Cain killed an innocent man. A man precious in the sight of the Lord! He murdered his brother; his own flesh and blood. When the Lord asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother?’, he said without remorse, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?” Then after the Lord’s admonishing, Cain said, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear!’
Indeed the Lord proclaimed curses over Cain, ‘When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.’ Now did the Lord really curse Cain? Or did Cain curse Cain by his own actions? A fugitive and a vagabond; aren’t these things, these curses just a by-product, the consequence, of a murderer on the run; a man running from both God and man? Never staying in one place long enough for a crop to yield its strength, its fruit!
The Lord did not punish Cain; Cain punished Cain! From the beginning, Cain’s problem was Cain; and the fact that he did not see God as He is. He did not find grace in the eyes of the Lord. The sin of unbelief punished Cain, and the by-product of that sin consequently led to the sin of murder. Cain was at enmity with God in his own mind, and therefore received the punishment of sin, ‘I shall be hidden from your face, I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.’
The Lord knew Cain’s heart, and the curses He proclaimed to Cain were merely a reflection of his heart. Cain’s own heart was cursing Cain. His heart of unbelief; his inability to see God as He is. God never separated Himself from Cain, and God did not curse Cain. God did not make the statement you shall be hidden from my face; Cain made the statement: ‘I shall be hidden from your face.’ God did not send Cain out from His presence, Cain went out from His presence. As we shall go on to see, God loved Cain.
I want to stop right now before we go on and explain something. When we look at these stories, we need to realize that the focal point is not Cain, or Abel, or Adam and Eve. The focal point is the Father! Of course there are application concerns, but I can assure you that it all centers on the love of the Father.
To continue, God put a mark on Cain, a covering to keep him from getting killed. Cain eventually settling down was given a wife and a family which he built a city around, naming it after his son. The Lord showed Cain immeasurable mercy and grace, and was giving Cain time until his dying day to see his Father as He was.
The Lord was always open to Cain. Cain could have repented, changed his mind at any time and said, ‘Lord, that was a terrible thing I did. I’m not even really sure why I did it. I’m confused, and I feel empty and alone. Lord please help me!’ And the Lord would have redeemed him, Cain knowing experientially what the Lord had been trying to reveal to him all along; His immeasurable mercy, grace and truth; and Cain would have been healed, walking and talking with the Father again.
In conclusion, the next time you hear a sermon that depicts God as a punishing God, I hope you will call to mind the story of Cain. God does not punish sin. Sin itself is punishing. The unbelieving mind which declares itself at enmity with God produces a tortured and punished soul. God never intended to leave man in that state. For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.