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.
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