Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:1-7
We were in the family sedan, driving past Arena Park in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It was a warm summer night, so the windows were open, and I heard an exciting sound. Stock car races were being held at the park! “Can we go Dad? Please!” My mom and dad had surely planned this; I see it now. “Well, I guess so,” he replied. We slowed to turn into the entrance to the park. But then he said, “Oh, I guess not. You’re not allowed to go to the stock car races this summer, remember?” My mom nodded in agreement. My sister wasn’t too sad. I was really disappointed.
But it was true. I had gotten into trouble, and the punishment included being banned from such things as stock car races that summer. My mom and dad had not forgotten. They would not let this pass. I was to learn a lesson. I’m not sure how long it took, but I do recall the lesson.
Adam and Eve are about to learn a lesson as well. They are apparently making their way quite nicely following the fall and banishment from the Garden. And now they will have children. Cain and then Abel are born. At Cain’s birth Eve expresses faith in one of two ways. The ESV translation has, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” The original is a bit more challenging: “I have gotten a man, the LORD.”
If we choose the former translation we see Eve acknowledging God’s help in bringing a child into the world. If we go with the latter, we could understand Eve to be expecting that this child would be the One who would crush the head of the Serpent. Either way Eve expresses a faith relationship with God.
God had commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. They are beginning that process. But God had also said that the woman would bring forth children in pain. And I believe this refers to both the physical pain of childbirth and the pain the children bring to their parents.
In this case her heart, and Adam’s, must surely have been broken in the varied and dissimilar ways these two young men brought their offerings to the Lord. They would feel the pain of God’s displeasure toward Cain’s offering. They would feel the pain of Cain’s resentment of Abel, and of God.
The consequences of sin are inescapable. Sometimes they are direct and immediate. Often they are systemic and indirect. Always they plague us. We may try to deny them. We may seek to outweigh them by our good deeds. We may be only broken and caught in a spiral of grief over them. We may try to wriggle out of them, sidestep and bypass them. To no avail. As long as we live in this fallen world sin’s consequences will stalk us.
But even so, the Lord does receive those who come to him in faith. He holds out hope of grace, and will sustain us with his mercy. And as surely as sin’s consequences plague us, the Holy Spirit bolsters us and carries us through. And we can live here and now in God’s grace and forever in his eternal favor. For Jesus has born the full consequences of our sin, redeeming us and promising eternal and abundant life.