“The life of the flesh is the blood,” (Leviticus 17:11, ESV). “The life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life,” (Leviticus 17:14, ESV). What happens when the blood of someone bearing the image of God is spilled? It cries. It cries out to its Maker, to Almighty-God. That’s what we see this morning as we study this text. The cry of blood.
As we open up this passage, my hope is that we will see ourselves in large measure within this story. Because in this story, we find the Genesis of the Gospel. We see it in its three parts: the inner conflict, the outer conduct, and the upward cry.
The Inner Conflict
Before we can really appreciate and know the good news, we must first understand the bad news. Trying to explain to a fish what water is will be pointless, unless he understands what dry is first. When he understands what it means to be on dry land, he will crave the life-giving water. And so we see that the first portion of the good news, is understanding the bad news. And the bad news is that there is a conflict within.
Moses wrote that,
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell, (Genesis 4.3-5, ESV).
What Moses didn’t write, but what the writer of Hebrews sheds light on for us, is that why God disregarded Cain’s offering. After all, there is a grain offering in the Levitical law. Why would God appoint an offering that He once disregarded? The writer of Hebrews wrote, “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,” (Hebrews 11.4a, ESV). Abel offered his sacrifice by faith; which implies that Cain did not. For whatever reason, or perhaps without reason, Cain did not bring his sacrifice to God with faith. So we see the smoke of this inner conflict already. Where there is smoke, there’s fire.
Cain got angry. The fire was smoldering deep in his heart. He had two choices. He could be angry and let it smolder and grow wild, or he could let it go.
Apparently, Cain couldn’t hide his emotions very well, because Moses wrote that his face fell. He was visibly angry. And in that moment God spoke to Cain, whether audibly or inwardly or however else, we don’t know. What we know is what He said, “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it,” (Genesis 4.6-7, ESV).
So descriptive. Sin is crouching at the door. Like a wild animal wanting to devour its prey so sin waits for its most opportune moment. John Owens, the great Puritan wrote how sin will hide deep in the crevices of the heart. That even when we believe the sin is gone, it is simply crouching down waiting for the best time to spring upon us and catch us unaware.
Sin always has an ulterior motive. “Its desire is contrary to you,” God says. That’s not just anger. That’s every sin. Like Satan with Adam and Eve, it promises one thing, but delivers something different. Like fast food commercials, it shows sin all doctored up and looking scrumptious, but it leaves us dying. We know inwardly that it cannot and will not deliver on its promises, but we also have that inward craving for it no matter what. God says, “You must rule over it.”
The Outer Conduct
But Cain, though warned, refused to rule over his temptation. He refused to rule over the sin. James wrote, “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,” (1.14-15, ESV). Now, to be sure, James was referring to one’s own death. Not the death of another necessarily, but in the case of Cain and Abel, it was really both. “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him,” (Genesis 4.8, ESV).
Notice these action that were taken.
- Cain ignored God’s warning. God warned him to rule over that temptation, but instead of even considering God’s word of warning, he puts a plan into motion.
- He goes into the field. Interesting thing about the word field: it is used in these first few chapters of Genesis in an almost cryptic way of saying, “away from God.” Satan was more crafty than any beast of the field, Adam would have to eat not from the garden but from the plants of the field. And here Cain takes Abel to the field as if hoping God would not see.
- Abel was not the only one to be risen up against. That which was crouching at the door of Cain’s heart, rose up and devoured its prey, and when it did, Cain rose up against his brother.
“And sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
The Upward Cry
God doesn’t answer the question. The answer is quite obvious. You know it. I know it. God knows it. Cain knew it. Instead God declares the upward cry. “And the LORD said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground,” (Genesis 4.10, ESV). Confess! Your brother’s blood is crying out to me and it is crying for justice! The blood of Abel was calling upon God for judgment. And it would be judgment that God meted out. “And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth,” (Genesis 4.11-12, ESV).
Cain, the farmer, the one who worked the ground, killed Cain upon the ground, was now cursed from the ground. Sin is so costly. It cost him his home, his job, his family, and his God. No wonder the first thing he said was, “My punishment is greater than I can bear,” (Genesis 4.13, ESV). You think!? Remember the words of warning: “Its desire is contrary to you,” (Genesis 4.7, ESV). Sin never has our best interest at heart. It only destroys us. Was it God’s judgment? Yes, but sin brought it on. Every sin cries out for justice. Like some career criminal, it always sets up a fall-guy. It entraps us in our sin and then cries out against us, “Justice! Justice!” and we are caught red-handed.
But hear these words. Listen closely to what I am about to say: “Mercy triumphs over judgment,” (James 2.13, ESV). Here is the good news. For those who have come to Christ we have this promise: that we have come “to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel,” (Hebrews 12.24, ESV).
Abel was not wrong and did not speak a bad word when crying out to God for justice. God is a God of justice. But mercy triumphs over judgment. And Jesus’ blood cried out a better word than the blood of Abel. It cries for mercy!