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Cain's offering #2
Query for the Month
Next up-date: February 1st 2006 (God willing).
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Some perpetual questions ....
Do you know the difference
between the "love" that is of Christianity
Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download for free and share amongst your friends. It's called "Light on the Dark Side of God" and is one of the best on this subject that I have ever read!
Why did Cain present fruit/veges?
The words “in the process of time” tell us that these two “boys” were actually grown men who came to offer sacrifices to God as priests of their families.
How do we know this?
After this incident Cain left the Garden with his family and supporters and built a city which he named after his eldest son. Genesis 4:17. This work required a reasonable group of people, although we are not told how many, and was only necessary to keep a group together. Cain expected to be executed for murder by those who followed God, so we should see that there were two major groups based around these two men, and a system of justice which Cain feared. Verse 14. All this implies a reasonable population. (To answer the hoary question as to where Cain got his wife – he married one of his sisters, as did they all in those days. Females are not often mentioned in Biblical genealogies, but Jewish traditions tell us that Adam and Eve had 97 children!)
The record of those earliest times is very brief, only six chapters to cover the 1656 years from Adam’s creation to the Flood, so we need to look carefully at every word to understand the situations, and not expect every detail to be explicitly mentioned.
Adam and Eve had been instructed by God and angels in the “way” of salvation (Genesis 3:21) and had passed that information on to all their children, so Cain knew that he should have shown a belief in the death of the Son of God. So why did he refuse?
We are told:
4 By faith [in the Son of God’s death for him] Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaks [of righteousness as a gift].
The two brothers erected their altars alike, and each brought an offering. Abel presented a sacrifice from the flock, in accordance with the LORD's directions, for without the shedding of blood (a death) there could be no remission of sin; and they were to show their faith in the “blood” of the Son of God as the promised atonement by offering the firstlings of the flock in sacrifice. So we read, “And the LORD had respect to Abel and to his offering” which means that fire flashed from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. Genesis 4:4.
It was after a burnt offering that the first fruits of the earth were to be presented before the LORD as a thank offering. But Cain, disregarding the LORD's direct and explicit command to offer a saving faith emblem, presented only an offering of fruit to say “thanks”. Therefore there could be no token from heaven to show that it was accepted. Abel obviously pleaded with his brother to approach God in the divinely prescribed way, but his entreaties only made Cain the more determined to follow his own will. As the eldest, he felt he should not be admonished by his younger brother, and despised his counsel. Then, angry with his brother, he killed him! So it is as an example of righteousness that Abel speaks to us all.
We should see that Cain came before God with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised sacrifice and the necessity of the sacrificial offerings. His gift expressed no penitence for sin. He probably felt, as many now feel, that it would be an acknowledgment of weakness to follow the exact plan marked out by God, of trusting his salvation wholly to the atonement of the promised Saviour – a “cop out”. He chose the course of self-dependence. He would come in his own merits. He would not bring the lamb, and mingle its blood with his offering, but would present his fruits alone, the products of his labour. He offered his gift as a favour done to God, through which he expected to secure the divine approval.
Cain obeyed in building an altar, obeyed in bringing an offering; but he rendered only a partial obedience. The essential part, the recognition of the need of a Redeemer, was left out and as far as God was concerned the rest meant nothing.
So far as birth and religious instruction were concerned, these brothers were equal. Both were sinners, and both acknowledged the claims of God to reverence and worship. To outward appearance their religion was the same up to a certain point, but beyond this the difference between the two was great.
“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Hebrews 11:4. Abel grasped the great principles of redemption. He saw himself a sinner, and he saw sin and its penalty, death, standing between him and communion with God. He brought the slain victim, the sacrificed life, thus acknowledging the claims of the law that had been transgressed. Through the shed blood he looked to the death of the Son of God and, in a way, forward to the future sacrifice of the Son of man dying on the cross of Calvary. Trusting in the atonement that these signified, he had the witness that he was righteous and his offering accepted.
Cain had the same opportunity of learning and accepting these truths as had Abel. He was not the victim of an arbitrary purpose. One brother was not elected to be accepted of God, and the other to be rejected. Abel chose faith and obedience; Cain, unbelief and rebellion, but thinking he was doing the right thing. Here the whole matter rested.
Why are we told this story?
Cain and Abel represent two classes that will exist in the world till the close of time. One class avail themselves of the appointed sacrifice for sin; the other venture to depend upon their own merits; theirs is a sacrifice without the virtue of divine mediation, and thus it is not able to bring the offerers into favour with God. It is only through the merits of Jesus that our transgressions can be pardoned. Those who feel no need of the blood of Christ, who feel that without divine grace they can by their own works secure the approval of God, are making the same mistake as did Cain. If they do not accept the cleansing blood, they are under condemnation. There is no other provision made whereby they can be released from the slavery of sin. Without this God is helpless.
The class of worshipers who follow the example of Cain includes by far the greater portion of the world; for nearly every false religion has been based on the same principle – that man can depend upon his own efforts for salvation. It is claimed by some that the human race is in need, not of redemption, but of development – that it can refine, elevate, and regenerate itself. As Cain thought to secure the divine favour by an offering that lacked the blood of a sacrifice, so do these expect to exalt humanity to the divine standard, independent of the atonement.
The history of Cain shows what must be the results of such a belief. It shows what man will become apart from Christ. Humanity has no power to regenerate itself. It does not tend upward, toward the divine, but downward, toward the satanic. Christ is our only hope. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” “Neither is there salvation in any other.” Acts 4:12.
When Cain saw that his offering was rejected, he was angry with the LORD and with Abel. He was angry that God did not accept man's substitute in place of the sacrifice divinely ordained, and angry with his brother for choosing to obey God instead of joining in rebellion against Him. Notwithstanding Cain's disregard of the divine command, God didn’t leave him to himself; but condescended to reason with the man who had shown himself so unreasonable. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you wroth? and why is your countenance fallen?” The divine warning was conveyed: “If you do well, shall you not be accepted? And if you do not well, sin lies at the door [of your heart and causes the problem].” Genesis 4:6-7.
The choice lay with Cain himself. If he would trust to the merits of the promised Saviour, and would obey God's requirements in His strength, he would enjoy His favour. But should he persist in unbelief and transgression, he would have no ground for complaint when judged, because he had rejected the LORD’s help.
But instead of acknowledging his sin, Cain continued to complain of the injustice of God and to cherish jealousy and hatred of Abel. He angrily reproached his brother, and attempted to draw him into controversy concerning God's dealings with them. In meekness, yet fearlessly and firmly, Abel defended the justice and goodness of God. He pointed out Cain's error, and tried to convince him that the wrong was in himself. He pointed to the compassion of God in sparing the life of their parents when He might have punished them with instant death, and urged that God loved them, or He would not have given His Son, innocent and holy, to suffer the penalty which they had incurred. All this caused Cain's anger to burn the hotter. Reason and conscience told him that Abel was in the right; but he was enraged that one who had usually listened to his counsel should now presume to disagree with him, and that he could gain no sympathy in his rebellion. In the fury of his passion he slew his brother.
Cain hated and killed his brother, not for any wrong that Abel had done, but “because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.” 1 John 3:12.
So in all ages the rejecters have hated those who were better than themselves. Abel's life of obedience and unswerving faith was to Cain a perpetual reproof. “Everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:20. The brighter the heavenly light that is reflected from the character of God's faithful servants, the more clearly the sins of the ungodly are revealed, and the more determined will be their efforts to destroy those who disturb their peace.
The murder of Abel was the first example of the enmity that God had declared would exist between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman – between Satan and his subjects and Christ and His followers. Genesis 3:15. Through man's sin, Satan had gained control of the human race, but Christ could enable them to cast off his yoke. Therefore, whenever, through faith in the Lamb of God, an individual renounces the service of sin, Satan's wrath is kindled. The holy life of Abel testified against Satan's claim that it is impossible for man to keep God's law. When Cain, moved by the spirit of the wicked one, saw that he could not control Abel, he was so enraged that he destroyed his life. And wherever there are any who will stand in vindication of the righteousness of the law of God, the same spirit will be manifested against them.
It is the spirit that through all the ages has set up the stake and kindled the burning pile for the disciples of Christ. The cruelties heaped upon the follower of Jesus are instigated by Satan and his hosts because they cannot force him or her to submit to their control. It is the rage of a vanquished foe. Every martyr of Jesus has died a conqueror. Says the prophet, “They overcame him, [“that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan”] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11, 9.
The murderer was soon called to answer for his crime. “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ And he said, ‘I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?’” Genesis 4:9. Cain had gone so far in sin that he had lost a sense of the continual presence of God and of His greatness and omniscience. So he resorted to falsehood to conceal his guilt.
Again the LORD said to Cain, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries to Me from the ground.” God had given Cain an opportunity to confess his sin. He had had time to reflect. He knew the enormity of the deed he had done, and of the falsehood he had uttered to conceal it; but he was rebellious still, and sentence was no longer deferred. The divine voice that had been heard in entreaty and admonition now pronounced the terrible words: “And now are you cursed from the earth, which has opened her mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall not henceforth yield to you her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shall you be in the earth.” Verses 10-12.
Notwithstanding that Cain had by his crime merited the sentence of death, a merciful Creator still spared his life, and granted him opportunity for repentance. But Cain lived only to harden his heart, to encourage rebellion against the divine authority, and to become the head of a line of bold, abandoned sinners. This one apostate, led on by Satan, became a tempter to others; and his example and influence exerted their demoralizing power, until the earth became so corrupt and filled with violence as to cause its destruction.
In sparing the life of the first murderer, God presented before the whole universe a lesson bearing upon the great controversy. The dark history of Cain and his descendants was an illustration of what would be the result of permitting sinners to live on forever, to carry out rebellion against God and His kingdom.
But the forbearance of God only rendered the wicked more bold and defiant in their iniquity. Fifteen centuries after the sentence pronounced upon Cain, the universe witnessed the end result of his influence and example in the crime and pollution that flooded the earth. It was made manifest that the sentence of death (as the “wages” of sin) pronounced upon the fallen race for the transgression of God's law, was both just and merciful. The longer men and women lived in sin, the more abandoned they became. The divine warning that they would kill themselves was a blessing rather than a curse.
God in His foreknowledge pronounced the decree, but He had no hand in its execution. It was simply THE RESULT of sin. Our loving Father has tried to warn us from the beginning just what will happen if we persist in “doing our own thing” and tries desperately to get us to change our minds. But it is up to us – He cannot force us.
The problem is that Satan has deliberately twisted all of the Son of God’s advice and managed to get the majority of professed Christians into an amazing counterfeit of Christianity. He has been able to so “sanctify” Cain’s behaviour that many now think that it is true Christianity, even to the killing of their opponents!
Jesus told us the story of the Pharisee and the publican because they represent the two great classes into which those who come to worship God are divided. Luke 18:9-14. The first two representatives of those classes are found in the first two children recorded born into the world. Cain thought himself righteous, and he came to God with a thank offering only. Then he made confession of sin, and acknowledged need of mercy, but not in the only “way” it could be accepted.
Abel came with the blood that pointed to the Lamb of God. He came as a sinner, confessing himself lost; his only hope was the unmerited love of God. The LORD had respect to his offering, but to Cain and his offering He had not respect. The sense of need, the recognition of our poverty and sin, is the very first condition of acceptance with God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3.
It is relatively easy to see this difference in others, but we should be aware that it exists also within each one of us.
In the history of the apostle Peter the classes represented by the Pharisee and the publican are seen. In his early discipleship Peter thought himself strong. Like the Pharisee, in his own estimation he was “not as other men are.” When Christ on the eve of His betrayal forewarned His disciples, “All you shall be offended because of Me this night,” Peter confidently declared, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” Mark 14:27, 29. Peter did not know his own danger. Self-confidence misled him. He thought himself able to withstand temptation; but in a few short hours the test came, and with cursing and swearing he denied his LORD three times. Although acknowledged by Christ as one of His, Peter still needed a further cleansing to make him “perfect.”
When the crowing of the cock reminded him of the words of Christ, surprised and shocked at what he had just done he turned and looked at his Master. At that moment Christ looked at Peter, and beneath that grieved look, in which compassion and love for him were blended, Peter understood himself. He went out and wept bitterly. That look of Christ's broke his heart. Peter had come to the turning point, and bitterly did he repent his sin. He was like the publican in his contrition and repentance, and like the publican he found mercy. The look of Christ assured him of pardon.
Now his self-confidence was gone. Never again were the old boastful assertions repeated.
The work of God is to be carried on to completion by the co-operation of divine and human agencies. Those who are self-sufficient may be apparently active in the work of God; but if they are prayerless, their activity is of no avail. Could they look into the censer of the Angel that stands at the golden altar before the rainbow-circled throne, they would see that the merit of Jesus must be mingled with our prayers and efforts, or they are as worthless as was the offering of Cain.
“And another Angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to Him much incense, that He should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the Angel's hand.” Revelation 8:3-4. In the next verse He sends the censer to the earth and there is a great revival! “And the Angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar [enthusiasm from God], and cast [sent] it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake”. Verse 5. (Consider the day of Pentecost.)
Could we see all the activity of human instrumentality as it appears before God, we would see that only the work accomplished by much prayer which is sanctified by the merit of Christ will stand the test of the judgment. When the grand review shall take place, then shall you “return and discern between him that serves God and him that serves Him not.” Malachi 3:18.
Legal religion will not answer for this age. We may perform all the outward acts of service, and yet be as destitute of the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of dew and rain. We all need spiritual moisture; and we need also the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to soften and subdue our hearts. We are always to be as firm as a rock to principle and soft as putty to His leading. Bible principles are to be taught, and then backed up by holy practice.
Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam, differed widely in character. Abel had a spirit of loyalty to God; he saw justice and mercy in the Creator's dealings with the fallen race, and gratefully accepted the hope of redemption. But Cain cherished feelings of rebellion, and murmured against God because of the curse pronounced upon the earth and upon the human race for Adam's sin. He permitted his mind to run in the same channel that led to Satan's fall – indulging the desire for self-exaltation and questioning the divine justice and authority.
The LORD saw the wrath of Cain. He saw the falling of his countenance. Thus is revealed how closely the LORD marks every action, all the intents and purposes, yes, even the expression of the countenance. This, though man may say nothing, expresses his refusal to do the way and will of God. Mark the words of the LORD. This question may be addressed to every one of us who, like Cain, reveal our passion when acting out the promptings of Satan, which are in direct opposition to the requirements of God.
If we choose to throw off the sacred, restraining influence of the truth, Satan will lead us captive at his will. We will be in danger of giving scope to our appetites and passions, giving loose rein to lusts, to evil and abominable desires. Instead of bearing in our countenances a calm serenity under trial and affliction, like faithful Enoch, having our faces radiant with hope and that peace which passes understanding, we will stamp our countenances with carnal thoughts, with lustful desires. We will bear the impress of the satanic instead of the divine.
“And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD.” Genesis 4:16.
Upon receiving the warning from God, Cain withdrew from his father's household. He went out from the presence of the LORD, casting away the promise of the restored Eden, to seek his possessions and enjoyment in the earth under the curse of sin, thus standing at the head of that great class of men who worship the god of this world. In that which pertains to mere earthly and material progress, his descendants became distinguished. But they were regardless of God, and in opposition to His purposes for man.
As Cain went out from the presence of the LORD to seek his home; as the prodigal wandered into the “far country,” so do sinners seek happiness in forgetfulness of God.
We need to know for ourselves what voice we are heeding, whether it is the voice of the true and living God or the voice of the great apostate.
He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. We cannot be saved without obedience, but our works should not be of ourselves; Christ should work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. If we could save ourselves by our own works, we might have something in ourselves in which to rejoice. The effort that we make in our own strength to obtain salvation is represented by the offering of Cain. All that we can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin; but that which is wrought through faith is acceptable to God. When we seek to gain heaven through the gifts of Christ, we make progress. “Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” we may go on from strength to strength, from victory to victory; for through Christ the grace of God has worked out our complete salvation.
Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library. No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.
Next query. To be discussed from February 1st, 2006.
Won't this situation produce either a lot of anger or sorrow?
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