Genesis: the book of beginnings. The cosmos, earth, seas, land, vegetation, animals, birds, fish, humans--and even sin. Where did it all start? We can read it here. So it is not surprising that after the fall, we find the beginning of conflict in Genesis 4.
Two brothers: a farmer and a shepherd. Two offerings. One accepted by the Lord; one rejected. A sad tale of a family squabble that takes a murderous turn--the first conflict. Or was it the first?
Cain's original conflict was with God and with himself. Regarding--of all things--worship. His offering was not approved. God speaks candidly and gently to him about it: "Why are you angry and disappointed? If you do well, won't you be accepted?" (v.6) God is nudging Cain to probe his own heart--why is he so angry? Where does that come from? God urges Cain to defeat his offended pride--or he will certainly be defeated by it.
A definitive reason for the exact problem with Cain's sacrifice is illusive. Hebrews 11:4 says that "By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain...." Abel's "firstborn" offering hints that he gave his best first--before the certainty of a healthy, flourishing flock. Was Cain's offering comfortable--easy--leftover?
Oh, that we would set our hearts for worship! That we could give Him our best, our all--lavishly, without concern for appearances or self-protection. To cultivate a relationship with Him that is fully surrendered, trusting, and peaceful. Anger or disappointment can propel us to the arms of the Father who welcomes us. He invites us to look with Him into the depths of our hearts. We will find more than reasons for our distress--we will experience renewal and restoration.
God's words to Cain are some of the most inspiring in the Bible: "Sin is crouching at the door, but you must master it." The implication is: you can.
The Holy Spirit--our Helper and Guide--is ready to lead us out of our funk, and restore our joy. When "the mother of all conflict" meets the Father of all grace--grace wins every time. Count on it.