ABEL & CAIN
Of the few names given as the children of Adam and Eve, that of Cain and Abel stay with us always. Cain is very prominent as he was the first ever human being to be 'born' on the face of the earth. Eve looked upon him with great hopes. The expression in her mouth makes this very clear. Look at what she said: "I have begotten a man from the Lord" (Gen.4:1). It is likely that Eve thought that God was fulfilling His promise about the "seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen.3:15). So, Cain at his birth brought great joy to his parents, without a question. But Cain grew up shattering all those great hopes. He was not only the first man ever born on earth, he also became the first ever murderer in human history!
Genesis 4:2 has the names of these two brothers listed for us in one place. These two brothers in the first family represent two groups of people in humanity. Some are keepers of the sheep while others are tillers of the land even today. It does not merely talk about what they did for a profession. It talks about their attitudes toward life in general.
We know from Genesis1:29 that the Lord gave herbs yielding seeds and fruits as their food for men in those days. Cain knew that, if he tilled the land and cultivated the herbs, he would have plenty to eat and so he turned his attention towards that. We can imagine that he would have been quite successful in his career and that he made huge profits out of it as well. Genesis 4:17 says that he built a city for himself. Cain was the first ever brilliant and successful entrepreneur in the history of humanity! Though he was the first ever man to be cursed by the Lord (Gen.4:11), no one could ever imagine that was the case. Every one knew him as the most successful man around! What a paradox?!! But we know from Psalm 17:14 that God gives to the people of the world their portion in THIS life!!
But look at Abel now. He chose keeping the sheep as his career. We know that meat was allowed to be eaten only after the flood (Gen.9:3). But why was Abel keeping sheep if it was not for his food? Of course, we know that he could make clothing out of the skin of the sheep. But Abel had a completely different reason to become a keeper of the sheep. Both these brothers and other siblings knew from Adam and Eve that when they had committed sin, God had made a sacrifice of an animal to clothe them. From their parents all these children knew that if they had to approach the living God, it was only possible through a blood sacrifice. God had made it very clear to humanity later on in His Word (Heb.9:22). But Adam and Eve had told the same truth to their children without a doubt. And so, Abel’s only desire in life was to present to God an acceptable sacrifice. He did not bother much about what he ate or drank. He ate whatever was available to him. His motto in life was not how best to eat; but how best to please God. Thus he obtained a certificate later from God that he was righteous (Heb.11:4).
We could imagine Cain thinking to himself. "My brother Abel must be the most foolish fellow on earth. Look at what he is after! Does he not have a belly? What a poor guy, he always thinks of pleasing God! How could one please God without first living properly?" Then he would have asked Abel: "Hey, look here, will your tummy be filled if you run after these sheep?" Probably, as the elder brother, Cain would have advised his younger sibling Abel: “Hey, come on, look at my life. See how well I am doing! If you want to live well, you need to do some tilling of the ground, ok?” But Abel did not bother about the belittling and scoffing words of Cain. He went on his life and he never changed the goal of his life. He wanted to offer to God an acceptable sacrifice! And He was successful in doing that!! Now Abel, though being dead, speaks to us even today (Heb.11:4) that we should always live only to please God in our lives. Jesus our Lord asked us NOT to work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life which the Son of man would give (Jn.6:24). This verse teaches us what our attitude towards the things of the world must be as followers of the Lord. Our treasure should be ONLY in heaven (Matt.6:19, 20). Our goal in life should always be ONLY to please Him. We should NOT be like the people of the world whose share is in this life. We should look at Abraham and follow his example, looking for that heavenly city whose builder and maker is God (Heb.11:10). May the Lord give us grace and may His name be glorified in and through our lives.