OUR BROTHER’S KEEPER
God’s first recorded question to man is found in Genesis 3:9, “Where are you?” Adam and Eve had sinned and were hiding from God, naked and ashamed. There is no doubt that God knew where they were, but He wanted them to acknowledge their condition and confess their sin to Him. In Genesis 4:9 God posed a similar question to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Once again, God knew, but He was giving Cain an opportunity to confess his sin. Cain’s infamous words reflected his lack of reverence for God, and the hardened condition of his heart toward his brother. Though the blood of his murdered brother was still on his hands, he coldly responded,
“…I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Keep – To guard, protect, attend to, and take care of, as a shepherd with his sheep.
Cain’s actions were not simply a case of uncontrolled jealousy. His rebellion toward God was reflected in his contempt toward his brother. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that though Abel is dead, he still speaks to us today. What is he telling us?
“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”
First, we learn that we must approach God His way, and on His terms. Cain chose a religion of his own making, unlike Abel whose relationship with his creator was marked by love for Him and obedience to offer the prescribed sacrifice. Our religion may be sincere and sacrificial but we, like Cain, will be rejected by a holy God if we do not humbly approach Him on the basis of the shed blood of Christ.
“…Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”
Next, we learn from Abel’s life that our relationship with God will be manifested in our affections, attitudes and actions toward others. Cain should have been his brother’s keeper, but in his rebellion toward God his heart was consumed with jealousy, hatred, and finally, murder.
“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.”
-I John 3:11-12
Like a golden thread, this theme is woven through the Scriptures. From Joseph’s undying love and kindness toward his undeserving brothers, to the Ten Commandments, which begins with man’s relationship to God and ends with his treatment of his fellow man, and throughout the New Testament, the message is clear. In Jesus Christ we see God’s final announcement to man that love for the Father translates into love and sacrificial service to others.
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
-1 John 4:20-21