And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” – Genesis 4:10-12
Jack was quite a character. He came in to the church one day fully decked out in his clown costume. Giant shoes. Bulbous nose. Oversized and gaudy bow tie. Striped socks. Painted smile. Friendly yes. But I can see why children can be afraid of clowns. In spite of his friendly demeanor he was a bit off-putting.
Jack had other issues as well. He would bring his dog into the church office and never asked if that was OK. We would just deal with that. He would visit in the hospital and cheer people up. And that was mostly well-received. But he was hypoglycemic. And if he got just the slightest touch of sugar he would immediately freeze his face, become glassy-eyed, and incoherent. We really didn’t know what to do with that.
But Jack had a kind heart and one day he wrote a brief poem and gave it to me.
Brings joy or pain
To someone near or far away.
When God asks Cain what he had done, he was hinting at the far-reaching impact of Cain’s actions. He would suffer severe consequences. Work would be far bitter and more difficult. He would be banished to a far-away place. He would wander in fear of someone catching him and causing him to suffer further consequences for his actions. Isolation. Abandonment. Loneliness. Distress. Difficulty. These would be his lot.
Sadly, however, that is not all his actions would cause. Now that blood has been spilled, the possibility would begin to occur to others. Who would have imagined such a thing before Cain had raised his hand and shed his brother’s blood! And think of the fear that would come to the hearts of those Cain met. Will I be next?
This is the question we all must ask when we invent new ways of doing evil. What have I done? What new idea have I put into the minds of others? What are the far-reaching implications of my actions? When others see me doing things I ought not do, are they emboldened to do them too? Do they get other ideas?
This may not be an obvious problem for dedicated Christians. We don’t typically sit around figuring out new ways to sin. But we may get caught up in actions or be tempted to use words that trigger an idea in our minds or others that lead to things far worse than we imagine. A brief longing look at a new car may lead to overspending in other areas. My new camera may inspire a supposed need for a new lens or other accessory. Not necessarily. But not guaranteed not to cause such a ripple.
God has asked this question twice: What have you done? First to Eve. Now to Cain. Were it not for God’s mercy and grace, we would have no hope. But on the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” And in that word ripples of grace expand and touch hearts and save souls far and wide.
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Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 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 the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:8-16
As an aside: One has to understand that by this time other children will have been born to Adam and Eve, and the earth’s population was growing. In the pristine environment not long-rocked by sin’s impact would sustain many children and families would naturally take shape over time. The earth’s population would grow quickly. And with lifespans in the hundreds of years, there would be plenty of time for all this to happen.