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Cain and Abel: God Knows the Intentions of Our Hearts

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 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. - Genesis 4:2-4

I have always wondered why Cain’s offering wasn’t accepted by God. Some say that it was because it was a “bloodless offering”, which would be in opposition to the foreshadowing of substitutionary atonement through the blood of Christ. Others say that it was because God must have instructed Cain and Abel on what would be an acceptable offering, and that Cain disobeyed. But how could a man who worked the soil give to God anything other than the fruits of the soil? While reading this passage, I wonder if it was because of the intent of Cain’s heart that God rejected. Notice how Abel brought “fat portions from his firstborn flock” but Cain brought “SOME fruits of the soil” – but not his “BESTfruits of the soil. Rather than giving to God the best of his labor, Cain chose to keep the best portions for himself. I believe Cain’s heart was selfish and he didn’t fully trust God.

So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. - Genesis 4:5

And to illustrate the poor condition of Cain’s heart, when Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God, rather than rejoicing with him, Cain became angry, and murdered Abel. Cain’s heart was filled with jealousy and anger that his brother was in right standing with God. Cain was rebellious, and wanted to control his brother Abel and control God. His rebellion was shown in the type of offering he chose to give – not the best of what he had, but what HE felt was an acceptable offering. We don’t get to choose what is acceptable to God. God tells us what is acceptable. God knows the intentions of our hearts. Behind everything we do, even if it has the appearance of being righteous and loving, God sees our motivations.

Cain could have humbled himself before God and confessed his selfishness and distrust of God, and the Lord would have been faithful to forgive him. We can know this because in Genesis verse 6 it says:

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 Cain didn’t want anyone to have more than he had. He didn’t want God to have the BEST of his crops, he kept those for himself. Cain was jealous of his brother’s blessings and good fortune and wanted to destroy him instead of love him. He didn’t want his brother to have anything better than what he had, and literally hated him because he was blessed.

But God did warn Cain and said in verse 7:

"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.”

We must do what is right in God’s eyes, not our own.

Are you donating to that charity because it’s a nice tax write-off or are you doing it out of concern for the people the charity benefits?

Are you helping out a friend so that later they will “owe you one” or because you genuinely love them?

Are you assisting a family member because it puts you in a position to control and manipulate, or are you doing it because you care for them and love them?

God sees our hearts, my friends.

He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight." - Luke 16:15

God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. - Acts 15:8

If we are unwilling to do what is right in God’s eyes, and insist on only doing what we believe is right in our own eyes, sin crouches at the door in wait:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8

The enemy knows when the best time to attack is. When we are weak and downcast, like Cain, it is the perfect opportunity for the enemy to strike. Satan took the rebellious heart of Cain, which had been stoked when God rejected his offering, and used it to commit the first murder in history.

Genesis 4:10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

We must revere God to the point where we trust Him fully. When you struggle in your life, is it then that you hate your brother? Do you detest it when someone seems to be getting blessed and you are not? Rather than repenting to God for the rebellion in your heart do you hate the good fortune of others?

We must take God’s warning seriously. We must rule over the sin that crouches at the door, otherwise it will devour us and kill the ones we love.