A blog by Josh Humbert
***Note: The series of posts here (“part 1, part 2,” etc) are from my category called Get In The Word. To read more like this, you can click the Get In The Word category from the drop-down menu on the right side of this page. Essentially, these posts are from my own sermon writing and preparation. My goal with this category is to help you see truth in Scripture, and to assist those who might be preparing their own sermon or study. I highly encourage each person to do their own reading, studying, and praying, but my goal is to provide a look into how I handled it and maybe spark some ideas in your work. May you benefit from this as you Get In The Word!***
The Wise Counselor
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
The “Wise Mentor” Trope
Hollywood often leans on the trope of supplying the main character of a story with a “wise mentor.” This wise mentor is introduced to come alongside the main character and dispense the sage, sound advice that it needed.
However, I contend that the “wise” sayings from the mentors just aren’t that wise after all. A few examples….
Yoda famously tells Luke Skywalker: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Sounds intense! Sounds wise! But it makes no sense. Trying is in fact the process whereby you DO something. Might as well tell Luke, “Eat or no eat, there is no chewing.” Folks, it’s bad.
How about Mr. Miyagi? He tells young Daniel: “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” Let me tell you – had I tried this on my parents when a poor report card came in the mail…it would’ve gone nowhere. They would’ve had “no mercy” on me!
As we progress to verse 6 in Genesis 4, we encounter fantastic news: The Lord isn’t an overrated Jedi nor karate instructor. Instead, He is a wise Counselor.
Before we get to His counsel, take note of intervening love.
The God Who Breaks In
God doesn’t even wait for Cain’s enormous sin to happen – He lovingly breaks in before it all goes down! He isn’t standing with His arms folded just waiting to be able to say “I told you so.” Here in verse 6, we see a God intervening with wise counsel. He’s offering the way of escape.
Further, He’s the God who not only breaks in, but digs in. We see God address the underlying heart-issues with Cain; He doesn’t even mention Cain’s poor offering! God isn’t here for behavior modification – He’s here for the root causes of sin before they spiral out of control.
A Note On Depression
Very briefly I will mention this here: the Bible handles what we might call depression in many different ways. In Genesis 4, God asks, “why has your countenance fallen?” and some commentators believe depression is what is being described.
Here, God is linking it to Cain’s disobedience. Additionally, He seems to be linking it’s “cure” with Cain stepping into obedience (“if you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?”). This already is very deep and wise counsel – sin affects us/harms us/erodes us on every level (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc) while walking in holiness and obedience cultivates the “joy of the Lord”. Right at the beginning of time and Scripture, God seems to make it clear: one of the damaging things sin can do is bring on darkness or depression.
However, I want to again make it very clear that the Bible handles similar situations (when a person’s “countenance” has fallen) in a multitude of different ways (see: the life of David, Elijah, Jonah, Job, Moses, Jeremiah, etc). Depression and disobedience aren’t always hand in hand, so to speak. And the “cure” the Bible gives isn’t just “obey and it will go away.” The Bible handles a complex issue with a multitude of approaches.
So, we have the incredible fact that God is intervening with Cain, but now we turn to the content of His actual words. Here, we see God as the Wise Counselor.
“And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.” God is saying: you have a spiritual blind spot, a place that you cannot see on your own.
No person can be fully aware and knowledgeable about all sin and results of sin in their life. This is why the some of the Psalms are asking God’s help for “avoiding presumptuous sins,” the sins we don’t even know we are walking into. You have a door and outside that door are things (damages from sin, consequences of sin, etc) that you can’t see on your own.
Here then is one of the supreme benefits to living a life truly connected to other Christians – they can help you see what you cannot. A true Christian friend can help spot what might be “at your door” when you cannot. This type of help is not found by merely “attending a service” but only by belonging to a church where people know the real you.
You have a door and outside are things you can’t totally see….including the Deceiver.
“And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.” Knock, knock. Who’s there? Sinful deception! Satan is called the “father of lies” for that is his forte. This is who waits outside your door.
Make no mistake: the deceiver wants to be taken lightly so that he can strike successfully. The wording here in the original language is what we would use for a wild animal; it’s crouched and ready to pounce. The deceiver is outside your door and he’s about to rampage!
In remarkably similar language, 1 Peter 5:8 tells us “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
One pastor says it like this: “What God is saying here is that it is the nature of sin to hide itself from you, to crouch. Sin crouches. It gets out of your view, and it insists it’s much smaller and much less there than you think it is.”
I’m convinced that so often our problem is how we think about the “minor sins,” we face. That little grudge we hold is not really a threat – it’s just sitting quietly in the corner. That little lust we enjoy is not really a threat – it’s just a minor thing tucked away. God says: “dead wrong.”
Every grudge wants to be murder, every lust wants to be sexual sin, every envy wants to be robbery, every white lie wants to be a full blown coverup, every “little” sin wants to be so much more.
Your sins aren’t sitting quietly, passively, and in neutral outside your door – they are a vicious tiger aiming for your life, your future, your joy in Christ, your public testimony, your family, your everything.
This of course leads to a real result.
“And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you.” This deceiver has one aim – the destruction of your life and soul. You are the target-audience. In summary: Outside your door there is a deceiver who is crouched and ready to bring destruction.
James 1 lays out the whole process of this in detail and in verse 15 we read, “when desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Write it in stone: 100% of the time sin is looking to destroy you.
God, the Wise Counselor, has laid out a dark but realistic view of what is taking place for Cain, and now comes the call to action.
The clear directive comes at the end of verse 6, “…but you must master it.” God is making it crystal clear: it’s time to do something about this. As the old saying goes, “be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”
God has graciously intervened with Cain because at this very moment there is a way out! There’s a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13) that the Lord always provides. All of these elements (the Door, the Deceiver, the Destruction, the Direction) are supreme wisdom given so that Cain (and us!) can run away from sin, shame, darkness, and despair.
Our Wise Counselor has given us the way out – will we take it?
Questions To Consider
Has there been a time I’ve experienced misery in my sin? Or a joy in obedience?
Who are the people in my life who can tell the truth about what’s outside my door? When was the last time I sought out this counsel?
What are the “little” or “quiet” sins I’ve been battling lately? Though I may doubt their severity, where could these sins lead?
Where have I seen the destruction of sin (in my own life or in others)? What are 3 things I can do today to heed God’s counsel and walk in obedience/freedom?
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.