Acceptable Sacrifices

2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering ; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:2-5)

It is the first account of an offering to God recorded in the bible. The son’s of Adam & Eve, Abel being a shepherd, and Cain a farmer make a worship offering to the Lord of their work. We learn that God accepts Abel’s but not Cain’s. So the first question then becomes why did God find favor on Abel’s offering , but did not care for Cain’s? Abel offers a firsborn animal, perhaps a calf or lamb, and Cain offers fruit or grain from his harvest. At first it seems that God prefers meat over vegetables, but it can’t be that simple or insignificant. The following verses in Genesis 4 give clues, but the greatest revelation comes in Hebrews 11:4.

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.”

The difference was faith. Abel offered his sacrifice out of belief in his heart. God knows the condition of a man’s heart, and He could see the condition of both their hearts when the offering was made. Hebrews 11:4 also tells us because of the faith Abel had, Abel was able to obtain a righteous standing before God. Cain, evidently gave his sacrifice, but it was simply an act that he was performing. Cain had no faith, he did not believe, and therefore had a unrighteous standing before God. That is why the Lord had no regard for Cain’s offering.

The bible tells us that God is so Holy that he cannot look upon sin, and that He cannot hear the prayers of an unrighteous person. So when Cain, like people today offer sacrifices without true faith, God doesn’t accept them. Ours can be things like giving, charity, volunteering, going to church or even serving in a church, but doing these things without having a relationship with God.

David writes in Psalm 51, 16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit ; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” It is not about what we offer to God, but about the condition of our heart. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” When we humble our hearts, pray by faith, and repent & believe we learn that God can the look upon us. He forgives our sin, and gives a righteous standing before Him.

We learn later in Genesis 4 that God confronts Cain about his anger, and sin. “6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry ? And why has your countenance fallen ? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door ; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” The Greek used word for well means to “be pleasing, to make a thing good or right.” Cain’s countenance was simply his face or presence.  God is telling Cain that if you do right, your face or presence can be lifted up so that I can see it as righteousness, but if you do not then sin is waiting to consume you.

Cain then commits the 1st murder of the bible by killing his brother Abel. When God delivers Cain’s punishment to him, Cain does not humble himself or seek forgiveness.  3 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear ! 14 “Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground ; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Cain is not concerned out his sin or the murder of his brother Abel, but is concerned about himself. Cain understood that up until that point he had been under the “umbrella” of God blessing and protection, but now he would no longer be. By the grace and mercy of God He spares Cains life, but is cast out of the presence of the Lord.

The bible tells us that all of humanity has sinned, and is unrighteous before God. It is only by faith or belief in the promises of God found in Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross that we can become righteous. It is not by our works or anything we do. We cannot even take credit for the faith we do have because God is the giver of faith.

  • [The Triumphs of Faith] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1
  • For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith ; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” – Romans 1:17
  • For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. – Romans 3:28
  • 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, – Romans 4:5
  • So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17
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