“They looked, but there was none to save; even to the LORD, but He did not answer them.” 2 Samuel 22:42
Looked – A few weeks ago I climbed Pacaya, an active volcano in Guatemala. The prospects sounded enticing when the trip began, but as we approached the crater, we discovered that clouds covered the top of the mountain. The rest of the journey was treacherous and tentative simply because we could hardly see where we were going. No matter how hard we looked, our vision was obscured. David gives us the same picture of his enemies. No matter how hard they looked for rescue, even to God, there was no deliverance. God did not answer.
Now we can learn something very important about the story of Cain and Abel. The same Hebrew word, sha’ah, is used in the passage about God’s examination of Cain’s offering. Just as God did not look with favor on David’s enemies, so He did not look with favor on Cain’s sub-par sacrifice. But there is one significant difference, a difference that we must clearly understand. God did not sha’ah Cain’s sacrifice, but God did speak to Cain. Cain was not abandoned in the clouds at the top of a volcano. He might not have asked for God’s help, but God offered it anyway. God told Cain exactly what he needed to do in order to be looked upon with favor. Cain didn’t do it. The result was murder. Cain’s refusal to listen to God’s directions after the rejection of his offering opened the way for an entire society of rebels against the Lord. No sin stands alone. Eventually, that legacy of rebellion found its way into the life of David. David’s enemies were children of Cain because they did not find favor nor did they listen and obey. When the children of disobedience come full circle, God no longer answers their pleas.
Rabbinic thought would probably connect these two verses (Genesis 4:5 and this one) because they share common words and common themes. One is also the inevitable consequence of the other. Unworthy offerings lead to rebellious lives and rebellious lives lead to unanswered pleas. This is very serious. A life of antagonism to God is not erased in a moment of desperation. The desperate moment might change a man’s direction, but only because God is unimaginably merciful, just as He was with the father of rebellion, Cain. David understood the connection. There is little point in crying out to God for circumstantial rescue if I have not first cried out to God for essential transformation. I might as well try asking for a map in the cloud at the top of a volcano.
It’s a short step from disregard for the things of God to an attitude of sinful rebellion. It’s a short step from sinful rebellion to active disobedience. It’s a short step from active disobedience to catastrophe. But it’s a very long step from catastrophe back to experiencing God’s rescue. Death-bed salvations are usually one breath too late. If we find ourselves following Cain’s footprints in the clouds, it probably means that we have taken too many short steps. It’s time to stop and repent of those tiny discrepancies that lead us toward obscured vision. It’s time to retreat to the safety at the base of the mountain and forget about the rush of volcanic enticement. It’s much better to look at a crater from afar than to fall into one.
Topical Index: Sin