When Anger Trumps Submission

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.” Genesis 4:3-5 NLT

The first recorded account of the first two brothers lays out a classic story of conflict. Cain and Abel were different as siblings tend to be. While there are some missing facts, and leaves some questions unanswered what we do know is what is important.

Both the brothers brought gifts to the Lord. The Lord accepted Abel’s and not Cain’s. Cain responded in anger toward the Lord. The Lord tells Cain, “…You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 4:7 NLT)

Cain obviously doesn’t heed the correction and submit to the Lord, instead he takes out his anger toward God on his brother by killing him. God then holds Cain accountable for the first murder.

Let’s unpack some of what is in this account. It is appropriate to worship the Lord with the giving of gifts. I believe this has application to giving a tithe (10%) of our income as well as offerings. As the law came into existence it always allowed for both animal sacrifices as well as grain and produce. So, it wasn’t the type of gift that determined acceptance.

The only hint is what we see in the description of the gifts. Cain brought “some.” Abel brought the “first and the best.” The later is a classic description of a “tithe.” But what is important in this account is not just a giving lesson, but a worship lesson.

As The Sovereign One, God has the final say about how He is to be worshiped and what is acceptable in His sight. At the foundation it isn’t about “things” or “money.” A few thousand years later the prophet Micah would ask, “What can we bring to the LORD? What kind of offerings should we give him? Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?” (Micah 6:6 NLT)

The Lord’s response comes with these words, “…the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:7 NLT)

King David’s prayer of repentance includes this acknowledgement, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.” (Psalm 51:16,17 NIV)

The prophet Hosea announced God’s message, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 NIV)

The words of the prophet to King Saul were, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice…” (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV)

The Lord’s desire is for our hearts to be right before Him. To submit our lives to Him. Attitude is more important than actions. When our attitude is right our actions will be right as well. In the end submission to God’s ways is always a better response than anger when we don’t get our way.