“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain… And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 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. 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.’
“Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 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 to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer… Cain said, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear…’ Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Genesis 4:1-13,16
Unreasonable parental expectations for the firstborn, tenacious independence and self-will, or a jealous streak? We do not know why, but from the start, Cain seemed not interested in pleasing the Lord the Lord’s way. With the first sacrifice, he decided, ‘I will not give my best.’ He had worked hard enough, earned it himself, and would not yield his best for God. One ‘not’ leads to the next, and soon they become knots that turn and twist to disfigure and stunt healthy spiritual growth.
When God was more pleased with his brother, Cain said, ‘I will not be second.’
When jealousy awakened a growing rage, he said, ‘I will not control my impulses because I have every right to be mad. I will not respond to God’s interference or relinquish my feelings because I relish the satisfaction of revenge.’
‘I will not restrain my anger. Abel deserves this.’
When the Lord made merciful plea, he refused to answer. ‘I will not bear responsibility- it’s not my fault.’
When consequences were meted out, he whined, ‘I will not be able to withstand my punishment.’
At every gracious invitation the Lord gave to return, Cain said, ‘I will not repent.’ His heart had knotted hard and willfully rejected the Spirit’s pursuit. He would not remain in His presence because he could not acknowledge his sin or stand the reminder of his shortcomings. Sad is the life of ‘nots’ to the Lord; it petrifies into useless, fruitless days.
Where am I refusing God’s grace, and not seizing opportunities to put away sin and immaturity and grow? (1 Peter 2:1-2)
Lord, turn my nots into yeses, my hardened refusals into glad embrace of Your lovingkindness and mercies, for Your sake and glory. (Luke 22:42)