Summary: A look at why Abel’s sacrifice was better than Cain’s.
In 1944, Hallmark adopted the slogan “When you care enough to send the very best.”
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." Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.
Genesis 4:1-5 (NIV)
Why did God look with favor on Abel’s sacrifice, but not on Cain’s?
o The nature of the gift
Cain’s offering was not a blood offering
Based on verses like these:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
Leviticus 17:11 (NIV)
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22 (NIV)
God had not yet instituted sacrificial system.
Seems to be more of a thanksgiving offering than a sin offering.
Grain offerings were specifically allowed in the Book of Leviticus.
The Bible is clear that true worship is a matter of the heart, not a matter of form:
"The multitude of your sacrifices - what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.”
Isaiah 1:11 (NIV)
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17 (NIV)
With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)
o The quality of the gift
A little boy wanted $100 very badly. He prayed for weeks, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write a letter to God requesting $100.
When the postal authorities received the letter to "God, USA", they decided to send it to the President. The President was so amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5 bill. The President thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy.
The little boy was delighted with the $5 bill, and sat down to write a thank-you note to God. The postal authorities forwarded this letter on to the President, too.
"Dear God, Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you sent it through Washington, D.C., and those guys deducted $95 in taxes!"
Abel brought the very best of his flocks
"Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God...
Exodus 23:19 (NIV)
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
Proverbs 3:9 (NIV)
Abel cared enough to send the very best to God.
Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil
It’s obvious that Cain did not care enough to send the very best. But the question I have to ask is this: “Is that the reason God rejected his sacrifice, or is this just the result of some deeper problem in Cain’s life?” Let’s pursue that idea in a little more depth:
o The character of the giver
Although the passage in Genesis doesn’t give us much help in determining why God accepted one sacrifice and rejected the other, let’s look carefully at the wording in verses 4 and 5:
The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.
Notice what the passage doesn’t say – God did not look with favor on Abel’s offering, he looked with favor on Abel and his offering. He did not reject Cain’s offering, he rejected Cain and his offering. So it appears on the surface that difference in the way God reacts to the two offerings is not based as much on the offerings themselves as on who brought the offerings.