity of Cain’s offense is evident in that he bears his grudge in the context of worship, where he is to be most concerned to love God and neighbor (Matt. 5:23–24).
While Cain distrusted the promises of God, we still must apply his life’s story to ourselves. Though we read God’s warnings in Scripture and frequently attend corporate worship, these means of grace are of no avail if we do not have a heart to follow the Lord.
How do you read the warnings of sacred Scripture? Do you take them seriously or do you assume that you are incapable of the sins of someone like David or Peter? What about public worship? Do you continue hating your brother when you bring your sacrifices of praise, or do you endeavor to first make peace with him? Take some time to consider your need to open your heart to God, and then ask Him to grant you the courage to act according to His warnings.
Cain Rose Up, Copyright (2022), Ligonier Ministries.