Children of the Bible, Part 1 by Allan McGuirl
For a number of weeks we have been covering some of God’s promises. Although there are over 3,500 of them, we have only touched on a few; however, now it is time to move on to a new topic, Children of the Bible. We don’t hear many sermons on this subject but there are certainly a number of prominent stories we can consider.
Who were the first children mentioned in the Bible? Cain and Abel, in Genesis 4, were the first children. These sons, along with many others, were born to Adam and Eve sometime after they had fallen out of grace with our heavenly Father and were removed from the Garden of Eden. It is interesting to note that both were brought up in the same home. Both had similar circumstances and had received the same teaching about God. Their parents had the same concern for their well-being; they had the same opportunity to worship God. The first differences appear regarding their careers. Cain, the oldest, was a gardener and tilled the soil, while Abel was a shepherd, tending flocks of sheep. Here were two children raised in a God-fearing home who had now grown into young men.
The Bible says in Genesis 4:3 that at a certain time, Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruits he had grown, while Abel brought an offering of fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. There is no description given of Cain’s offering, but the Bible says very specifically that Abel offered the firstborn. How did he know that this was the acceptable thing to do? Surely he learned this from his parents, who in turn learned it from God. The firstborn, of course, points ahead to Jesus who would become the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. The passage also indicates that he sacrificed more than one lamb. He was generous in his offering. Scripture also says the Lord was watching what the sons were doing, and He approved of Abel’s offering but not Cain’s.
Now the passage does not clearly say why one sacrifice was accepted over the other. Some claim that it is because Abel brought a blood sacrifice and refer to Hebrews, where it says, “Without the shedding of blood is no remission.” However, the first fruits of the harvest were also acceptable offerings. Here I am reminded of Jeremiah 17:10, which says, “I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
Genesis 4:5 tells us Cain was very angry with God and his face was downcast. When God asks him, “Why?” he adds, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not what is right, sin is crouching at your door; yes, it desires to have control over you, but you must master it.” You see, God was looking at his heart. On the outside he was making an offering to God; on the inside his heart was not right. Jealousy, envy, anger and the desire for revenge flooded Cain’s heart towards his younger brother, and, before long, led to his senseless murder.
Over the years in ministry I could tell you countless stories where jealousy has shipwrecked a family. Maybe someone reading this right now has faced such a conflict in their own home. Jealousy had consumed Cain and it led to murder – what a tragedy!
I am sure all of us at some time in our lives have faced jealousy. Maybe someone else was picked for a part in a play or chosen to sing a solo and you have been left out. Or perhaps you applied for a job and your friend gets it instead. You work many years for a company and then someone beside you is promoted and you are left behind. All of these situations can lead to jealousy. How do we handle this monster in our lives? Jealousy involves relationships and when it is allowed to take root it can leave a huge path of destruction. It not only consumes the individual but damages all those in its path. I vividly recall one situation where a wife found herself open to the seductive influences of a man on the job. Though she didn’t do anything wrong, her husband, overtaken with jealousy, ended up divorcing her. In this case, an entire family was torn apart through, in this case, unfounded jealousy.
So what are the causes of jealousy? Perhaps someone in the family seems to get all of the attention, one person is much more athletic than you, prettier, more handsome, has children and you have none, has lots of money while you are struggling to get by, or got the promotion you were expecting. How do we deal with it?
First of all, we need to recognize it and call it by its real name, “jealousy.” Secondly, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that true love is not jealous, and that if God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, as Romans 5:5 states, we need to learn to take pleasure in the advancement of others and pray for them. Have you ever noticed that it is difficult to be jealous about someone you are praying for? Thirdly, Paul was able to say in Philippians, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Finally, we need to recognize that Jesus is all we really need. He can satisfy every desire of the human heart and has promised to do so for those who wholeheartedly turn to Him.
I don’t believe Cain ever acknowledged his jealousy, nor did he allow his connection to his brother to prevent him from giving vent to his anger. He also didn’t learn to be content with God’s direction in his life, nor did he turn to God to meet his need. Rather he allowed jealousy to take over, with disastrous consequences.
Let’s learn from these first children in the Bible; we do not have to permit jealousy to get a foothold in our lives.