I am fascinated with the questions God asks people. As recorded in Scripture, whenever God asks a question it is not because He lacks the answer. The all-knowing God already knows, and yet He still asks. This concept intrigues me. Why does He ask? If He already knows, why bother asking? I believe it has to do with His patient, Father-heart wanting to draw out of us the answer He already knows. In short, He does it so that we can know what He already knows.
Recently I wrote about God’s first question recorded in the Bible. See this link:
The next question I want to explore is when God asked Cain, “Where is your bother Abel?” Most of us who grew up in Sunday school know the answer Cain gave, “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?” Thousands of sermons have been preached on this topic; even Jesus told a parable asking who the better neighbor was. But in order for us to gain some insight from God’s question to Cain we need to know more of the back story.
Genesis 4 records that after Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden their family grew and they had two sons, Cain the older, Abel the younger. Cain was a worker of the soil (gardener) and Abel kept the flocks (shepherd). Both Cain and Abel brought offerings before the Lord from the work of their hands. Abel’s offering was looked upon with favor by God, Cain’s was not.
This is the first mention of offerings in the Bible. When something is mentioned for the first time we should pay especially close attention. We see this as man’s first attempt to interact with God after sin had driven a wedge in the once close relationship. It is note-worthy that God does not initiate the giving of the offerings. It was not something He required of the brothers, they took it upon themselves to do it.
We are not given the reason why Cain’s offering was rejected and Abel’s was accepted. Allow me to speculate. Did it have to do with Abel’s animal sacrifice involving the shedding of blood (see Hebrews 9:22)? Was Cain’s offering inferior because it was from the harvest of the ground? The sacrificial system later introduced by God and carried on for centuries until Christ supports both blood sacrifice and grain offerings, so that is probably not why.
Perhaps it has more to do with attitude. Cain was angry and his face downcast because his offering was not accepted by God. Maybe this has to do with the attitude he gave the offering with in the first place. When we give because we think we are supposed to, because someone else is doing it, because we think it is going to buy us some favor we are giving for the wrong reasons.
God looks at the heart of what we do more than the act itself. Whatever the reason, God was approaching Cain concerning his attitude more than the gift itself. The first question he asked Cain was “Why are you so angry? Followed by, “Why is your face downcast?” Obviously God knew why Cain was upset; He wanted Cain to admit it as well. God tells Cain, “If you do what is right (if you change your attitude) will you not be accepted? But if you don’t do what is right (if you don’t change your attitude) sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. “It” is not referring to sin so much as attitude in this case.
After this conversation with God, which was not really a conversation because Cain was sullen and didn’t say anything, Cain invites his brother out into the field and kills him.
Over an offering.
This is another first mention in the Bible. Unfortunately, there were many more murders mentioned. Surely God’s words were ringing in Cain’s ears as his heart pounded and his adrenaline pumped in the few seconds after the fatal blow. “Sin is crouching at your door; IT (sin) desires to have you; but you must rule over IT (attitude).”
It is here that God approaches a second time, knowing full well what Cain has done and where Abel’s whereabouts asking, “Where is your brother, Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?
“What have you done?” the Lord said. I can imagine the disappointment in God’s voice as he begged Cain to listen with Him to hear the blood of Abel, unjustly spiilled, as it cried out to Him from the ground. There were no more questions, only curses, as the consequence of sin played out.
The primary lesson to learn from this account is that when God asks “where is your brother?” The proper response is not “Am I my brother’s keeper?” A secondary lesson would be to learn that attitude affects everything. We must learn to rule over it so that the sin crouching at our door desiring to have us does not.
Where is your brother?
Are you your brother’s keeper?
It’s all about your attitude.
Written by Max L. Morton January 2017