Y’all (I just love that word. I only lived in the south for a short time, but I just love the familiarity.) I love when I find an example of God’s grace in an unexpected place. It happens pretty regularly, because I often need reminded that I have received his grace, but it never ceases to amaze me. This past week in my local Community Bible Study, we looked at the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis. Now, I have read this story many, many times, but each time I look at it I discover something new. This time was no exception. Here are the verses I want to look at as an example of grace. This is from Genesis 4:13-15(NRSV).
Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.
I will admit that my feelings about this section in the past were along the lines of Cain got what he deserved. This is true, but not the whole point. God was not simply giving this punishment to make Cain miserable, he was giving Cain yet another chance at redemption! Cain, who murdered his brother in cold blood, has a chance at redemption in the eyes of the Almighty Creator. I don’t know about you, but that gives me a whole new sense of love for our Father and hope for my future.
This is not the only situation where God shows mercy to Cain. In fact, the Genesis story reflects many situations where God gave Cain the opportunity to turn from sin, despite the fact Cain continued to choose sin. The first example is in Cain’s offering to the Lord (see Genesis 4:3-7). While it is not clear what the exact purpose or mode of offering is supposed to be, it is clear that Cain did not offer his best in faith to the Lord. God shows favor for Abel’s offering and Cain grows angry. God gently tells Cain that his offering WOULD be accepted if he did well and that sin is lurking at the door with a desire for Cain. Cain is being offered a second chance, though he does not take it.
Next, Cain lures his brother out to the field and murders him. The Lord calls out to him and gives Cain another opportunity to turn from his sin and ask forgiveness. God asks him what has happened to his brother, though he already knew, giving Cain a chance to express remorse and seek redemption. Cain once again does not turn from sin. (See Genesis 4:8-10)
Finally, even in his punishment, God shows mercy in ways I cannot even imagine. It is easy to believe that many would have been angry with Cain over his actions and looking for justice for Abel. Cain quickly realizes this and points this out to the Lord. The Lord puts a mark on him, not to punish him, but to allow him time to regain a relationship from the Lord. Besides that, the Lord puts Cain in a position of wandering so that he must rely on the Lord to provide. Although Cain seems to miss the point, God still offered a relationship with him through the end. Amazing!
Have you ever felt unworthy of God’s grace? I have. Many times. God’s message is clear. The grace is there for you, for me, for us all. All we have to do is accept the gift. What could be better than that?
Dear God, thank you so much for loving us, even when we are unlovable. May I follow your example of love and grace given to us in your Word become flesh, Jesus. Help me to remember that all sin is ugly to you, and that we should turn from it as soon as possible, so that we might master sin. Thank you, Lord, for your picture of love in this unlikely place in the story of Cain and Abel. Amen.