Let's take a look at the first family in human history. We've got Adam and Eve, who we already know blew it. Then they have two sons (another clear sign of God's grace). The first son, Cain, murders his younger brother Abel out of jealousness and anger. As a result, Cain is banished as a wandering fugitive. Talk about a broken home. Of Adam and Eve's first children, one is dead and the other one is a criminal banished from their land. But what does this say about sin?
First, it uncovers the universality of sin. Sin can no longer be seen as just a bad decision Adam and Eve made. Rather, it has universally spread to everyone. It effects the entire community, as seen with the first family. Not only does it effect everyone, but it effects everything. In Genesis 3, God mentions the effects that Adam's fall has on our relation with nature. In Genesis 4, He highlights it again stating, "Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground......When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you" (Genesis 4:11-12). As seen with the first family, sin effects everyone and everything.
This story also uncovers the depth of the sin problem. Think about it. Cain straight up murders his younger brother. Worse, it was premeditated. He led Abel out to the field for the specific purpose of homocide. Even before that, we sin the depth of Cain's wicked heart in his sacrifice to God. We know that Cain's offering was not accepted by God. The text doesn't exactly say why, but it is most likely that it had to do with his heart. Cain did not offer his sacrifice in the right spirit. He held something back. He wanted something of what God rightly deserved (hmmm sounds a lot like his dad). Plunging further into sin, Cain has the audacity to lie directly to God about his actions. There are many other places in this story where the widespread problem of sin is seen. Another quick example, when Eve gives birth to Cain, she responds by saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord." Now, this doesn't seem so bad. But, the language used here signifies that Eve is implying that she played an equal part in bringing forth her son. In essence, she is saying that she created a man......with God's help. She wants a 50/50 split on credit for this one.
Moving on, What does this story tell the Israelites? Why would Moses want the Israelites to know the true universality and depth of sin. I think because he wanted the exodus community to know that true religion must be redemptive. They are all effected by the curse. They are all sinful. Because of this, they need redemption, a redemption that only comes from God. The only response to this depth of sin is trusting in their Creator and the covenant He has made with them.
After Cain's disregarded sacrifice, God challenges Cain to not let sin master him. That didn't go so well. But, Moses is telling this story that Israel might not let sin master it. They are all sinners, yes. Letting sin master them would be them turning from God. However, mastering sin would look like them trusting in God and His covenant. Moses is urging the Israelites to recognize their sin, and to trust in God.
Despite all the disobedience, God remains faithful to His purpose and His people. When Cain cries out that his punishment is too much for him to bear, God mercifully puts a mark of protection on Cain's life. Also, as we'll see in next post, God graciously provides Adam and Eve with another son to replace Abel. If anything, this story shows God's relentless pursuit of sinners. His desire is not for us to perish, but to live in our intended purpose, which is fellowship with Him. He desires for us to know Him and to turn to Him. Despite our disobedience, God is faithful.