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The Slippery Slope of Sin

Date: Jan. 28, 2018

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Genesis 4:1-26

Key Verse: Genesis 4:7

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Have you ever driven in icy conditions? You turn the wheel and your car doesn’t exactly turn. It keeps going in the same direction because of the momentum you have. This past Wednesday, there were some icy spots out there, especially away from the city. There were over 130 crashes on the expressways surrounding Joliet, where cars slid off the highway or into each other. At one gas station in Hickory Hills, a car slid into a gas pump, knocked it over and set it on fire. Some schools were closed because it was very dangerous to drive. Not in the city. Chicago was dry and fine, but mostly in the western and southern suburbs. But when you are sliding on that ice, you have no control. There is very little that you can do to stop the car from sliding off the road or in to something or someone. You might not think that the ice is a big deal, but as soon as you hit it, something feels off and it only gets worse the longer it lasts. And it is worse if you happen to be on an incline. I saw a video this week of a school bus sliding down the street, at an angle and knocking over mailboxes. There was no way for it to stop. In today’s passage, we will see that sin is just the same way. Once you start down the hill of sin, you just keep sliding and accelerating until you are in trouble.

Last week, we saw the first sin—the first-time that man disobeyed God. From a human perspective, it looked like a silly rule and that they didn’t do all that much wrong. They just ate from a tree that they weren’t supposed to eat from. It’s not like they killed somebody, right? I mean, that is our justification when we sin. We didn’t kill anybody. It’s true Adam and Eve didn’t kill anyone, but their one simple sin opened the door. They were infected with sin and it infected all their children, and today, the passage shows us how quickly that sin can spread into something really detestable. Our passage starts out, “Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.’” (1) At the end of chapter 3, Adam names his wife Eve because she will be the mother of all the living, and here, we see the first baby to be born. Adam and Eve were created in adult bodies, but Eve gave birth to a baby boy named Cain. Despite their sin against God, the Lord blessed the first people to start a family and Eve even credits the Lord in helping her give birth. They had disobeyed God, but he still loved his people. After Cain was born, Eve gave birth to another son named Abel. As they grew up, Cain and Abel did different things. Abel tended to the flocks and Cain worked the ground. They are a shepherd and a farmer. Cain followed the footsteps of his father Adam. When Adam was sent out of the garden, God said that he would work the ground in painful toil. Adam was to be a farmer and Cain was just like his dear old dad. However, Abel took his own route and kept sheep. They must have used the sheep for something other than food because God hadn’t told his people to eat meat, yet.

At any rate, one day something special happened. The passage says, “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.” (4) Cain decides to bring an offering to the Lord. In the passage, it is out of the blue. Now, there is a possibility that Cain learned to give an offering from Adam. He may have seen his father give to God many times, and, now, he was going to do the same. So, he gathers some of the fruits of the soil and gives an offering to God. It sounds like he is doing a great job and giving to God. However, Cain’s brother Abel also makes an offering to God and the Lord’s reception of each offering couldn’t have been more different. “And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” (4-5) Abel’s offering was from the fat portions from some of the firstborn of the flock. When God saw the two offerings, he looked with favor to Abel and his offering, but he wasn’t so impressed with Cain and his offering. In response Cain was angry and looked down.

This wasn’t an issue of Abel’s offering looking impressive, but Cain’s seeming meager. God doesn’t look at the amount of the offering, but he looks at the heart. There was one time that Jesus was watching people giving their offerings. “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21:1-4) The woman didn’t give an impressive offering. It was just two pennies, but the value in the gift was far greater than the value of the coins. It was her heart. She gave out of her poverty, and the others gave out of their wealth. She gave trusting in God. King David wrote, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17) Again, it is not the sacrifice that God wants. He wants for us to give our heart to him. We are to be thankful and praise him and give our best to God. If you look at Cain’s offering, it was just some of the fruits of the soil, while Abel’s offering was the fat portions of the firstborn. Cain gave something, but Abel gave his best. In their offerings you can see their hearts.

Now, you might be thinking that God should accept both offerings. They both gave to God but think of it this way. Let’s say you had two friends and they each gave you a gift. Let’s say that you have been looking for a water bottle to take with you. One of your friends gives you a nice stainless steel, insulated water bottle that will keep your water cold for hours. And the other gives you an empty plastic bottle that used to have water in it: you know, those bottled water bottles. They both gave you a water bottle and they both gave you a gift. Would you be happy with both gifts? The first friend took the time to think about what you would like and the second technically gave you what you wanted. It is a bottle that you could put water back in to. You wouldn’t be very happy with the second friend and that second friend could still think that they gave you what you wanted and be angry with you. That is what Cain did and how he reacted.

The Lord saw how Cain was reacting and talked to him like a concerned father. “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’” (6-7) Just like he did with Adam, the Lord asks Cain a couple of questions to get him to express what was going on. God says, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” and “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Cain thought that Abel made him look bad, but it was about Cain’s heart before God. If Cain did what is right before God, God would be pleased. If he didn’t, sin would be waiting to take him. The imagery of sin crouching at the door gives you the impression that sin is like a wild animal ready to attack its prey, and it is only looking for an opening. If Cain were to let his anger and jealousy fester in his heart, sin would attack him and devour him. God was not scolding Cain but pleading with him and warning him about where his thoughts would take him.

Unfortunately, God’s plea fell on deaf ears. “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” (8) Cain let the anger fester in his heart and he grew cold and calculated. He plotted to kill his brother because he took his problem with God and turned it into a problem with his brother. If Abel was out of the way, there wouldn’t be anyone who could show up Cain any more. We like to pass the buck and assign blame, but, in this case, Cain’s problem was in himself. It was a problem of his heart. After his plotting, Cain invites Abel out to the field, where he kills his brother. Now, Abel had no idea what was going on. He knew nothing of the conflict going on inside of Cain, nor did he know of what God said to him. He just went out to the field with his brother and was attacked and murdered. Remember how I said that Adam and Eve didn’t kill anyone, so their sin wasn’t that bad? The first sin was disobedience, the second sin was murder. Sin escalated so fast. This is why sin is a slippery slope. Yoda, the great Jedi Master once told Luke Skywalker, “Once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny, consume you it will.” (The Empire Strikes Back) It is so easy to fall into darkness. It is so easy to fall into sin. We think that a little sin won’t hurt anything, but a little sin leads to a little more and a little more, until we are consumed by it. Cain could have just acknowledged his heart and accepted God’s advice, but instead he ignored it and allowed the anger to grow into death and even the death of his own brother.

After murdering his brother, Cain goes on with his life, and God, again, tries to get him to confess. “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (9) There is no remorse in Cain’s words. There is even a little resentment still there when he asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Even after murdering his brother, Cain shows no emotion for what he has done. His brother was never coming back. His life was snuffed out in an instant, but Cain couldn’t be bothered about it. He did not confess. He deflected. You know, God is God. He didn’t need Cain to confess to know what had happened. He already knew what had happened to Abel. “The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’” (10) The Lord knew what Cain has done because Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground. Blood is life and Abel’s life was crying out to God.

With Cain’s actions, there would be consequences. God continued, “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (11-12) This is the first time that the Lord cursed a person. In the fall in the last chapter, God cursed the serpent, but he did not curse Adam or Eve. He told Eve what would happen and said that the ground was cursed because of Adam, but here Cain is cursed. He was a farmer, but now because of the blood he poured out, the ground would never produce crops for him again. When the ground was cursed because of Adam, Adam would have to work very hard to produce anything. Thorns and thistles would grow, and with painful toil Adam would get some crops. Now, no matter how hard Cain worked, the ground would produce nothing but thorns and thistles. Because of that, Cain would be forced to roam in search of food. He would be a restless wanderer.

In light of God’s judgement, Cain’s demeanor finally cracks. “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’” (13-14) If you look a Cain’s words, you notice that he is still not remorseful for what he has done. He is merely upset at the punishment and notice, that Cain’s words are all about himself. His punishment is too much for him to bear. He said “I” and “me” so many times. He is selfish even after being punished. All he cares about is his own well-being and his paranoia even grew. He is worried about being a wanderer and someone coming to kill him. It is a bit unusual since there are no other people at this time. Who would kill him? But it could be that Cain is worried about the people to come who might seek vengeance for his actions. It all reminds me of how many children respond to being punished. My two kids start bawling when they are punished for doing something wrong. They don’t see correction, but they are upset at the punishment that they have to endure because of their actions. My son even starts saying things like nobody loves him because he is being punished. It is all about the punishment and not about what they did to earn punishment. Cain was no different.

The Lord, however, was merciful to Cain. It was too much for him to bear, but the Lord made him a promise. “But the Lord said to him, ‘Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.’ Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.” (15) The Lord protected Cain and gave him a promise that whoever killed him would suffer vengeance seven times over. At first, it seems like little consolation. Vengeance would only come if Cain is killed. That has no benefit to Cain, he would still be dead, but God also put a mark on Cain so that no one would kill him. Everyone would know about the vengeance just by looking at the mark. With that Cain is cast out of the Lord’s presence and goes further east to the land of Nod, the land of the wanderer. When Adam and Eve left the garden, they were sent east, but now with Cain’s sin, he heads further east. This signifies humanity’s walking further and further from God because of their sin.

After this, Cain starts a family. Cain, too, is still blessed by God to increase in number because God still loves him. After his first son was born, Cain built a city and named it Enoch after his son. Cain tried to stop being a wanderer on his own by building a city. After that, the passage goes on to name Cain’s further descendants down to Lamech. Lamech was six generations after Cain or the seventh generation after Adam, and, in Lamech, the depravity that began in Cain reached new levels. Lamech married two women and is the first instance of polygamy in the Bible. It is the first instance of God’s institution of marriage being perverted by man. It was written in chapter 2, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) It is hard to become one flesh with two wives, but Lamech fed his own desires without regard to anything else. With the first wife Adah, Lamech had two sons Jabal and Jubal, and, with the second wife Zillah, Lamech had another son Tubal-Cain and a daughter Naamah. These boys would continue to extend human culture by bringing something new to humanity. Jabal raised livestock. Jubal was a musician. Tubal-Cain was a metalworker. Again, God was still blessing Cain’s line with culture, but the slippery slope of sin was hard to resist.

One day, Lamech did something horrible and became a boastful about it, “Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.’” (23-24) Lamech’s boasting was in the form of verse or song. It is kind of strange, but he was proud of it. Apparently, a man wounded Lamech, whether intentionally or not. Then, Lamech killed him for it. It is the kind of tactic that would feel right at home in some neighborhoods nowadays. There have been instances of shootings happening just because a person looks at another guy funny. That is kind of what is happening here. Lamech is being thuggish because a young man injured him, and he repaid the injury with death and he justified it based on Cain’s protection of vengeance. If Cain were killed, there would be vengeance sevenfold, but Lamech claimed that it would be seventy-seven times. He was so full of himself that he multiplied God’s protection and then carried out himself. Sin had increased again, but now it was to the point where killing another person was nothing and it was something to boast about. Cain was jealous of his brother and killed him, but he stayed quiet about it. However, with Lamech, he was slighted and killed a man and told his wives about it in song. Adam’s original sin had spread and grown in ways that he could not have foreseen.

How often does that happen to us? Our sin starts small, but it snowballs into ways that we couldn’t imagine. An alcoholic does not intend to be an alcoholic and a drug user does not start out with a desire of being an addict. They come about little by little, down the slippery slope until they are at a point where they are lost in their sin and there is no way out. Cain’s selfishness led to his brother’s murder and spread to his descendants who took joy in murdering others. Cain was worried about someone killing him, but his line became a line of murderers. Cain was just selfish and that grew really fast. In our own lives, we want a little fame or a little pleasure or a little companionship, but then we start sacrificing things to get a little more fame, pleasure or companionship. We do things that are questionable in order to get what we want, and we justify what we do by saying that it is not so bad, but just like with Cain, sin is crouching at the door waiting to have us, but we have to rule over it. Unfortunately, none of us has the strength to rule over sin. All those sins that we have rule over us. We might say that we can stop anytime, but how many addicts say that fully believing that they actually can stop? We think that we can master sin, but in reality, we are powerless. The apostle Paul, one of the holiest Christians to walk this earth wrote, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:14-20) We feel like we are in control, but whenever we try to put sin behind us, we can’t stop doing evil. We do what we hate and cannot do the good we want to do.

In light of all of this Paul wrote, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24) Paul cried out for someone to rescue him, to save him from his own body. He was unable to rule over sin and he kept sliding on the mess that sin made in his life. So, he cried out for someone to rescue him. He cried out for someone to take him away from it all, to lift him out of the muck of sin. Paul continued, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) Jesus is the deliverer. He is the rescuer and savior. Jesus is the only person to never have sinned. He is the only one who was able to master and rule over sin, and he is our God in flesh. Jesus came to this earth to free us from sin. We are unable to do it ourselves. We are just stuck on the ice, unable to get traction, but Jesus is there to pull us to safety. He did so by dying for us on the cross. Cain killed Abel and his blood cried out to God. Likewise, Jesus’ blood was spilled on the cross. The ground soaked up his blood and it now cries out to God on our behalf. We are washed by Jesus’ blood and made clean. He died for you to release us from the power of sin.

Once we start down the dark path of sin, we just keep sliding into it and we can’t stop sinning. No matter what we do, we cannot escape the beast that is attacking us. The more we struggle, the further in we go. The sin living in us in so innate that it is a part of us like our arms or legs. We cannot separate it. We are sinners, but Jesus is there to save us. He is there to take us back from the body of death and give us a body of life. Paul also wrote, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7) When we accept what Jesus has done, our sinful selves are crucified with Christ and we are set free from sin. Believing in Jesus allows us to escape the slippery slope of sin and break the cycle of death that we live in. His blood cries out to God, saying that you are forgiven.

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Key Verse: 7:8b

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