First Family, 8 January 2017

First Family
Series: Ideal Family
Genesis 4:2-8

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: Sibling rivalry is nothing new…and can be fatal!

We’re beginning a new series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. This even includes Jesus’ family! We all need help.

We begin our series with a look at the First Family. I’m not talking about the Obamas, but rather Adam and Eve. The story of creation in Genesis is well known, as is their sinful eating of the one tree in the Garden that was forbidden. Everything changed at that moment. Thousands of years later we still bear the consequences of their sin.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

After they ate from the tree in what is called “The Fall,” God issued His punishment:

To the woman he said, 

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

All moms are familiar with the pains of childbearing (even if they’ve had a C-section). But notice the relational curse. Some suggest it is more accurate to translate the Hebrew this way: “Your desire was for your husband.” She would now be mastered by him, ruled by him. Note this is not God’s design. Generations later Paul would instruct the early church by saying to spouses…

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

The idea of ruling over another person is the result of sin. Much could be said of the marital wars that result from pride and power oppressing a spouse who is to be loved. Jesus would later address our temptation to rule over others to his disciples.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

There’s a recipe for healthy, God-honoring relationships: serve one another.

Cain & Abel

Unfortunately, family problems are not limited to marriages. Parenting brings its own share of joy…and heartache. Rarely do siblings rush to serve their parents together as we saw in the “ideal” video! Parenting one child is a tremendous challenge. A second child introduces an entirely new dynamic: sibling rivalry.

How many of you have a sibling? How many parents have more than one child?

Sibling rivalry dates back to…the very first siblings. The first kids joined in on the conflict and dysfunction started by Adam and Eve. Genesis chapter four begins

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.  She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. (Genesis 4:1)

Cain is the leading character in this story. He’s mentioned sixteen times. He’s the older brother. His birth is celebrated by him mom.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Genesis 4:2-5)

On its own, this passage isn’t clear. Is God a carnivore? Is He allergic to fruit? Hardly! The simple answer is we don’t know. Some have suggested the necessity of a blood sacrifice, but the text doesn’t say, nor do we know Abel’s sacrifice contained blood. Abel brought the firstborn of his flock—his very best—but we don’t know if Cain brought his best or not. We just know Cain was very angry because his brother’s offering was acceptable and his was rejected. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Cain wasn’t rejected because of his offering, but his offering was rejected because of Cain: His heart wasn’t right with God. It was ‘by faith’ that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews 11:4), which means that he had faith in God and was right with God.”

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)

This event with the offerings is the beginning of recorded sibling rivalry, but hardly the end. Ishmael persecuted Isaac. Jacob fled his brother Esau fearing his life. Joseph’s brothers nearly killed him, instead opting to sell him as a slave. The very person/persons we are closest to often cause the greatest hostility. If anyone should have your back it should be your brother or sister.

Let me add this is true spiritually, too. Often our greatest critics are not distant strangers, but rather the people who sit beside us on Sunday mornings or those in our small group. May it never be! We are called to love one another! Always!

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Cain obviously disobeyed God. God encourages Cain to do what is right. He is warned that sin is near, personified as a crouching demon waiting to strike.

Heather and I had some interesting conversations this past week about satan, demons, and temptation. I can’t say either of us are experts on the subject, but I am certain angels and demons are both real. God and satan are both real. We are in the middle of a spiritual battle between good and evil.

There are moments when we are especially vulnerable to temptation. For many of us, it is when we are



Jesus faced these temptations—essentially all temptations—during forty days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Fortunately, he was prepared and able to resist satan’s most deceptive lures.

Unfortunately Cain opened the door. He succumbed to temptation. What sin is lurking at your door? Do you carry grudges? Are you bitter? What about lust? Gossip? Worry? Gluttony? Paul instructs

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

If only Cain had been so wise. His sacrifice was rejected, but the story gets worse. Much worse.

Have you ever been jealous of a sister or brother? Maybe they got straight A’s while you struggled to pass the class. Perhaps they were Olympic-bound while you were the last one to cross the finish line on Field Day. Envy is ugly. Sibling rivalry is real. Comparing ourselves to others is dangerous…even deadly!

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)

This may have been the first human death. Here’s the summary:

- Abel obeys God
- Cain disobeys God
- Cain is envious and adds to his disobedience and sins by killing his brother

Our relationship with God and our relationship with our brothers and sisters cannot be separated. We love God by loving our neighbor and we love our neighbor by loving God.

Most of us will not be murdered by a sibling! At least I hope not! Yet many are emotionally destroyed by the actions of a jealous sibling.

Because he is a better musician, I’m going to…
Because she got married before me, I’m going to…
Because she’s the first one to have a baby, I’m going to…

Cain disobeys God by bringing the wrong sacrifice.
Cain disobeys God by killing his brother.
Cain disobeys God by lying about the murder.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” 

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

God does everything He can to prompt repentance. He’s always seeking to save the lost, the broken, the criminal, the sinner.

Martin Luther’s definition of sin was “man curved in upon himself.” Sin is always focusing on yourself, always choosing yourself over God or others, placing yourself at the center. Sin means even when we do good things (help the poor, attend church gatherings, etc.), it’s always about us, about furthering our agenda, about giving us the self-image we want to have, about engaging so long as it makes us feel good. Sin is so insidious that when we look like we’re serving others, we’re really serving ourselves.

Repentance undoes sin. That was God’s desire for Cain and us. Repentance. Change.

God had questions for Adam and Eve, too, not because He was clueless, but rather to draw out a confession. In both instances, God calls them out.

The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:10-12)

A passage that began with a blessing ends with a curse.

Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:13-14)

But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD’S presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:15-16)

Cain’s not sorry for his sin, but only for his punishment. Like so many sins, one led to another and then another. Perhaps the most tragic statement of all is that “Cain went out from the LORD’s presence.” I never want to be there. And it began with jealousy and sibling rivalry. By the way, in church many have visited the “land of Nod,” but today we don’t know exactly where it was!

So What?

There are two types of people in this world: those who honor God and those who dishonor God. We don’t know the details, but the contrast between Cain and Abel is obvious.

There are so many applications to this passage.

- Obey God
- Love your siblings—biological and spiritual
- If you’re jealous Let it go. Give it up. Life’s too short.
- Know your weaknesses and areas of vulnerability to temptation
- Repent when you sin. Don’t cover it up. God knows. He sees it all.

If you are in the midst of a broken relationship of any kind, seek reconciliation. We talked about this last Sunday.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

If it’s not possible, stay on your knees. Cry out to God. Your story’s not over yet. Change is possible. God is faithful.


Some ideas from Be Basic by Warren Wiersbe.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Adam, 8 December 2013

    Big Idea: The “birth” and life of our oldest ancestor, Adam, has affected every human being since.


    On this second Sunday of Advent, we are waiting for Jesus. For thousands of years, the world awaited the Messiah who arrived on the day we celebrate as Christmas. For the next three weeks we will examine three agents of God that were forerunners of the Messiah. Each person radically changed history in anticipation of Emmanuel, God with us.

    Before we look at today’s agent, I want to take a moment and review the story of God. Last week we finished a lengthy series that looked at the Gospel of John verse by verse. In this series we’ll examine the big picture.

    What is the Gospel?

    This is actually a hotly discussed topic these days. Many will say it is “good news,” which is the literal translation, and that it relates to God’s love for sinners like me. That’s true, but it’s not the whole story. The Bible does not begin at the cross, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, or even at His birth. It began thousands of years earlier.

    In the beginning. If you recall, this is not only how Genesis begins but also John.

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

    What is the greatest thing you have ever created? Parents, your kids don’t count! It might be a song, a building, a business, a painting, or website.

    God is an artist, He has given us the ability to be creative, and we are His greatest masterpiece.

    For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

    The Greek word for handiwork,
    poi÷hma or poihma, means creation, workmanship, what is made.

    Scholar N.T. Wright recently said, “It is God’s purpose, God’s mission, God’s aim, God’s project to make this creation a wonderful, flourishing, fulfilled, joyous place full of His love and His glory and His purpose and His wisdom.”

    The story of God begins at creation in a garden. He has plenty of angels to lead, but He creates humans in His image with the ability to accept or reject Him, full will. God created humans for relationship. You can’t have a relationship with a robot, at least not a meaningful one. Relationships are forged through love, respect, honesty, and communication.

    God’s first agent was a man named…Adam. Adam was born around 4004 BC. Wikipedia lists his birthday as October 23 at 9 A, but I wasn’t around to confirm that! Actually, the date was identified through a study by a group of theologians and scholars in 1630.

    It’s really not important when Adam was created, but why. He was created to know God.

    Adam was also created to know his wife, Eve, and create children. This is not merely for their benefit, but God’s. His agenda is to see a world filled with people He can love and that can love Him. Adam and Eve become His agents, co-creating with Him the miracle of life and co-ruling over creation. They represent creation to God and are supposed to reflect God to creation.

    N.T. Wright says that when God created us in His image, it’s not like looking in a mirror but like an angled mirror so that God’s love and wisdom is reflected out into the world and the praises of creation are reflected back to God.

    All of us can ultimately trace our ancestry back to Adam and Eve. In fact, last week the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3 was read, tracing His roots back to Adam.

    the son of Enosh,
    the son of Seth,
    the son of Adam,
    the son of God.
    (Luke 3:38)

    One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Genesis 2:25…

    Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

    They knew God and one another and enjoyed life together. They enjoyed creation…and co-creating with God. Twice in Genesis chapter one it says

    God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number. (Genesis 1:22a; 1:28a)

    Further more, they were to

    …fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
    (Genesis 1:28b)

    Adam and Eve are God’s agents of creation, co-creating and co-ruling with Him in paradise.

    The End. Right?

    The Garden of Eden was paradise…until satan entered the story, tempted Eve, and paved the way for sin to enter our world and introduce death and destruction. Our forefather failed and we’ve been suffering ever since, both humans and the planet itself, now filled with decay and pain.

    To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

    “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
    (Genesis 3:17)

    Adam was created, walked with God, sinned, was kicked out of the Garden, fathered many children, and…

    Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.
    (Genesis 5:5)

    It’s not the most inspiring story, is it?

    Ever since sin entered our world through Adam and Eve we’ve been trying to make sense out of life, struggling to survive in a broken, messy world. For about 4000 years after Adam, God continued to pursue a relationship with humans, some of whom returned the favor and many others who rejected Him.

    You might recall at one point He became so frustrated with evil that He destroyed the world with a flood, sparing only the lives of those who entered the ark built by Noah.

    From generation to generation, God remained faithful, but nothing could truly address the sin issue. We needed a Savior. Romans 5:14 says that

    …death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

    Fortunately, about 2000 years ago God took the radical step of becoming one of us to show us what it truly means to be human. Sin has more than tainted the image of God we were created to bear.

    With Adam came not only life but death. With Jesus, however, His death brought us life. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth

    For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)


    So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)

    Jesus can stand as representative for all of creation, and His faithfulness can redeem all of creation, just as He receives the punishment which belonged to all of creation.

    So What?

    It’s impossible to ignore Christmas in our culture. We are inundated with music, parties, food,…and shopping! I want to give you some homework.

    Meditate on creation. Our world is amazing. God made it for us to enjoy.

    Take a trip to the Toledo Zoo and
    admire God’s handiwork. Stare at a sunset, admire snowflakes, or capture beauty with a camera.

    Think about how you and others have co-created with God. Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. Attend tomorrow’s greenroom gathering in downtown Ann Arbor. Go to a musical concert or just listen carefully to your favorite album. Write a poem, paint a picture, or make a craft. Use your God-given imagination. The arts are a way to the center of truth. Handel and Bach set the Christian story to music. God wants creativity and imagination. He will make this world even more powerful and beautiful. He wants us to put up signposts that redemption and His return is coming.

    Reflect upon ways in which you and your sin have damaged your relationship with God…and others. Confess your sins, repent and turn from evil, and bask in the forgiveness of the second Adam whose death brings life.

    Wait for the return of Jesus. The true Human is coming back soon to bring healing and wholeness to our broken world. We pray, “Maranatha! Come quickly, LORD Jesus.”

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.