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Heartbreak and Hope for the World’s First Mother

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May 10, 2015

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:1)

Happy Mothers’ Day to all of the mothers!  I want to tell you the story of the world’s first mother.  Eve lived a remarkable life.  She was in every sense the world’s first lady!  Think about her story…

Eve’s Story

She was created by God

Eve began life as a mature, gifted, and beautiful woman.  This woman never had a childhood.

She had no foolish or embarrassing mistakes in her youth, and she brought no emotional baggage from her past into adult life.  God brought her into being and this meant that in her first conscious moment she was looking into the face of God who made her.

God brought her to her husband

So Eve had a marriage made in heaven!  God said, “There is someone I want you to meet.”  So there were no questions for Eve about whether this was the right man.  And when the children later asked her, “Hey Mom, where did you and dad go for your honeymoon,” she could truly say, “Our honeymoon was in Paradise!”

God made these two to be one, and their shared life was blessed in the Paradise of God.  Their union with God and with each other was complete.  There was no shame.  There were no inhibitions.  There was work.  There was food.  There was home and there was love.

She was tricked into distrusting God

An enemy came into the garden and lied to her, “How can you be sure about what God has said?  Of course there is no judgment from God for you to fear.  You can be your own God.  Don’t you think that would be good?”  Eve believed the enemy and she disobeyed God.

Her life became totally different from anything she had expected
I wonder how many mothers would identify with this today?  Eve was living in a different place, where life was much more difficult than it had been before.  Animals that had come tamely to Adam so that he could name them became fierce and violent.  Weeds sprouted from the ground and working the soil became hard labor.  And when it came to bearing children, Eve knew that she was no longer in a perfect world.

Now she had to adjust to living with a man with many faults and failings.  She had not seen them at the beginning, because his faults were not there are the beginning!  She must have asked, “What in the world has gotten into you?”  And of course, Adam would have been ready with his answer, “I don’t know what it is, but I think I got it from you!”

She experienced the grace of God even outside Eden

God did not abandon her.  He blessed her in this fallen world and gave her the joy of becoming the world’s first mother, “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD’” (Gen. 4:1).

Think about this woman becoming the world’s first mother – no midwives on call, and Adam did not have any experience to draw on!  Somehow, with the help of God, she got through.  And when she held the little lad in her arms, the world’s first baby, there was no doubt in her mind he was a gift from the Lord.  Then “she bore his brother Abel” (Gen. 4:2)At least this time she knew what to expect.  Now there was a little family of four living in this fallen world.

In some sense she still knew the blessing and presence of God
Then Cain “went away from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:16), indicating that even though the first family was outside Eden, they still enjoyed fellowship with God.  So Eve could say, “This is certainly not Paradise, but God is with me and he has blessed me.  He has given me a hard-working husband and these two boys.”

Roll the story forward

Eve’s two boys become young men: “Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground” (Gen. 4:2).  Both were hard workers like their father and both chose honorable professions.  And “in the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock” (Gen. 4:3-4).

“The LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen. 4:4-5).  Now this raises the very obvious question: Why would that be?  Why would God accept Abel and his offering but not Cain and his offering?  Notice that there was a way for Cain to be accepted.  The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:6-7).

This story here is not that God arbitrarily took a liking to Abel and a disliking to Cain.  For anyone to suggest that “God has decided all that is going to happen and nothing any of us do will make any difference” would be a complete misreading of the Bible.  There is a way for Cain to be accepted.  But it is not his own way.

God’s Provision for Cain

The way to be accepted by God involves faith

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. (Heb. 11:4)
When something is not made explicitly clear in one part of the Scripture, we often find that God has made it clear in another.  That is why it is always important to compare Scripture with Scripture.

Hebrews 11 makes it quite clear that the difference between Cain and Abel is not that God likes shepherds more than he likes farmers.  The difference was that Abel exercised faith and Cain did not.  Which leads to the question: “What is faith?”

Faith is a believing response to what God has revealed

The apostle Paul said, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3).  This is a clear indication that God had already revealed to the first family what he later revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai, and then to the whole world in Jesus Christ.

People in a fallen world must come to him through a sacrifice that involves the laying down of a life.  That principle runs all the way through the Bible from beginning to end.  Abel believed this.  Cain did not.

Some scholars have pointed out that this was most likely revealed to Adam and Eve in the garden on the day that they sinned.  The Bible does not explicitly say this, but the Bible does tell us that God made clothes for them from animal skins (Gen. 3:21).

You cannot make clothes from animal skins without the death of an animal being involved.  Death came into the world on the day of the first sin.  But in the mercy of God it was not the man and the woman who died.  The life of an animal was laid down in their place.

So the first family knew that people in this fallen world can only come to God through a sacrifice in which a life is laid down on their behalf.  God made that clear.  From the beginning, God was showing how he would deal with sin: The laying down of the life as a sacrifice on behalf of sinners, by which we may come to him, through faith, on the basis of the blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed for all.

Cain’s Dispute with God

Cain believed in God, but would not accept that he was a sinner 

Think about this man.  Cain came to worship.  He believed in God.  He gave an offering.  Cain even experienced God – God spoke to him directly.  Cain acknowledged God as the author of the benefits he enjoyed, but he did not feel the need of a sacrifice to take away sins. [1]  There are many people like him today, who stumble over this same stumbling block.

Cain insisted on coming to God in a way of his own choosing

He felt that God should not dictate the terms on which a person should come to him.  So, he insisted on coming to God on his own terms.  Cain felt that people should be free to come to God in whatever way seemed right to them, and that God should accept whatever a person is pleased to offer.  That was his position, and today we call this pluralism.

Pluralism [the idea that you can come to God in the way of your own choosing] is almost as old as mankind itself.  Very quickly after the Fall mankind divided.  That division erupted in the very first family and was essentially religious in character.  Abel chose the way of obedience to God.  Cain chose the way of self-will and determined that God must accept what he was pleased to offer.  The difference was profound and in the view of the one resolved to be his own man it was irreconcilable, – hence Cain murdered Abel. [2]

When God says to Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:7).  He is saying, “Cain, believe what I have revealed.”  Accept that you are not only a created person, blessed by God, but also a fallen person in need of being redeemed by God.  Come to God in the way that he has appointed, not in the way of your own choosing, and you will be accepted!

A profile of the world’s first son

But Cain would not do that.  I think we can draw a profile of the world’s first son and there will be mothers here today who will relate to the profile.

Eve’s son was strong minded

My mother is here today and she tells me that when I was young I would often say, “All by myself.”  I liked to do things my own way.  When our son, David, learned to speak he started saying the same thing.  So my wife, Karen, said, “We all know where he got that from – you!”

There’s nothing wrong with being strong-minded or strong-willed, but looking at the story of Cain, it is clear that the world’s first mother had her hands full!

Eve’s son was angry

When God did not receive Cain’s offering, we read that “Cain was very angry, and his face fell” (Gen. 4:5).  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry?” (Gen. 4:6).

Eve’s son was vulnerable

“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” (Gen. 4:7).

For all Cain’s strength, he was up against a greater power that had the capacity to destroy him.  This is the first time that the word ‘sin’ is ever used in the Bible.  What is sin?  It is a destructive power.  It is like a wild animal crouching outside the door of your house, and as soon as you open the door, it is ready to pounce and overpower you.

Cain, sin is already getting its claws into you.  Sin is dragging you into unbelief.  You are turning away from what God has revealed.   You are insisting on your own way.  Sin’s power is at work in you and you must fight it.  If you give way to this, the enemy will destroy you.

Heartbreak for the world’s first mother

God spoke to Cain: “There is a way for you to be accepted.  There is a battle that you will have to fight.”  But Cain was not listening to God.  His anger smoldered.  He insisted on his own way.  He resisted God and he resented his brother.  And one day, when he was alone with his brother in the field, “Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” (Gen. 4:8).

Eve loses her second son at the hands of her first son.  Then she loses her first son too: “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod” (Gen. 4:16).  What can she do for this strong-minded, angry, vulnerable son, who she loves, and yet now he is so very far from home?

Sin brings all kinds of heartbreak into this tired and broken world.  It was devastating in its power over the world’s first son.  It was painful in its consequences for the world’s first mother.  It is devastating and painful in our families today.

Where was the world’s first mother to look for hope?  Hope lay in a promise that God had specifically given to her.  God, speaking about the serpent back in the garden said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman” (Gen. 3:15).  You’ve tried to make the woman your friend, to bring her into your whole program of destruction.  But I will make her your enemy.

God spoke of the woman’s offspring: “You have brought the woman’s downfall, but her offspring will bring your destruction.”  Then God gave Eve a promise: “Evil will not have the last word!”

Making This Personal

Let me try and make this personal for you, whether you are a mother, a father, a son, or a daughter.  We all have an enemy to fight and a promise to believe.

You have an enemy to fight

“If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen 4:7)

Sin crouches at the door with the intent of destroying you.  Are you taking this seriously?  Can you see that when you are angry and disappointed you are especially vulnerable to this destructive power that is crouching at your door?  You are vulnerable.  And if you do not rule over this power, it will rule over you.  How can we fight against this enemy?

Decisively renounce the lie that people can come to God in their own way

To believe that is the opposite of faith.  It is a complete contradiction, the antithesis of faith.  Faith believes what God has revealed.  And God has revealed that we must come to him on the basis of the sacrifice offered one and for all to deal with our sin, that is, through the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ.

We all have to choose where we stand on this.  The way of Cain has always been the majority position in the world, and it always will be.  Men and women have insisted that it is our right to come to God in a way of our own choosing and that God must accept whatever we are pleased to offer.  But “for Cain and his offering [God] had no regard” (Gen. 4:5).

I’m calling on mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons to renounce the lie that people can come to God in their own way and choose to believe what God has revealed.  And if you do, this world will be angry with you.  It will think you arrogant and intolerant.  It will regard you as out of touch with the path of progress.

But it is better to be rejected by Cain and accepted by God, than to be accepted by Cain and rejected by God.  If you want to have a godly influence, you have to have a settled conviction about this.

Vigorously fight any temptation to sin against God

“Sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen. 4:7)
You have to fight this impulse to sin or it will destroy you.  Maybe you are facing the pull of temptation right now from a group of your friends.  You must not let sin be your master!  You must rule over it.

Know that when temptation comes, you are really fighting for your life.  Because you are not just up against an inclination to do something wrong, you’re up against a power, a wild animal that wants to sink his teeth into you.  Either you will be killing sin or sin will be killing you, so “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).

Immediately confess when God draws near in grace
When God comes near to sinners, he is always inviting us to confess.  When Eve and Adam sinned, God appeared in the garden, and called out to Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). That was an invitation to come into the open and to confess.  But Adam comes out with some story about his fears and his shame, until God confronts him directly with his sin.

When Cain sins, you find exactly the same thing: God speaks to him: “Where is Abel your brother?” (Gen. 4:9).  That is an invitation to come out into the open and confess.  But Cain comes out with a lie and an evasion: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). And then God confronts him directly with his sin.

When God draws near to you, lays hold of you, and speaks to you, you can be sure that it is for your good.  You can confess anything to God, when you know that he loves you, and that he is for you in Jesus Christ, and you know that the sin can be placed under the blood of Christ.  And for his sake, I will have nothing more to do with it from this day forward.

You have a promise to believe

People who believe the promise have hope even in grief and loss
It would have been easy for Eve to give in to despair.  Her nest was empty.  She had suffered a terrible loss.  She could easily have taken the blame for all that had happened in her family. One son is dead, and the other is gone and is never coming back: “What good has come from all my work, and all my sacrifice?  Where is God in all of this?”

But Eve believed the promise.  She did not give way to despair.  She had hope, even in her grief and loss.  At the end of the chapter, Eve gives birth to another son whose name was Seth.  Check out Luke 3, and you will find that it was into the line of Seth that Jesus Christ was born.

People who believe the promise call on God in prayer
Notice where this story ends: “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26).  “That time” is when Seth became a father and Eve became a grandmother.

How many parents and grandparents have said, “I wonder what the future holds for these children growing up in this world?”  That’s how Eve felt, and it drove her to prayer.  Because she believed the promise of God.  Evil will not have the final word.

People who believe the promise trust fully in Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is the One who laid down his life as the sacrifice for our sins. He is the one to whom this story (and the whole Bible) is pointing.  Eve did not know the name of Jesus Christ.  All she had was the promise that on offspring would come, and he did come!

He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He is the offering for sin that the Lord regards.  He is the offspring of the woman who, at the cross, inflicted a fatal wound on the enemy.  He is the sovereign Lord who will soon crush all evil under his feet.

Mother, father, son, daughter, you have an enemy to fight and a promise to believe.  Put your trust in him.  Submit yourself to him.  Live your life for him.


[1] John Brown, Hebrews, p. 494, Sovereign Grace, 2002.
[2] Clement Graham, Crown Him Lord of All, p. 146, Knox press, 1993.
© Colin S. Smith
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