For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. (Matthew 12:50 ESV)
God asks us merciful questions. He approached Cain, when Cain was fuming with anger. God asked him a searching question: “Why are you so angry?” But apparently Cain ignored this rebuke.
Cain invites his brother to go out to the field. Maybe they had done this all their lives; talking and walking the fields together. Playing tag and hide and seek as young boys. Planning their futures, sharing ideas about how to be successful farmers. But something shifted, jealousy planted by comparison, seeped into their relationship.
Cain knew that he didn’t quite follow through on offering the best of his labor to God. He was mad that Abel did and he didn’t. That God accepted Abel, but rebuked Cain. Cain’s perception of God became obscured by brooding anger.
So he attacked his brother and killed him. Cain most likely believed his act was hidden, out of the sight of anyone else, but God searched him out. God knew.
It would be easy to think God might burst onto the scene and strike Cain dead.
What strikes me is that God starts the conversation with another question:
Where is your brother, Abel?
Cain continues to hide behind avoidance and denial: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
God echoes to Cain, the same heartbroken question, He asked Eve, “What have you done? Can’t you see that I know what has happened? It’s obvious, you can’t hide your sin, the blood cries out from the very place where you killed your brother?”
God doesn’t strike him dead, instead He sends him away. “You will be sent away from My presence, you will be a restless wanderer.”
Cain can’t bear this and begs for mercy. And God grants it. God doesn’t want death for death. He offers mercy. A life protected so no one else can kill Cain. Cain becomes a marked man, not for sudden death, but preserved life.
Cain does move away. And he even marries, fulfilling the command to be fruitful and multiply. His progeny become musicians, artisans and livestock farmers (like their ancestor Abel). The family lineage is still marked by violence and murder, but they are not blotted out like one might expect, and they are not completely hopeless.
God is merciful.
Genesis chapter 4 ends with a most merciful comment:
At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.
What life experiences have led you to call upon the mercy of the LORD?
A friend shared this song with us on Sunday, and it brought to mind that Jesus shed his blood for Cain and Abel, and for you and me, and for brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers everywhere.