Genesis 4 “The First Murder”
Sunday, September 21, 2008–Here are the notes from the sermon on the first murder that I preached about 9 years ago. These are just notes, and this wasn’t one of my best sermons. Next week I will post my notes from Sunday School at Redeemer. Today I finished up last week’s study and began the study of the First Murder. Those notes will be more extensive than this sermon.
Genesis 4 “The First Murder” 11 July 1999 PM
I. The Ten Commandments
II. The First Murder
III. Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
Introduction: As we wrap up this first series from Genesis I am fully aware that in the beginning I had stated that I wanted to cover the entire book in a timely manner, perhaps 16-20 sermons. Then I thought, well maybe I can do it in 30-40 sermons. This is my 42nd sermon and we are just concluding the 4th chapter! I have to confess that when I started I really tried to commit myself to not going this deep, but once I got started I realized this may be my only chance in my whole life to preach through Genesis, and Genesis is probably my favorite Old Testament book, therefore I just was compelled to go slow and deep, I wanted to do it right. Keep in mind that the first person I preach to is God, for His Glory, secondly I preach to myself, and then I preach to the church. This is how we got to where we are now! Next week we begin Mark’s Gospel and I am excited about that!
Tonight I want to deal with the big event of the 4th chapter, which I really have not focused on! The murder of Abel by Cain is the big story here. We have looked at the issue of worship, the spread of sin, the consequences of sin, and the two races of men, now let us look at the big sin itself. But we will do this in the context of the 10 Commandments.
I. The Ten Commandments and Genesis 4
First of all we must note the obvious that the Ten Commandments were not given until a long time after these events took place outside of Eden. Yet the Ten Commandments represent the eternal unchanging nature of God, they come from the mind and heart of God. Let us examine the 10 Commandments and apply them to Gen 4 first as a whole then we will focus on the murder.
You shall have no other gods before me. Cain did not know of any other gods, he was not worshipping any false gods it would seem. But, to the extent that we reject the God who is, when we neglect the attributes of God we don’t like, when we are careless of who God is, then we are trying to worship a god of our making. This is what Cain was doing when he chose to not bring an acceptable sacrifice and worship God in faith and spirit and truth.
Now the objection could be made that God is infinite and incomprehensible to mere mortals such as Cain. But we are judged by how much revelation we are given, and Cain knew better than he acted! Cain worshipped God poorly because he had an inadequate concept of God, making a god after his own image.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything…” Well Cain did not set up an idol, this is true. But the essence of idolatry is the worship of the creature rather than the Creator, worshipping that which is not God. To break this commandment is to worship God in a manner in which he does not prescribe. This is what Cain did, he valued his offering over that which God desired; he wanted to do it his way instead of God’s way; in essence, Cain made himself a god when he decided to do worship his way. It may be the cost of a lamb was greater than the cost of his fruit, in which case he was worshipping his wealth. It is virtually impossible to break the first commandment and not break the 2d too. Man will worship something, if not the God who is, then an idol.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…” If Cain claimed to be worshipping God, but he was not worshipping by faith and he was worshipping wrongly, then by invoking God’s name he was breaking this commandment too!
“Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy…” Well we don’t know if Cain was worshipping on the Sabbath or not, the text does not make it clear. But I believe that if it was the Lord who instructed Adam and Eve and their family in worship, then He probably told them when to worship. If Cain was worshipping God on the day God wanted, and if he worshipped wrongly, then he was not keeping the Sabbath holy was he? Proper Sabbath keeping must be accompanied by the proper use of God’s name, proper worship of the one true God. So all 4 of these first commandments are linked.
“Honor your father and your mother…” I think we are safe in saying that to murder your brother also brings dishonor to one’s family. Can you imagine the awful sinking feeling as Adam and Eve realized that their firstborn son had killed his brother? Just as he had lied to God I am sure he lied to his father and mother.
“You shall not murder.” We will discuss this one in the next point, but for now we must say that this is the most readily apparent sin of Cain.
“You shall not commit adultery” This one I don’t think he violated!
“You shall not steal” murder necessarily involves theft from God and man. He steals from God in that murder usurps God’s sovereign authority; and he has stolen life from Abel, all of Abel’s hopes and dreams perished with him. Murder is the greatest of thefts.
“You shall not give false testimony…” This commandment is against lying and Cain certainly tried to lie to God and surely lied to his parents.
“You shall not covet…” Cain perhaps coveted the acceptance by God that his brother Abel received. Here is the root of his murder, envy and jealousy, anger and bitterness.
From this brief study we see that Cain violated 9 out of the 10 Commandments. Now let us look at the 6th commandment in particular in regards to Cain and to ourselves.
II. The First Murder
As the story reads it appears that Cain deceived Abel and led him out to the field with the intent of murdering him, thus making it premeditated murder, or as Jack Lord used to always say on Hawaii 5-O “Book him Dano, murder one!” It was no mere crime of passion, a crime of the moment; it was done apparently with malice and aforethought. It was not manslaughter, an accidental slaying out of neglect or poor judgment or reckless behavior. This was homicide, fratricide, prefiguring the biggest crime to come, deicide. We do not know what weapon Cain used, whether it was a stone, a club, or his own hands.
What does the 6th Commandment teach us any way? Clearly it teaches us not to murder. Some have interpreted it as do not kill as the KJV states and consequently they use this commandment to claim they cannot participate in the military, police, self defense, and they oppose capital punishment. But God is very consistent and would not command one thing while commanding us to violate it later. God does prescribe capital punishment and military operations in other parts of His Word, therefore the commandment to not kill really does mean do not murder linguistically and contextually.
Look at Matt. 5:21-26. Jesus links murder with the heart attitude of anger, despising and hating someone else. This gets to the core of a person because while it may be easy to say “I have never killed someone” it is more difficult to say “I have never hated or despised someone”. Jesus addresses the spiritual truth of murder not just the technical legalities. We can certainly relate when we see murderers get off on some legal technicality or the misguided sentiments of a weak jury faced by slick lawyers.
Michael Horton quotes the Heidelberg Catechism “In forbidding murder God means to teach us that he abhors the root of murder, which is envy, hatred, anger, and the desire for revenge, and that he regards all these as hidden murder.” (p.167)
It would be easy to focus on the bad guys of society and preach against them (whoever them is) but is the church guilty in some way of violating this commandment? To the extent that any body of believers tolerates or, God forbid promotes, racism, abortion, unjust wars, slavery or unjust economic policies then that body may corporately be guilty of murder.
Some historical examples may help you understand what I am saying: 1) Slavery in our history as Southern Baptists. 2) Continued racism by Southern Baptist churches even to this day, some even harboring KKK clansmen. 3) Many Baptists support a woman’s right to choose to abort her baby. 4) In Nazi Germany much of the church supported Hitler and his policies against the Jews and were for the war against Poland and France, Russia and England.
III. Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
Cain asked God this question when God confronted him. This question was an attempt to evade responsibility, it was a lie. But this question also raises the other side of the commandment forbidding murder. Look at Lev 19:18, 33-34. Matt 5:43-48. Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25ff. John 13:34-35.Luke 23:34; 1John 3:11-12, -20; 4:7-12