Rivalry by Abidan Shah, PhD

RIVALRY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  I remember it almost like it was yesterday. I was probably 5-6 years of age when a man came to our gate and asked for my dad. I told him that he was busy. So, he told me his name and that he had a question for my dad if I would give it to him: “Where did Cain get his wife?” Even as a 5–6-year-old, I knew the answer to that question, but I gave the message to my dad, and I remember my dad saying something like, “I know who that is. He is a Hindu nationalist who has been trying to disprove Christianity, and he keeps asking such questions.” Since then, I have heard that question many times. As we kick off round two of Contend, this is the first question that we will seek to tackle. To be honest, the answer is very simple – one of his sisters, – but the account surrounding that question raises some much deeper questions regarding RIVALRY, which is the title of our message. Main point: Ever since the beginning of time, the Enemy has been sowing the seeds of discord and rivalry among people, especially in the family. We have a choice to go God’s way or the way of Cain. His way is through his first-born Jesus whose blood speaks better things for us.

Genesis 4      16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.

Context: As I mentioned a few moments ago, the answer to the question “Where did Cain get his wife?” is very simple. However, there are significant insights embedded in this account that we need to understand. So, lets back up to Genesis 4:1 “Now Adam knew Eve his wife…” The Hebrew word for “know” is “yada,” which implies sexual intercourse, but normally (not always), if its only sexual intercourse, there are other words for that. The word “yada” typically implies a deeper intimate knowledge of each other. If you remember, the last we heard of Adam and Eve’s interaction in Genesis 3, it was very tense. Adam blamed Eve, and she followed his example and blamed the serpent. God cursed them both and drove them out of the Garden. Can you imagine the anger and the bitterness between them? They could have moved away from each other, refused to touch each other, try to undermine each other. Instead, they came together and decided to obey God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth.”

Application: In your marriage, do you obey God and love each other, or do you allow bitterness and unforgiveness to destroy your marriage?

1 “…and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the LORD.’” Cain is the first person to be born of natural generation, but it is very interesting what Eve said – “Qainiti Ish Et Yahweh.” Qainiti = I have acquired/gotten. Ish = man. Yahweh = Lord/God. The big question is how to translate the particle “et?” A particle is a word that is beyond the 8 parts of speech like noun, verb, pronoun, adverb, adjective, conjunction, interjection, and preposition. For example: to run, “to” is a particle. They don’t really have any meaning of their own. What’s the point? What is Eve saying here? Translators are still not sure! They try to say – ‘I have acquired a man from the LORD” or “I have gotten a man withthe Lord’s help” or “I have gotten a man through God.” Here’s the translation as is: “I have acquired a man: Yahweh/Lord.” If you’re still not convinced, the very next verse says 2 “Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel.” It is the same Hebrew construction: “Et Habel.” We don’t translate that – “She bore again his brother from Abel or with Abel’s help or through Abel.” Actually, the Targums translate that correctly, albeit they say, “I have gotten a man, the angel of Yahweh.” Martin Luther (the great German reformer) translated it best: “I have the Man, the Lord.”

Here’s the point: The promise that God was sending his son to save humanity by crushing Satan’s head was understood from the beginning. The promise that the second person of the godhead was going to become fully man, be born of a virgin, and die our death on the cross was not the creation of some first century Messianic cult. 

Application: What do you believe about Jesus? Recently, I was talking to someone who blurted out that he doesn’t pray to Jesus because he wasn’t going to pray to some man!” To the contrary, Jesus was fully man, but he is also fully God!

Now, Satan had also heard the promise in the Protoevangelium in Genesis 3:15, which was also God’s curse against him – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” He hated Eve because she was going to be the carrier of the Promised One who would crush his head. By the way, ladies, Satan hates each one of you. Last year, I preached a message subtitled “The Cure” in our series titled “First Gospel,” and I warned the ladies that Satan still wants to deceive you. He will constantly try to get you to doubt your self-worth. Are you pretty enough? Are you smart enough? Are you good enough?” Eve had enough discernment to know that Cain was not the one because she named her second son “Abel,” which means “breath” or “vanity.” Maybe, she was disillusioned since Cain was not the one or maybe she knew that his life was going to be cut short.

Now, Satan also began to eye both Cain and his brother Abel. 2 “…Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Nothing wrong with their choice in occupation. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering…” What is the problem with Cain’s offering? The clue is found in the description of Abel’s offering – “bekorot” or “bakar” = firstborn. This was very important to God – Exodus 13      1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.” This shows up again in Leviticus 27:26Numbers 3:11-13Deuteronomy 15:19-23Why is the firstborn so important to God? It represented the sacrifice of the Coming One. Remember, Jesus is God’s firstborn:

  • Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” 
  • Hebrews 1:6 “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
  • Revelation 1:5 “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.”

Don’t misunderstand: When Jesus is referred to as the firstborn, it does not imply that he was created first or born first. The point is that he is supreme, sovereign, and heir of all things. He is also the best! If you noticed in verse 4, it says that Abel offered the very best of the animal, the fat portions.

Here was the problem with Cain’s offering: He was the firstborn in creation but not thefirstborn over all creation, and, like Esau, he despised his birthright. He refused to offer a blood sacrifice. He was going to make his own religion. Listen to Jude 4 “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ…11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”

Application: Are you going in the way of Cain? Are you creating a religion according to your own heart? Is it a bloodless religion without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross? Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Hebrews 9:12 “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

What happened when God rejected Cain’s offering? “…And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.” Instead of humbling himself and doing it God’s way, something came over Cain. The Hebrew is “wayichar leqayin meod” = “burned Cain very much.” We immediately think anger, and that can be true; but the word for anger “aph” is not mentioned here. This expression has the idea of “it began to eat at him.” The first thing he thought of was the rejection. The last thing he thought of was the rejection. It began to gnaw at him night and day. In fact, some scholars think that it means that he became depressed. Here’s why I think they may be right – the very next line is “nepeluv penid” = “fell his face.”

Application: I believe that depression is real, and it is very painful. Having said that, when being depressed becomes our refuge instead of repenting of our sins or forgiving the sins of others, we are going the way of Cain. When we are too stubborn like Cain, this is where we are headed.

God warned Cain, just the way the Holy Spirit warns us. 6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Here is the first mention of “chataat” = sin, meaning “missing the mark.”The imagery is of a wild animal, possibly a lion, crouching to pounce upon a victim. God even reminds him to “masel” = rule/control it. If God was saying that, he would also help Cain. Who is really crouching behind the sin? 1 Peter 5      6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. The idea of walking about is “prowling.” 

Application: How do you respond when the Holy Spirit warns you of sin lurking in your heart, whether it is disobedience, lust, greed, pride, bitterness, etc.?

Here’s the first case of premeditated murder in history – 8 “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” The emphasis in the Hebrew is on “his brother.” James lays out the progression of sin for us – James 1     13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Here, it was literal and immediate death.

God saw the whole thing as he also saw the first sin of their parents in the Garden of Eden – 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” Jesus authenticated that this was a true account in Matthew 23       34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

I wonder how Adam and Eve must have felt…their hearts had to be broken.

God’s judgment came against Cain, but, as we will see next time, even in his judgment, there was mercy. Ultimately, Abel’s blood was heard by God; but is that all? Hebrews 12:24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. Abel’s blood cries for justice, but Jesus’s blood cries for mercy for us.

Invitation: You can go the way of Abel or the way of Cain. Which one will you choose? The blood of Jesus speaks better things than that of Abel. It was not the blood of just the innocent one, but the perfect one who gave his life for us. Do you know him? Is there sin crouching at your door? Through the Holy Spirit, you can master it. That’s the promise from the Word of God.

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