Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 8 2019 - Genesis 4:1-16 – My brother's keeper

Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve's first children. Abel was a shepherd and his brother Cain was an arable farmer. Both seem to have been aware that the good things they gained from their daily toil were evidence of God's continuing goodness and mercy. So they brought offerings to God from the fruit of their labour as an expression of thankfulness to him. We do not know why God was pleased with Abel's offering but not with that of Cain. Maybe Cain resented having to part with some of the hard won produce of his labour while Abel gave his willingly and gladly. God looks on the heart. Whatever the reason, Cain certainly resented the fact that God found favour with his brother's offering but rejected what he had brought. This resentment poisoned Cain's heart and before long he seized on the opportunity to murder his brother.

In Genesis one and two we noted that God made us for fellowship with himself and to be a blessing to one another and to all that God has made. In Genesis three we saw that rebellion against God brought with it a dislocation not only in our relationship with him but in human relationships also. Cain and Abel provide us with a tragic illustration of relationships which should be characterised by love and mutual support degenerating into resentment, hatred and murder.

When God challenged Cain asking, "Where is your brother Abel?" Cain replied, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain was probably not expecting a direct answer, but perhaps we could venture one. Yes, we were created to be those who care for, protect and provide for one another. We were created to be our brother's keeper. The tragedy is that we now live in a world where so many are intent upon looking after themselves and their own interests, even at the expense of others. None of us is entirely innocent of such tendencies and conduct, even if we may have stopped short of murder.

God told Cain that his brother's blood cried out to him from the ground – cried out for God to exact justice. God then declared his punishment upon Cain.

But I want to shift the focus for a moment. We, like Adam and Eve, have ignored God and chosen to go our own way. But God did not act in vengeance; he loved us so much that he sent his Son into the world for us. Jesus identified himself with us, taking upon himself our humanity and not being ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (see Hebrews 2:11). Instead of coming down in judgment, he came to die for us, to shed his blood for us upon the cross. His blood does not cry out to God for vengeance, it pleads with God for our forgiveness. Hebrews 12:24 says that we who have come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have come "to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." This truth is beautifully expressed in an old hymn by Friedrich Filitz:

Abel’s blood for vengeance
Pleaded to the skies;
But the blood of Jesus
For our pardon cries.

Praise God for Jesus who answer's Cain's question "Am I my brother's keeper?" with a resounding "Yes I am!" We who follow this wonderful Saviour must answer Cain's question in the same way.

What does it mean for us to live in this world thankful for all God gives us and determined to "be our brother's keeper", to care for one another? What will that mean for you this week?

Father God, thank you so much for Jesus my brother who shed his blood for me that I might be reconciled with you and know the embrace of your love. Help me to tell others of your amazing love.

Peter Misselbrook