The first man and woman brought a terrible curse upon themselves and upon the world. They would live in bondage to sin and their lives would end in death (see Story 7, Story 8, and Story 9 for the details). But when we continue to read their story, we see that the first man still had faith. After the Curse had fallen on humanity, he looked upon his wife and gave her a name: Eve, which means “living.” In spite of their rebellion, Adam believed that God would still bring life through his wife and their love for each other. And one day, a descendant of Eve would crush the head of the evil serpent that had brought the horrors of the curse.
In this, we see that God’s goodness was powerfully at work. When Adam and Eve first chose the knowledge of good and evil over faithfulness to God Himself, the first thing they felt was shame. When God came to them, they began to blame each other for their choices, spreading the darkness and deception through their fear-filled choices. But God had limited the power of evil, He did not allow the fullness of its toxic power to have it’s sway. Adam still carried a capacity for hope, there was still love and grace for the woman who drew him into temptation and supported his failure. More importantly, he had faith that in spite of the evil that had befallen them, God was still able to bring life.
In God’s tender care for His disgraced children, He took the leather from the skin of animals and made clothes for Adam and Eve. Already, a sacrifice had to be made to cover them for their sins. Already, something had to die.
The Garden had become a dangerous place for Adam and Eve. The Tree of Life was there, and if they ate from it, they would never die. Before the Curse, this would have been a wonderful blessing. They would have lived with God in perfect unity forever and ever. But now they were broken. Their hearts were distorted and twisted by sin. Death had become a necessary end in this terrible new era that they had brought into the world. Without it, they would be cursed forever.
Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden. They had invited the toxic power of evil into their hearts, and it did not belong in the Garden. God had to cleanse His holy sanctuary from their contaminating presence. They were exiled to the outer regions of the world where the Curse was already infecting the land. The Lord sent His cherubim to guard the eastern entrance to the Garden.
Now, it is very interesting, because we don’t understand exactly what a cherubim is. They are among God’s heavenly creatures that serve the Lord with absolute, devoted obedience. They are something like the angels, except for one thing. Whenever the Bible talks about angels, they are acting as God’s messengers with a very specific mission. Whenever the Bible talks about cherubim, they are guarding something. Sometimes they are standing guard in the very throne room of God. Psalm 99:1 says, “The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.”
Now that the Curse had come into the world, Heaven and the sacred space of the Garden was off limits to the people of earth. The cherubim stood as guards while a flaming sword flashed back and forth across the entrance of the Garden, ensuring that no human could enter.
Distance from the Garden meant distance from God. Instead of perfect nearness to God, the nations would tremble because of His wrath against them. Humans would no longer walk in His presence in the cool of the day. Adam and Eve had to make a life for themselves outside of the Garden, in the harsh new world where suffering and death had become a constant reality.
In the midst of their hard labor over the years, the Lord gave them a precious gift. Adam and Eve had a son. Consider the lavish forgiveness and grace of God.
Eve named her son Cain. She said, “‘With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man.’” Eve brought the curse, and God allowed the terrible consequences to come. Yet even as they suffered for their shameful decision, God continued to bless them. Eve learned to look up in dependent faith on the God that she had once rebelled against. Would her sons do the same?
God gave Eve a second son. His name was Abel. When they grew up and became men, Abel took care of the flocks of animals. Cain became a farmer. Both of the men brought some of the fruit of their work as offerings to God. Abel brought the very best of his firstborn animals from his flocks and sacrificed them to the LORD. His was an offering of deep faith and gratitude to God for all that He had provided. Cain brought some of the grains and fruit of his farm. They were not the first fruit or the best fruit and they were not given out of faith. They were a religious token to get the necessary ritual of offerings to God done and over with. They were a show. Cain was far from loving the God who made him.
God was pleased with Abel’s offering, but not with Cain’s. God would not accept anything less than true and proper worship. In truth, it was no worship at all. It was rebellion. Cain wanted to come to God in his own way, as if the will of the Almighty God did not matter. He wanted to define right and wrong for God instead of standing in humility and grateful surrender to Him. He was in total and complete rebellion concerning the most sacred things of life.
God was not pleased. When Cain realized his cheap, faithless offerings did not work, he did not repent and ask for forgiveness. Instead, he was livid with anger and jealousy against Abel because his brother had received God’s approval. His rage was so intense that it showed on his face. The Lord asked him,
“‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’”
Wow. Consider the kindness of God. He did not scorn Cain for bringing his cheap offering. He didn’t belittle him or compare him to his brother. He simply gave him a chance to make it right.
Yet God knew the heart of Eve’s son. Cain’s shabby offering was an outward expression of a deeper problem. He knew that Cain would rather do something rash and violent than follow the ways of the Lord. So God warned him. He could either repent, turn around, and bring an offering that he knew would please the heart of God, or he could continue on in his rebellion. But woe to him if he did.
Cain did not want to master his sin. We can see by his choices that he wanted to give it his full energy. The hatred in his heart grew into a terrible storm. He plotted a way to get Abel back for earning God’s approval. When the day of his vengeance arrived, he asked his brother to go out with him to a field. Then Cain attacked Abel, spilling Abel’s blood on the ground as he died.
Once again, rebellion against the goodness of God had led to death. The firstborn son of Adam and Eve had killed their second-born son…and so they lost them both. Evil prevailed and the innocent suffered. The burden of the sin that Adam and Eve had brought into the world had brought it’s devastating power into the heart of their family. It is the way of Satan, and God hates it with a fierce, holy passion.
God came to Cain again and asked him, “‘Where is your brother?’”
Isn’t that question an interesting choice? God didn’t strike him with lightening. He didn’t storm down on Cain with accusations and judgment. He approached him with a chance to confess.
Cain’s response was to lie: “‘I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’”
Did Cain think that God was unaware of his violence? Did he think it was none of God’s business? Did he believe he had a right to do what he did? Did he think he could deceive God?
As you ponder the effects of sin in the world, as you grow and learn about the sin in your own heart, remember the jealousy and hatred and lies of Cain. They are a clear picture of the way rebellious humanity acts against the pure and righteous ways of God. This story is an archetype of how it works on the broader scale:
We fall into sin
We refuse to repent
We experience consequences
We refuse to repent
We resent those who thrive because they aren’t bearing the burden of the consequences of sin
We refuse to repent or allow the righteous to act as models and mentors
We increasingly blame others for the problems caused by our sin
We increase our sin by taking our anger out on them
We increasingly reject not only the people around us, but ultimately God.
It was not smart for Cain to lie to the God who knows absolutely everything. It was the same game Adam and Eve tried to play in the Garden. It is the way of Satan, the serpent. God asked Cain the same question He had asked his mother at the moment of her great disobedience:
“‘What have you done?'”
And…just as with Adam and Eve…the sin came with a consequence:
‘”Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield crops to you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’”
Wow. Because of Cain’s terrible sin, the curse that fell upon all men would be even more intense for him. The ground would not produce fruit for him at all.
Cain was horrified. He said, “‘My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’”
But God is merciful and gracious, and abounding in love. He would not deal with Cain as Cain had dealt with his brother. God was still willing to protect him. He told Cain that nobody would be allowed to hurt him. The Lord put a mark on him so that everyone would know that he was protected by God. Wow.
One would hope that God’s protective kindness would soften Cain’s heart. One would think it would cause Cain to repent. It did not.
When Cain left, he went as an unrepentant and sinful man. He moved away to a place far from the presence of God. He and his wife lived in a land called Nod, east from Eden.
What a terrible time this must have been for Adam and Eve. Abel, their righteous son, was dead. Their firstborn son was a murderer. Rebellion first brought a separation between humanity and God. Now it was bringing separation from each other. Sin was widening its effect and delving humanity into deeper and darker ways.
What would happen to the human race? Who would stop the evil trajectory of this rebellion? Who among the sons of Eve was left to stomp on the head of the evil serpent?