October 10

Questions with Strange Answers, #10

Genesis 4:9-10 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.”

God again asks a question He already has the answer to. So He is not asking for information, but to reconnect Cain with his murdered brother Abel after Cain tried to back out of the connection. He is offering Cain a chance to accept some responsibility before He gets more direct.

How gracious of the Lord to grant Cain the opportunity to confess his sin by asking him an indirect question! God could easily have started with “What have you done?”—His second question. Yet instead He first offered relationship—a question whose honest answer would have kept Cain connected to the Lord, even if only in humble shame.

Unhappily, Cain doesn’t accept God’s offer of engagement. In fact, He compounds his sin by 1) lying and 2) working the flip against God Himself. Cain knows, of course, where Abel is; it is presumed that Abel was right where Cain buried him, with his “blood [crying] out to [God] from the ground.” What a ludicrous thing to do—to lie to an omniscient God! But it shows the power of sin to lead us into more sin—all murderers are liars, as are all adulterers and thieves. Sin begets more sin. Committing large sins makes it easier to commit what we think of as smaller ones.

While the lie was bad enough, what is worse is the not-so-subtle (and comically vain) attempt to distract the same omniscient God that Cain lied to before. Some think that Cain’s question of who is supposed to be his brother’s keeper is a lame attempt to redirect or even halt the momentum of the conversation, similar to someone saying “Whatever…” and walking away.

Others think that it is an accusation against God Himself, much as Cain’s father tried to skirt responsibility by blaming the “woman that [God] gave [him].” Either way, Cain’s question back to God is an evasion, not an answer. And whether Cain meant it as an insult to God or not, it was. Since he wasn’t willing to accept blame, and since there was no other human around to blame, we witness a breathtaking attempt to both dodge the guilt bullet and simultaneously aim it at God.

Guilt, once created by sin, seeks a home. It fits best on the shoulders of the sinner, but if we are not willing to accept our own guilt, we must try and get rid of it somehow—and usually that involves trying to place it on others, on outward circumstances, or on God Himself. But that merely compounds the problem by hurting others and deceiving ourselves. Accepting our guilt is the first step in connecting with God, whether it’s the first time we come to Him for salvation, or the umpteenth time we bow our head in shame, seeking forgiveness for a particular sin.

How do you handle guilt once your sin creates it? Do you try to blame others, or even escape into self-pity, which is a form of blaming the Lord? How quickly do you come to the humble place of taking full responsibility for your sin? Remember that the low place is where we meet His grace.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for all my attempts to transfer the guilt that belongs on my shoulders. I know that Jesus died for my guilt and shame, but I sometimes fail to give it to Jesus because I haven’t first taken ownership of it. Thank You that my guilt has been paid for along with my sin.

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