Summary: Creation, Pt. 4
MURDER MOST FOUL (GENESIS 4:1-18)
There is a beautiful Hebrew legend of how the location of the Jerusalem temple was determined. Two brothers lived side by side on adjoining lands in the past. One was the head of a large family, and the other lived alone. One night, the former lay awake and thought: “My brother lives alone, he has not the companionship of wife and children to cheer his heart as I have. While he sleeps, I will carry some of my sheaves into his field.”
At the same hour, the other brother reasoned: “My brother has a large family, and his necessities are greater than mine. As he sleeps, I will put some of my sheaves on his side of the field.” Thus the two brothers went out, each carrying out his purposes and each laden with sheaves, and met at the dividing line. There they cried and embraced each other. The place they met was the very spot the altar of the Jerusalem temple was placed years later (7,700 Illustrations # 3214, Paul Lee Tan).
Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. The older Cain was a gardener and the younger was a shepherd. And Adam and Eve’s marital conflicts in Eden were taken up by Cain, who was outraged at Abel’s sacrifice. The first sin of man in the garden was disobedience against God, and the second was bloodshed against brother. It’s been said, “Sin never stands still- it always continues to grow.” The sin against God was, inevitably, spilled over to man.
Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God, Cain’s was not, and the outcome was jealousy and envy, anger and hatred, foul play and cover up. What did God see in Abel that was missing in Cain? Why was Abel commended as a righteous man? How should we approach God, please and dignify Him?
Sacrifice Your Gifts in Faith
4:1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Gen 4:1-7)
Cyrus, the founder of the old Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, “What will you give me if I release you?” “I will give the half of my wealth,” was his reply.
“And if I release your children?” “Everything I possess.” “And if I release your wife?” “Your Majesty, I will even give of myself.”
Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, “Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man! What impressive soldiers he had! Did you get a view of the big palace, the busy city, and the beautiful streets?”
With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, “I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on the one who was willing to sacrifice himself for me.” (Adapted from www.sermonillustrations.com “sacrifice”)
The single evident reason why Abel’s offering was pleasing to God is found in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.”
Abel’s sacrifice was better. He was considered a righteous man, and his deed was highly regarded because it was offered in faith. To sacrifice is to give something pleasant, pleasing and pleasurable completely to God. Abel on his own and decided by himself to offer fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Fat portions do not mean lard! Abel gave the best of his first farm stock. Sacrificing any kind of animal requires skill, work, and strength. When offered in faith, it was a costly, bloody and holy sacrifice.
The younger Abel offered after Cain, but he did not follow in his older brother’s practice, and he had no idea what God said to Cain. Abel offered his gifts in faith, but the absence of faith is unbelief, which was how Cain offered. The word “believe” means “live by” - Cain did not live by what he offered. God expects us to live by what we offer, so He looked with favor on Abel and his offering, and not on Cain and his offering. Picking fruits require little effort, offering first fruits of the soil, and not just some fruits, did not even enter Cain’s mind, and receiving matching yield and getting just desserts for his budget gift made him upset.