Summary: In the Beginning, Part 4 of 7.
MURDER MOST FOUL
4:1Adam 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." 2Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. (GEN 4:1-2)
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.
And that’s 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. Someone once said: "Sin never stands still- it always continue to grow." And Adam and Eve’s marital conflicts in Eden were taken up by Cain, who was outraged by Abel’s sacrifice. The first sin of man in the garden was disobedience against God, and the second was bloodshed. 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 a righteous man? How should we approach God, please and dignify Him?
SACRIFICE YOUR GIFTS IN FAITH (GEN. 4:1-8)
3In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD 4But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
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 you -- 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 highly regarded today because it was offered in faith.
To sacrifice is to give something pleasing completely to God. Abel offered on his own fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Now, fat portions do not mean lard, but that Abel gave the best of his first farm stock.
Offering any kind of animal requires skill, work, and strength. When offered in faith, it was a costly, bloody and holy sacrifice. Abel offered after Cain, he did not follow in his older brother’s practice, and in the end, had no idea what God said to Cain.
Abel offered his gifts in faith, the absence of faith is unbelief, and Cain offered out of unbelief. 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 had not enter Cain’s mind, and returning equal yield for his budget gift made him upset.