Last Saturday I heard a rather amazing message. I’ve been mulling it over and wanted to do my research to make sure my information was right. Not only was it correct, but I was rather amazed at what I learned.
It all starts with the issue of God’s grace and forgiveness. Have you ever who the first person to repent was in the Bible? You may be surprised, considering to find out that it just might have been Cain! It all depends on how you read the account in Genesis 4. You see, there is a small word, “avon” that changes the whole meaning of 4:13.
10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment (עון) is greater than I can bear.
(Genesis 4:10-13 ESV)
I learned that Cain is not complaining to God about his punishment, but in light of God’s answer, may actually be repenting. You see, the Hebrew word for punishment is “onesh.” But the word used in this verse is actually “avon,” which refers to “iniquity.” Yes, iniquity means sin, but it refers to “a distortion or gross injustice, an absence of respect for God’s will.”*
I did some research on this word and found that most times it is translated as iniquity. But in a few instances it is translated as guilt, perhaps because the translators felt it made more sense? Yet in this case, we miss the full impact of Cain’s response to God’s punishment. It is only when he is punished that he realizes how great his sin against God was. And God does an amazing thing. God responds to Cain saying, ““Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.”
The word for mark is “ot” (אות). This word for a mark or sign is interesting: it starts with “aleph” the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and ends with “tav” the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So this mark on Cain’s forehead is “the first and the last,” so to speak. And now you see where I’m going with the title of this post. Who do we know who is the first and the last? Jesus! In whom do we have a restored relationship with God the Father? Jesus!
Cain deserved death, but God’s mark would spare him. The person sharing during the meeting pondered these thoughts and asked, “could it be that the mark on Cain’s forehead was a cross?”
At the end of the meeting, another brother shared that he wanted to read a verse to support what we had heard considered regarding Cain:
And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark (תו) on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”
(Ezekiel 9:4 ESV)
Here, the word for “mark” is “Tav,” that is the letter ת, which in Biblical Hebrew was an x or cross shape…
We don’t know what Cain did with the rest of his life. We know his descendents did not follow the Lord. But what we do know, is that the blood of Jesus did indeed speak louder than the blood of Able, and God covered even Cain’s sin through the shed blood of our Messiah and Savior, Jesus.
If you are struggling with some sin, or feel that the consequences for your sin are greater than you can bear, acknowledge your iniquity, and ask God to forgive you through the precious blood of Jesus. If He had mercy on Cain, surely He will have mercy on you; I know He has had mercy on me, and I am so thankful!
May your Thanksgiving be filled with new wonder as you ponder anew God’s amazing grace.
*Quote taken from Today in the Word Devotional, October 16, page 23.