Scripture: Genesis 4:16
Cain and Abel had been instructed about the living God all their lives. Their parents, Adam and Eve, had told them about the Garden of Eden, and about how they sinned and had to leave the Garden as a result. They still worshiped God, but now it was at a distance. The sin they had in the lives stood between them and the close relationship with God they once had enjoyed. So on one particular day Cain and Abel decided they would bring gifts to God, to worship Him as their parents had done. Cain is a farmer, so naturally he is going to present a grain offering. Abel is a shepherd, so naturally he is going to present an animal offering. Both kinds of offerings were acceptable to God. Abel went to his flocks and picked the very best, the firstborn, and gave it to God. God was pleased. Cain went to the field and grabbed some grain or some other kind of produce, just whatever he could find, and gave it to God. God was not pleased. Cain could have learned a lesson here, turned and followed God. He hadn’t given his best to God. He’d been careless about his offering, he didn’t give first as Abel had done. Instead of moving closer to God through the experience however, he moved even farther away. He grew jealous of his brother Abel and the fact that Abel had pleased God. God warned him that the anger festering inside him would only lead him into more trouble, but did he listen? Of course not! The next thing we read is Cain finding his brother Abel in the field and killing him. When you look back upon this whole incident today, you see that Cain is not only a sinful, stubborn hothead, he’s also stupid. Cain was an idiot. Why not just learn from your brother rather than kill him? Cain, why don’t you just get past your anger and show some humility? Well, his murder doesn’t go unnoticed by God. God asks Cain where his brother Abel is, and he denies having any knowledge of his whereabouts. God then confronts him with his sin, and informs him of the consequences. Cain still doesn’t come clean and turn back to God, but just complains about the punishment and the stigma of having killed his brother. So at the end of the story is described in Genesis 4:16, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” There is no resolution of his problem, there is no repentance of his sin, just an attempt to get as far away from God as he could. As this whole scene comes to a close, as I look at both men, I can identify a lot more with Cain than I can Abel.
Cain basically gives God his leftovers – he doesn’t give first and he doesn’t give his best. I’ve been there, done that.
Cain gets angry because things didn’t go the way he wanted, and the anger begins to simmer. I’ve been there, done that.
Cain then focuses on Abel as the cause for his unhappiness, and kills him. I haven’t killed anyone, but I’ve killed relationships when I’ve been hurt.
So now Cain is fleeing from God’s presence. In this one verse, you can learn at least three things about your own heart and mind when you try to run from God.
First of all, when you flee God’s presence, you’re motivated by sin. You’ve already heard about Cain’s sin – giving God the leftovers, getting angry that God wasn’t pleased with it, and then taking it out on his brother. After he’s hurt his brother, there’s still no remorse. There is no personal responsibility here, only a shifting of blame from himself to God and to others. Have you been guilty of those kinds of things? Holding back from God, letting anger simmer and fester, and then taking it out on someone else? Then, after the damage has been done, you still are focused on what you don’t have?
Listen to what James 4:2-4 says, “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
What’s the solution? You turn from your sin and ask for God’s help. You can’t fix you – only God can do it. James continues in James 4:7-8, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…” When you flee God’s presence, you’re motivated by sin. Only Jesus can remedy it, but you need to turn to him. That turning is what the Bible calls repentance.
Then, when you flee from God’s presence, you’re making a choice. Genesis 4:16 again says, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” “Then Cain went….” It was a decision he made to go, to turn away from God. He actually didn’t escape God here – the Bible is very clear that God is in all places at all times. You simply can’t escape God. You can however, turn away from fellowship with God. Wherever you go however, He’ll still be there, waiting for you. Cain couldn’t escape Him, Jonah couldn’t escape Him, and you can’t escape him. A woman by the name of Lori Bibbee shared a story in one edition of the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” She says,
“I was holding my youngest child, waving as my husband took our older kids off to school, when my new next door neighbor drove up in her brand new convertible. She and her little one were headed to the beach, and she asked if we would join them. To be neighborly (and because I love driving in convertibles) I said yes. Our little guys became new friends as they splashed in the waves and dug holes in the sand, while I started talking with my new neighbor. A few minutes later, another woman joined us, and her son started playing with our boys. She said that she and her boyfriend, her son’s father, had just gotten in a car and driven here to Florida from somewhere cold. They drove straight to the beach, climbed out of the car, and decided to stay! “Wow,” my neighbor said, “What brought on that kind of road trip?”
She replied, “My boyfriend’s Mom is a Christian, and she keeps trying to tell us to get married and find God. We just decided to run away from her and God.” I couldn’t help myself. I started bubbling over with laughter, and then I reached right out and hugged her. “You might be running from God,” I told her, “But He got here ahead of you! I’m a Christian, too, and I’m here to tell you that He loves you. There is no place you can run and hide!” We talked for quite a while. She felt safe asking questions of a stranger, things she was uncomfortable about asking her mother-in-law. My new neighbor was a little freaked out, but that’s okay. Her old next-door neighbor became “Jesus” at the The Holy Land Experience in Orlando. It seems she can’t run and hide from God either. He’s got big plans for my new neighbor someday!”
You can’t really get away from God, but you can make the choice to try.
Then, when you flee from God’s presence, you’re destined for nowhere. “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” The land of Nod isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. No one really knows where the land of Nod was located. Actually Nod is a play on the Hebrew word Nade, which means wanderer. In other words then, wherever Cain went, that was the land of the wanderer. So when you flee from God’s presence, you’re destined for nowhere. There is no satisfaction or fulfillment to be found. 2 Timothy 3:7 speaks of people who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” For a time in his life King Solomon turned from God and tried to find fulfillment in participating in more and more activities, but nothing was there. He says in Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” When you flee from God’s presence, you’re destined for nowhere.
Just after Cain was angry over his offering being rejected, and just before he murdered his brother, God warned him in Genesis 4:7, “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.”
“Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” God is telling Cain that he has a choice. He can be free of sin, or he can choose for it to be master of him. You make that choice at the beginning of every day. You have that choice today. Will you flee from God and allow sin to master you, or will you flee to God and allow him to set your free? The decision is yours.