"Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." James 4:10 NASB
One of my pastor's favorite sayings goes something like this: "The New Testament is in the Old, concealed; the Old Testament is in the New, revealed." This makes sense as far as prophecy is considered, but I have found that the stories, themselves, sometimes have counterparts. I realized this week that the stories of "Cain and Abel," and "The Prodigal Son," when read together, reveal far more than either of the stories by themselves.
Here is my edited version of the story of Cain and Abel, for those who may not be familiar with it. If you want to read it for yourself, it can be found in Genesis 4:1-16. Cain and Abel were sons of Adam and Eve. They each brought an offering to God. Abel brought a firstborn lamb. Cain brought some of the crops from his fields. For some reason not explained, God accepted Abel's offering, but rejected Cain's. Possibly he could see that Cain was not offering his best, or maybe the offering was supposed to be a blood offering. Whatever the reason, it seems that Cain knew why his offering was not accepted. However, he decided to get angry at God, and to take it out on his brother. In the first biblical murder, Cain kills Abel. Then, to make things worse, when God asks him where his brother is, Cain says, essentially, "I don't know, it wasn't my day to watch him." Well, God, being God, knew what had happened, and told Cain he would have to leave. Cain got scared, then, and tried to say it was too harsh a punishment, because somebody might kill him. Well, God said he would put a mark on Cain so that people would not kill him. However, he was still banished. So, off Cain went.
So who was "The Prodigal Son"? Here, again, is my version. This story was told by Jesus and is recorded in Luke 15:11-32. A man had two sons. The youngest got tired of working on the farm, and asked for his inheritance ahead of time. The father gave it to him, and off he went. Well, after a little while, he had spent all of his money. He managed to get a job feeding pigs, but was jealous of them for the husks they got to eat, because he was so hungry. Finally, he decided that he would be better off at home, working for his Dad, than he was on his own, so he started off for home. Well, his Dad saw him coming, and ran out to meet him. The son said, essentially, that he had done wrong to his father, and to God, and asked if he could please get a job working on the farm. Instead of this, however, his father welcomed him back and threw a big party, even killing the fatted calf. The older brother came in from the fields and asked what the party was about. The father said it was because his brother had come home. Big brother got upset, because he had been a good son and had never gotten a party, but the father said he was throwing a party because this son, who he thought was lost for ever, was found.
So, you ask, how do these stories go together? Well, I will tell you. First, you will notice that Cain and Abel are in the Old Testament. This is the part of the Bible that talks about life before Jesus. The only way to please God was to follow the law completely, a very hard thing to do. If you didn't follow the law, you could offer a blood sacrifice to cover the sin. Not your blood, but the blood of a perfect animal. You see, God can't be near sin. He is totally good, and cannot be with bad. The only thing that can cover the bad is blood. Now, please do not go out and find a lamb to sacrifice. There is a better way. This way was revealed in the New Testament.
The prodigal son is in a story told by Jesus in the New Testament. It is a parable, or a story that means something. The father in the story is a picture of God. So, Jesus was showing God's forgiveness. Again, there was blood, as getting the food for the party included killing the fatted calf. But the important thing I noticed, is that Cain and the prodigal son reacted very differently to their sins. Cain sinned, and he got angry. This led him to sin again, and in a worse way. Then, he didn't admit it to God, but tried to lie. His only worry throughout the whole thing was that he was going to get in trouble. He didn't really care that what he did was wrong. Because of this, he was banished from God's presence forever. The prodigal son, however, had a totally different reaction. He humbled himself. He gave up the idea of being a son, and begged his father to let him be a servant. He admitted his sin. Because of this, he was reinstated as a full-fledged family member.
The New Testament tells of Jesus. It explains how he became our sacrificial lamb. When he died on the cross, his blood covered all of our sins. We don't know what would have happened if Cain had humbled himself before God. I like to think he wouldn't have been banished. He would have had to offer a sacrifice to atone for his sins, however. We don't have to do that, anymore. We just have to accept the sacrifice that was already made for us. John 3:16 is one of the most well-known Bible verses. You can even see it on posters at baseball games. It says: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life." This is God's promise to us. Jesus was that son. We have to believe in him. And then, we have to humble ourselves. We have to admit that we have sinned. Face it, we all have. Then, we have to ask for forgiveness. He will grant it. Then, we go on. We learn from our mistakes, and do the best we can, and we keep coming back to our Father in Heaven. He will not turn us away, if we come to him humbly.