Sunday’s Message | February 28, 2016
3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
What will you give to God today?
Everyone gives God something. Some people give God their faith as a gift back to him. Some people give God their unbelief as independence from him. Some people give God their children’s performance or their spouse’s success as proof of their own value. Some people give God their personal successes – in school, on the field or in the office. In all of these things, what we give God is often determined by how we love him.
Out of love for God, Abel gave an example of what God had promised to him – a living sacrifice. Out of separation from God, Cain gave an example of his success to prove that God should love him.
When we try to find our personal value today, we can’t be valued higher than how God sees us: beloved sinners, not worthy of a sacrifice, but needing one to be reconciled to our God. Because God loves – not because we deserve it – God sacrifices himself to cover our sin.
Abel knew this. Abel knew his sin deserved death – after all, that’s what God had told his mom and dad in the Garden. But since Abel was born, and was allowed to exist and was allowed to bring an offering to God, there must be grace somewhere in God’s plan. Mom and Dad were kicked out of the Garden, but they were promised a redeemer – a son would come and crush the head of the snake that destroyed their lives. The redeemer would set them free, but he would be bitten doing it.
Cain took a different look at the situation. Take note: Cain believed in God. He wasn’t unbelieving, he was unfaithful. Cain saw God as someone to impress; someone to be bargained with. Cain brought God his own best work, expecting God to bless him for his excellence. In the end, Cain was more faithful of his own work than he was of God’s work.
And then there’s Abel. He doesn’t offer God examples of why God should love him. Abel – a “saint” still “sinning” daily – does his work under the eyes of God each day offers back to God a gift faithful of what God will do for him: a perfect substitute will die in his place. Abel offers God a “better sacrifice”1 because he has faith that God will do what he promised.
Thank God our lamb has been sacrificed! Thank God the snake has been crushed! And even in his death, Jesus won our victory over Satan, because after dying Jesus had authority to rise from death. Death has been defeated – we are free. We are free, as “saints” still “sinning” daily. We are free from the pressure of our performance. We are free from the idols of success and we no longer have to be “the best” to prove that God should love us. We are free to offer God the only faith that makes a difference – faith in Jesus as our lamb sacrificed for our sin. And in that faith, God will work through our great achievements and not-so-great ones to demonstrate that he is building what we never could: the friendship lost in the Garden is being restored.
1 Hebrews 11.4: By faith Abel offered to God ia more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.