It is important to note that before Cain ever acted on the evil desires brewing in his heart, God showed up and spoke truth into his life. God’s grace preceded Cain’s sin, offering a way out of the temptation. Genesis 4:6-7, “The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” God encouraged Cain to kill the sinful desire within him before it killed him. I have read this particular Bible story a number of times and have missed the beauty of God’s intervention. God is not indifferent to sin, because God is not indifferent to humanity. Love intervenes. And the intervention in this passage shows us that God cares deeply about each and every act of sin in this world. Every unjust act matters and will be accounted for. No good or evil deed escapes His notice. God’s counsel to Cain was to reject the temptation and to master the sinful desires. Do right by ruling over it! Don’t obey its commands! Like Cain, we are well acquainted with the way these evil desires war against us and lead us to sinful actions. We, too, have ignored God’s counsel on countless occasions. In our sinfulness, we reject that counsel-and so does Cain. Evil desires give birth to evil deeds.
Cain heard God’s counsel to flee sin’s temptation, but he didn’t heed it. Genesis 4:8, “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.” Cain committed the act he had contemplated, and he shed the blood of his innocent brother. Sin begins with evil desires and then ends with evil actions toward others, actions that deserve God’s condemnation.
But notice what happens next. Just as God came to counsel Cain before the sin, He comes to talk with him after the sin. 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 the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” God knew exactly where Abel was. His question was not offered in order to discover information, but as an invitation for Cain to respond with repentance. The same is true with us. Whenever we sin, God doesn’t first come with fierce accusations, but with a gentle invitation to repent. In the moment of temptation, God calls us to resist sin, and in the moment of sin, God gives us the opportunity to repent and turn back to Him.
In conclusion, there’s nothing in the passage that indicates Cain ever repented of his sin and received salvation. But everything in this passage points to a God who, in love, withheld the full extent of His just judgment toward Cain, at least for a time. God treated Cain better than he deserved. The God who shows mercy is the God who will keep His promises. God promised a son to Eve who would crush the serpent’s head. With Cain in rebellion and Abel dead, the situation seemed dire. But God gave Adam and Eve another son named Seth. And through the lineage of Seth, four thousand years later, the promised Son of Eve would be born. And at the cross, blood would be shed once again, but this time the blood of the promised Son would not just be shed by sin; the blood would be shed for sin.