I opened this series last week setting the stage for the first recorded in-depth passage that details the mix of human reasoning and emotion, and God's dealing with us in these things. We pick it up with Cain being angry at God because He did not accept Cain's offering of vegetables from the cursed ground.
Emotions boil out of control
Genesis 4:5 tells us Cain was angry with God for not accepting his offering, and his face was downcast - he was angry, sad, frustrated. Rather than submit to the righteousness of God, he chose to stubbornly dig in his heels and stand his ground, insisting he come to God in his own strength - and then had the nerve to be angry with God for not accepting his efforts.
This is SO human isn't it? We fast for days on end for an answered prayer, then wonder why God hasn't moved? Trying to impress Him as we insist on foregoing food that we might manipulate Him into moving on our behalf, we have become Cain, and like him become angry when heaven doesn't answer. Fasting moves us into greater sensitivity as our drive for food gradually diminishes so we can focus on spiritual things, but it doesn't move God.
We give time and money thinking 'look at the good I'm doing Father, now won't you return the favor and answer that prayer I really need the answer to' - we have become Cain once again, approaching God based on things we have done, trying to manipulate Him to move on our behalf.
Abel simply walked with God and humbly did what God expected and desired - and God accepted him.
The pattern of God's intervention into our emotional control
What happens after He rejects Cain's efforts to come to Him on his own terms sets the pattern for the Father dealing with our emotions to this day - we see the same pattern, the same methods, the same attempts He makes to reach us before our emotions take control of us. He asks Cain 3 separate questions yet Cain answers not a one: "Why are you angry?" "Why are you sad?" "If you do right won't it be accepted?" (Genesis 4: 6-7)
We read those in 1/2 a second often failing to realize this was a conversation and God as would anyone, expected an answer after each question: Why are you angry?
Right there - that is the point where God the Father reaches us today - Why are you angry? Examine your heart, examine your motives, examine your situation intellectually before you let your emotions take control and have the preeminence in this situation. Why are you angry? Look inside yourself, take a step back and examine the situation intellectually. Why are you angry?
Jesus would later say in Matthew 5:22 that if a person is angry with his (spiritual) brother without cause he places himself in danger of various degrees of discipline and consequences. Anger justified is not sin. Anger without cause is sin. We are expected to cool our emotions and be honest and truthful with ourselves and God and do what is right as we think through the reasons for our anger. If we see the sin in our heart we repent in acknowledgment our anger is not justified. If it is justified we have not sinned.
First attempt at controlling emotions: Examine the situation logically and intellectually - control your feelings
Cain was angry at God first, and angry at his brother second. He failed to answer God's first question: Why are you angry? That was an attempt by the Lord to get him to examine his heart intellectually and cause his emotions to submit to logic. Ouch - there's a thought - some people have never mastered that skill. Some people allow in the majority of times and situations, their emotions to immediately flare up and burst forth in an explosion over someone(s) without filter, without any thought first as to if they are just in their anger. These are spiritual babies and in fact, as human beings emotional babies, or at least emotional children.
I know many a man and woman who though mature in the years they've been alive, are emotional 10 year olds, pouting and demanding their own way and willing to show the world their temper tantrum and that they are upset. That's like a toddler...temper tantrum, yep, adults behaving like children - emotionally stunted, they can only reach a point of limited success in life, in relationships, in career, in God because they've chosen never to master their emotions. I'm sure the reader knows a few adults who are emotional toddlers, emotional 8 year olds, emotional 10 year olds, emotional 12 year olds - people become stunted in emotional growth at all ages. The ones who allow their emotional life to mature as they mature physically rise to the top and are able to walk with God and see success in life.
After the Lord asks Cain why he is angry, yet getting no response, the Lord tries to reach him another way. Cain knew full and well as did Adam, Eve, and Abel, the meaning of the covering of blood for their sin, but he was unwilling to be honest, so the Lord takes another approach, this time directly to his emotions: "Why are you sad?"
The root of God's expectations and our abilities
In the Hebrew it literally says "Why has your face fallen?" The root word for 'fallen' is 'panah' which means 'to turn'. In other words, the Lord could see the expression of Cain's face change when the sacrifice of his own sweat was not accepted by God whereas Abel's blood sacrifice was accepted. Cain's face mirrored his emotions. He was hiding nothing. The first question was directed to Cain's intellect. The second to his emotion - why are you showing such sadness in your face and emotions Cain?
Again, Cain refuses to examine his emotions. This shows us a person CAN have authority over what they feel, over their emotions. This shows us a person CAN examine their feelings intellectually and determine if what they feel is justified, and therefore if what they feel is 'real' for that situation. Yes his feelings of anger and sadness were real in terms of their feelings, but not real in terms of being justified - therefore he was expected by God to take control over his emotions by his thoughts, by the foundation of whether what he was feeling was right or not for that situation.
When Cain does not answer 'Why are you angry?' and 'Why has your face fallen?' - that is Cain refuses to examine himself intellectually or emotionally, the third time the Lord goes right to the heart of the matter, again appealing to logic: "If you do what is right, won't it be accepted?"
Notice the way God expects us to approach life's situations - logically, intellectually, to do what is right because it is right, and therefore to examine our emotions and keep them under the control of our thought processes - at least in terms of right and wrong. You're going to cry at the end of that sad movie - that's not what I'm talking about. But finding ourselves in a situation where our emotions flare up, we are expected as Cain was, to first examine ourselves and our motives by right thinking to discover if our emotions are righteous emotions for that situation. If not, we are to take control over them by reasoning and think of the situation the right way, God's way.
Our lives are to pivot around right and wrong, just motives and just actions, not feelings. Cain didn't feel happy, but he was to have taken authority over his feelings in favor of doing what is right. If he did right his emotions would have changed to the positive. Cain's uncontrolled emotions are about to bring death to Paradise, just as many people today through their unbridled emotions have brought death to friendships and job, marriages and relationships with family members - and we'll pick it up there next week. Until then, blessings,
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