Man’s basic instinct due to sin is that he wants to bring something to God as an appeasement for his rebellious ways. He has a guilty conscience. Throughout every country, whether man follows the true God or some other god or gods, he brings offerings to his God or god(s) for the purpose of favor and pardon. I once mention that whilst in Los Angeles I peeped into an “eastern temple”. At the front was a huge platform with every type of fruit and vegetable and money containers, presented as offerings to the idol or the god the idol represented.
Where does all this come from? I will suggest Genesis chapter three. As we saw with verse two, both sons followed their father’s careers, one became a farmer of the soil, the other of sheep and goats. The first was for food and the second was most likely for milk. Now we find that offerings to God were made. Please read:
Ge 4:2 Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
1) The origin of sacrifice. Although both Cain and Abel brought offerings and this would be the first offering attributed to man, we saw that God offered animals by which to make clothing for our first parents to replace their flimsy fig leave coverings. Where we may say God made the first offering or sacrifice, and although the Scriptures give us no other president for offerings, Adam would have made them and taught his sons to do the same. At the superficial level, the text does not imply anything other than offerings to God out of a grateful heart for His gracious provisions of food and life, yet at the deeper level, because of the acceptability of the offering of Abel and the rejection of that of Cain, one tends to think the one offering was intended as a sacrifice to appease sin and the other not. Whether these offering were made at the end of the agricultural season or at any other time, it’s not important.
2) The striking difference between the brothers’ offerings.
(1) Cain brought offerings of the soil (fruits). His brother brought fat portions from the firstborn of the flock. Note that these were offerings to the Lord … offerings to Yahweh. Because God’s real name is used, the phrase implies sacrifice.
(2) Pure formalism. Cain brought what he acquired from the soil repeatedly. As the vegetable or fruit were ripe, it was time to make an offering.
(3) Pure devote worship. Abel brought from the first fruits of his flock. To give fat portions meant that an animal was slaughtered and there was bloodshed. Although nothing is implied in the text to say the blood was for appeasement or the skin for clothing, it might well have been part of the sacrifice.
(4) The Christian Church Age in which we live finds many different types of worship. It ranges from the formal ritual to heart worship. To analyze the type of worship you engage in, you need to ask whether you worship God from the heart when you sing, pray, read Scripture, listen to the sermon, give your tithe or free will offerings, and live out your life each day at work, home and in all relationships. In real Christianity, all of life is worship. Is your Christian life presenting formal ritual or a devote heart to God?
3) The penetrating eyes of God sees the heart’s motive. Often we miss vital clues as to one’s spirituality or the lack there of because of our lack of perception. We might watch the singers up front, the preacher behind the pulpit, the musicians and the people in the pew thinking no one could be closer to God that they are. Yet we can’t see the heart. We cannot see pretense. We misinterpret formalism. We can’t see into the deep recesses of the heart. God can! As we deal with these brothers, we need to ask what sort of worship God sees as He looks into our hearts.
(1) Abel’s heart. God sees genuineness, sincerity and true religion. The Lord looked with favor. Appreciation and acceptance are seen in the word “favor”. What Abel did was sacrificial, loving, worshipful and a true response of gratitude from a sinner to a holy God. It would appear that the faith Adam had, although tarnished by sin was passed onto Abel. He understood what Paul said in:
Ro 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
(2) Cain’s heart. God did not look at Cain’s offering with favor. There are two things to consider here.
(a) There was anger in his heart.
(b) This anger found its way out of his heart and found its expression in his facial expression.
There are various emotions revealed here … jealousy, bitterness and depression. The original speaks of his face being downcast. The Hebrews gives the impression that there was a “burning within” resulting in piercing anger filtering out of his eyes. His inward sin manifested itself in an outward expression. We have often looked at what Jesus said:
Mt 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
These are all driven by satan himself. Take what Paul says:
Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Do you see the principle here? Be it murder (Jesus said anger is equivalent to murder), hatred, jealousy, fits of rage or envy coming out of these two passages could be attributed to Cain. Behind Cain is the devil showing us that his heart contained the wrong emotion when coming with sacrifices to God. It is no wonder God did not look upon his offering with favor!
4) The great lesson to learn. The very fact that God did not look with favor, appreciation and acceptance on Cain’s offering ought to have been seen as a gracious warning to him that his heart was wrong. Sin lodged itself heavily there. It ought to have driven him to repentance, confessing his sin and seeking to be right with God. After all, he knew all about his parents fall into sin. He knew what followed. He knew he had inherited their sinful nature yet he chose to respond with anger and deadly hatred expressed in eyes filled with burning anger. Today it is none other than the Spirit of God who works in our conscience, addressing our sin. No true Christian can say he or she is not addressed by the Holy Spirit when they sin. He makes us feel ugly and dirty before God. If this does not happen as we live out our lives, our worship and our offering of ourselves and what we have, be it our talents, gifts or possessions and not received with appreciation and acceptance by God.
Surely our prayer today needs to be that of David … “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Amen.