Summary: It is our attitude, not our sacrifices, that reflects the nature of the man within.
CAIN AND ABEL
The acceptance of Abel’s offering as opposed to Cain’s is often explained in terms of THE NATURE OF THE SACRIFICE.
We are reminded that “almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood, there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Yet the qualifier: “almost” - points to an exception (Leviticus 5:11-13): so Cain might have been pleading the poverty that led to this concession. We must, in any case, question the validity of reading back the minutiae of the law (which had not been written yet) into the life of Cain.
In fact the difference lay not so much in the type of offering as in THE NATURE OF THE MAN.
Abel was a man of FAITH (Hebrews 11:4). Jesus referred to him as “RIGHTEOUS Abel” (Matthew 23:35). Abel had a sacrificial spirit (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:14), and made the ultimate sacrifice by yielding his own life as the first of the martyrs.
Cain’s nature, by contrast, is linked with WICKEDNESS and EVIL (1 John 3:12). It is also evident that Cain already had the seeds of MURDER within him. God’s judgement against Cain was proved correct by subsequent events.
I am reminded of the ideal attitude which lay behind the offering of the first-fruits during the feast of unleavened bread. A sheaf of barley was “waved” before the LORD in token of the fact that all our offerings come from Him (Leviticus 23:10-12). Cain may not have known these details, but THE LORD KNEW HIS HEART, and rejected his offering.
Perhaps the difference between Cain and those who later made the bloodless offering of Leviticus 2 was that they were already “covered” by the blood. But what is important is the ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE in which the offering was made (Psalm 96:8).
Genesis 4:7 is hard to translate. Either the LORD was warning Cain that he would fall deeper into sin if his attitude did not change - ‘repent now before sin overcomes you.’ Or He was advising him that there was a “sin-offering” near at hand if he would only avail himself of it!
Whatever this may have meant to Cain, its New Testament application is evident. John wrote to Christian believers: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sins…” (1 John 2:1-2).
Flee from sin, ladies and gentlemen, before its vice-like grip destroys you. Do not be too proud to receive forgiveness through the one full free offering for sin - the blood of Jesus Christ. ‘Repent’ - turn from your sin, and take a new direction in Him.
Having trusted in Him, you are free from sin’s tyranny. Renew your mind day by day, and allow free flow for the Spirit’s work within you.