2bNow Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
3In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground,
4and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,
5but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
6The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?
7If 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.”
Adam and Eve have left a legacy. The children born to them are born into sin. We deal with that truth every day of our lives. Adam’s own sons face the mark of sin on their lives too. Each man brings an offering before God and the trouble begins. Cain’s heart is hard toward God and Abel’s is faithful.
The substance of each offering is immaterial. Each man brought what he worked to produce. Abel brings an animal, Cain brings grain. Both are acceptable offerings in the eyes of God. The difference in the acceptability of the offering lies in the heart of the giver. Abel offers his gift in faith, Cain offers his out of obligation. (Hebrews 11:4 – “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”) In His undeniable mercy, God offers Cain some admonition and instruction; Cain is given chance to reform his thinking. (Cain doesn’t choose reformation, but instead chooses sin, but that for tomorrow.)
In the face of the rejection of his offering, Cain has a little pity party and throws a temper tantrum. But I am struck by God’s desire to bring about change in Cain. As a loving Father, God takes the time to explain to Cain where he has stumbled and shows him the error in his thinking. (“…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”) Several centuries later, God gives us very similar instruction via the hand of James. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:13-15
The path of sin hasn’t changed since the days of the first people. Evil desires grab us and carry us down the road of destruction. Just as Satan played on Eve’s desire to be like God, so Satan also plays with our desires leading us in the opposite direction from God. Sin ever stalks us. Jesus’ blood dealt with the power of that sin to separate us from God forever. But while we walk in this flesh, we will be tempted by our own desires. We do well to heed God’s warning to Cain and attempt to “rule over it.” If you would like to meditate on this topic a little more, give a read to Romans 7. Paul struggled too.