By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain.
A main theme throughout the Old Testament is the exclusivity of the sacrifice. As you read through the Old Testament, you’ll find over and over again the specificity of God’s instructions. For example, when God told Noah to build an ark, did He say, “Just use your creativity–build the boat any way you want to”? No, God gave Noah a blueprint of how He wanted that ark built. Or think about when God gave Moses instructions for the construction of the tabernacle. Did He say, “Just build whatever you want”? No, every detail was given by God. And when God gave the Israelites instructions about the offerings, did He say, “Just offer anything you want to offer to Me. I’m not interested in the details; all I care about is the condition of your heart”? No, God gave specific directions. The truth is, you have to approach God on His terms, not on your terms. That is the message you find over and over again in the Old Testament.
Perhaps the best illustration of how we approach God is the story of Cain and Abel, the children of Adam and Eve. We read about it in Genesis 4:3-5: “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 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; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.”
Why did God accept Abel’s offering and reject Cain’s offering? I’ve heard pastors say, “It was because of their attitude. Abel was a cheerful giver, and Cain was a grumpy giver.” It’s true that the Lord loves a cheerful giver, but He’ll accept a gift from a grump as well. Other people say, “It was the amount given. Abel gave a sacrificial gift, but Cain gave out of his surplus.” Those are great theories, but they’re wrong. The Bible tells us why God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s offering. Hebrews 11:4 says, “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.” I believe God gave very specific instructions to Cain and Abel about the gifts they were to give. Undoubtedly, God required an animal sacrifice to remind Cain and Abel of their need for God’s forgiveness. How did they treat those instructions? Abel obeyed. He brought an animal and offered it to God. But Cain brought grain and fruit, and he offered that to God. Cain tried to come to God on his own terms rather than God’s terms. The New Testament writer Jude asserted that Cain’s act of disobedience was the genesis of every false religion in the world today: “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain” (Jude 11). The way of Cain represents every religion that tries to approach God in its own way other than through Jesus Christ. Thousands of religions in the world attempt to approach God in their own way, but true faith in Jesus Christ says there is one way to approach God. Beware of those who follow after the way of Cain.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Avoiding The Way Of Cain” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.