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Cain – Favored Son?

January 31, 2007

 We all know the story of Cain and Abel, right?   You know, the one where Abel is clearly better than Cain, makes a better offering, and Cain is pretty much a vengeful character throughout?  Yeah,
I did too.

However, I listened to something recently that changed my perspective on the story.  I was listening to a sermon by Michael Lawrence (he’s the OTHER pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church – the assistant to Mark Dever).  First off,  I discovered Lawrence by chance – when looking into Capitol Hill’s podcast site to see if any interesting Dever messages were there, I saw a series on Biblical Theology, and as I was studying this topic at the time, decided to download the messages.  While doing so, I also saw two messages out of the “Great Lives” series, which addresses Old Testament figures.  After getting hooked on Lawrence, I decided to give these a listen, and I am amazed at how gospel centered he is, even with these old passages.

Anyway, Lawrence’s sermon on Abel was very interesting, in that he pointed out how favored Cain was.  Even the little text we have in Genesis suggests this – it mentions Cain’s name, what it meant, and how his mother reacted to his birth.  Also, Cain was the firstborn, which made him very important to his parents to begin with – there is no reason to suspect that Cain wouldn’t have received the rights of the firstborn.  It also seems that Eve may have thought that Cain was the chosen Seed spoken of in Genesis 3: chances are good that they at least thought that the Seed would come through Cain’s line.  Abel, on the other hand, was an afterthought to the text.  After describing his brother’s birth in great detail, the text simply says something to the effect of “then was born his brother, Abel.”  His name means “vapor”, where Cain’s means “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord”.

However, despite this favored status, Cain falls, and despite his lower status, Abel is honored in Hebrews as a great example.  Why is this?  Well, Lawrence talks about how Cain felt he deserved more than he got.  He did not feel entitled to give God his best, but felt that he simply deserved acceptance by God because of who he was.  Because God disagreed with this, he became angry, and let that anger consume him.  I had to admit that I see a lot of myself in Cain.  I, too, feel I deserve recognition for my service to God, even if I don’t give God my best.  There are so many times where I feel that because I’ve grown up in church, I deserve to have a wife now, or I deserve to have an easy life, or so many other things.  This message reminds me that this attitude leads to an sense of entitlement, like one can see in Cain.  I feel that I should get what I “deserve”, when, if I think about it, what I really deserve is punishment for my sin.  Thank God that his righteousness atones for my utter lack of it.

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