The Beginning of Family Struggle, but Hope for a Future from a Merciful God.

Genesis 3 showed the demise of man’s vertical relationship with God. Chapter 4 shows the decay of horizontal relationships between people, beginning with the home. God’s design was for the family to govern culture, but that which God loves the most becomes Satan’s first target. Despite the tragedy and sin that humanity begins to sink into, the light of divine purpose still shines, and the hope of promised grace is always present.

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We see continuity between chapters 3 and 4 in the following verses:

  • 3:7 and 4:1 – Sin affects our relationships with each other.

  • 3:16 and 4:7 – Sin desires to rule over us.

  • 3:24 and 4:14 – Sin drives people away from God.

Anticipation (4:1-2)

After the entrance of sin into the world, life went on. Adam and Eve became parents, and like all parents of faith, they had high expectations for their children. Eve named her son Cain with the hope that he would be the carrier of the seed God had promised in 3:15. Her good intentions were thwarted, and therein lies a lesson for today’s Christian parents. There is nothing wrong with having high hopes for your children, but this story is a sober reminder of the dark force that seeks to destroy families. Christian parents must stay vigilant for their children’s souls.

Discrimination (4:3-16)

God, who can see our hearts and motives, discerned between the two brothers. He accepted Abel’s sacrifice because it was offered with a heart of faith. Cain’s offering was rejected because he was relying on ritual to bring him closer to God. As we still see with religious people, hearing that God didn’t accept his worship made Cain very angry, hateful, and even murderous.

Yet all throughout this chapter, we see God’s mercy and patience at work. He recognized Cain’s anger and spoke to him about it. He wanted Cain to overcome temptation. Even after Cain killed his brother, God still pursued him (4:9) and gave him a chance to repent.

Unbelief cannot stand God’s conviction or His offer of grace. Cain lied about his sin and refused God’s mercy. He complained about his just punishment and then fled as far as he could get from God’s presence. He lived in “determined independence” from his Creator, says G. Campbell Morgan.

Perpetuation (4:17 – 5:32)

The rest of chapter 4 shows the perpetuation of the family of unbelief through Cain. This secular family pursues human progress apart from God and builds the first city. This godless heritage culminates in Lamech, who defamed God’s institution of marriage by having 2 wives and boasted arrogantly in the face of God’s justice. He was the father of the most remarkable secular family, whose sons started the industries of commercial enterprise, fine arts, and mechanical skill.

Meanwhile, God continued to build the family of faith through Seth. He never allows secular society to build itself without providing a faithful remnant that will be a light. The overlap and sequence of generations in Genesis 5 shows that it only takes a few faithful people to carry on a godly heritage. The repetition of the phrase “and had other sons and daughters,” which we never saw in chapter 4, shows us that faithful children really matter. And the repetition of “and he died” reminds us that death is a promotion for a saint who’s lived faithfully for their Lord.

Application Points

  • Are you a Christian parent? What are your hopes for your children? We probably all want our kids to know the Lord and accomplish great things for His glory – but Satan would like nothing better than to keep that from happening. Our children need to be prayed over long and hard.
    Let Cain’s story be a warning never to go through the motions as a parent. Don’t depend on others to raise your children. You are the primary discipler and shepherd of your children. Do you need to make some adjustments this week?

  • Unbelieving religious people do not like to hear that God doesn’t accept their worship. The Gospel is offensive to these people, so we must give it wisely – but don’t ever stop telling people about Jesus. He is the only way God can accept us. Only those in Christ can truly worship God.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • 1 Peter 5:8 – Satan wants to destroy.
  • Ephesians 6:10-18 – Our spiritual armor.
  • Matthew 6:18 – God can discern our hearts and motives.
  • Hebrews 11:4 – Abel was righteous because of his faith.
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – God’s mercy is longsuffering.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Jesus, I am Resting”

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ’neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.