by Steven Chan
The earliest record in the Bible about the act of worshipping God entailed making an offering to the Lord: “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering.”(Gen 4:3-5)
This was not an insignificant event because the New Testament writer referred to this early Genesis account: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”(Heb 11:4)
So, the Bible tells us that though Abel being dead still speaks. What does Abel speak about?
Abel speaks to us through the offering he made to the Lord. And what about his offering that he though being dead still wants us to know?
1. That his Offering to God was accepted by God because it was offered by faith. In Rom 10:17, the Bible declares thus: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” It is thereby implied that Able offered that which God had specified.
In Heb 11:3, the Bible states: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” How did we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God? Because the writer of Genesis through the inspiration of God made known to us that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). If God had not made it known to us, then we would not have known. But through God’s revealed word, we now know and believe (i.e. have faith) that God made the worlds.
So likewise, it is implied that “by faith” (by trusting in God’s revealed Word as to what God has specified with regards offerings made to Him), Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice.
Likewise, we need to make our offerings in accordance with what God has specified as representing what He desires. We cannot simply offer to God anything we like.
2. That though Cain also made an offering to God, his offering was inferior to that offered by Abel; it being implied that his offering was not in accordance with or accompanied by faith as it was not in accordance with the offering specified by God. If Cain had offered what God had specified then as God said: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”(Gen 4:7). Clearly Cain offered what God did not want or desire.
3. That God desires for worshippers to offer that which is desired by Him. Not all offerings are acceptable to God. Cain probably gave what he thought would acceptable to God. He did not seek to know what God really wanted.
In Malachi 1:13, 14, the Lord rejected the offerings of the Israelites: “”And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the LORD. …sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.”
God will not accept anything less than the best we can offer. He will not accept our left-overs. In Gen 4:4, the Bible observed that “Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock”. In Prov 3:9-10, the Bible said: “Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the first-fruits of all your increase; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.”
He will not accept our offerings if our hearts are not truly near Him; neither will He accept lip-service: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”(Matt 15:8-9).
We should examine our hearts when we come to make our offerings to Him. That’s why in Matt 5:23-24, Jesus said: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” God is not interested in just what we offer but also the condition of our heart and spirit when we make our offerings.
4. That the Offering Abel made was a “more excellent sacrifice”. It was more than just an offering; it was a sacrifice – it must have cost him something. The attitude of sacrifice is best exemplified by David in 2 Sam 24:24: “Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” Do our offerings represent sacrifices on our part?
5. That the Offering Abel made resulted in God testifying that Abel was righteous. Jesus has made the sacrifice that sets us free from sin: Heb 9:26: “but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”(Heb 10:10, 14). 2 Cor 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Christians are nonetheless still expected to offer sacrifices to God. Heb 13:15-16: “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Our bodies are to be offered as living sacrifices to God: Rom 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
In John 4:23-24, Jesus declared: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Abel speaks to us today: “How you worship God will determine whether your worship is acceptable to God and whether He will testify that you are indeed righteous”. Will we listen to Abel, the man who offered a more excellent sacrifice and through which God testified through the acceptance of his gift that Abel was righteous? Will God be “well pleased” with our offerings (of our bodies as a living sacrifice, the sacrifice of our lips in praise of Him, doing good and sharing – Phil 4:18: “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God”) because we offer them by faith – they represent a more excellent sacrifice – in spirit and in truth? Let’s pay more careful attention to what we offer to God.