God asked Cain why his “countenance” had fallen and then suggested that doing right would result in his acceptance by God. Abel’s sacrifice, offering, was designed by God by instruction which was passed down from Adam and Eve as well as by example. He slew an animal to make skins to cover the sin of Adam and Eve. Blood must be involved. That’s to confess the need to be saved by the sacrifice of some other life. In the Old Testament, we see that it was the lives of animals that served to cover the people’s sins. These offerings all looked forward to the one ultimate sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. Hebrews 11:6 teaches us that it is impossible to please God without faith. But throughout the book of Hebrews, we learn that it is not faith in faith, but it’s faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ who is the “better sacrifice.”

Genesis 4:7 continued God’s conversation with Cain. It says, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Redford observes, “God reasoned with Cain in an apparent attempt to restore him. Could Cain justify his anger? Had God been unclear or unfair in his dealings with him? The changes in attitude were Cain’s to make. He had a problem; would he face it and deal with it?” Redford concludes with, “God’s final words to him indicated that he had a choice concerning this beast: you must master it.”[1] The mastery of the beast involves an internal battle. It deals with how we let ourselves think. Cain’s struggle with sin seemed to do with where he would let his mind go. The Handbook for translators suggests, “Because we are translating a figurative expression, we are forced to ask what the door represents. The image may refer to the entrance to a dwelling, but it may equally well be taken as a reference to the heart, mind, thoughts of Cain.”[2]

For we later read a warning to believers that is very similar to what God warned Cain: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The warnings are parallel: “Cain must rule over sin, and believers must be alert and of sober mind against it (which amount to much the same thing); sin crouches [like a lion] at his doorstep and the devil prowls around like a lion; sin’s desire is for Cain, and the devil looks for someone to devour.”[3] Paul made it clear in his letter to the Ephesians that the war is not against flesh and blood but spiritual forces. Instead of a crouching lion, Paul uses an enemy armed with a bow and arrow. He instructs them to wield the “shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). The flaming darts are aimed at our hearts. They are hurled at us, intending to cause doubt in the good intentions God has for us. The “beasts” tactics have never changed. It’s our trust, faith, in God that can block those attacks.

[1] Redford, Douglas. 2008. The Pentateuch. Vol. 1. Standard Reference Library: Old Testament. Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing.

[2] Reyburn, William David, and Euan McG. Fry. 1998. A Handbook on Genesis. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.

[3] Niehaus, Jeffrey J. 2014. Biblical Theology: The Common Grace Covenants. Vol. 1. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.