God Pleasing Faith, Cain and Abel, Lesson 4, Hebrews 11:4
One of the themes of the Old Testament book of Judges is expressed in Judges 17:6, In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
This of course was nothing new for as we learned last week this way of life was begun centuries past in the very beginning when Cain tilled the soil and Abel shepherded sheep.
It was in those days that the way of Cain was established for Cain thought in himself when a sacrifice was required and brought to God that which he established as right.
But God is the one who establishes that which is right and therefore is the only one who can say that Abelís sacrifice was more excellent than that which Cain brought to God.
So the Apostle Paul could record in Hebrews 11:4, By faith Abel offered unto 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 speaketh.
Now Cain and Abel were children born in sin and we learn quickly that children born in sin are apt to say early that there are ways that seem right to them regardless of what those in authority tell them.
Every baby begins life with the way of Cain.
Now Cain was such a man who thought it best to think for himself regardless of what he was told concerning sacrifice which was a very important act to the God who created him.
There is nothing wrong in thinking but there are things where thinking is not required for God has established what is right and what is wrong.
Today the Supreme Court is thinking about issues regarding marriage which is another government waste of time for God has long ago closed the book on that subject and thinking is not required.
But we are indeed again in the age of the judges where each man is doing what is right in his own eyes for the world is filled with Cains.
Cain knew full well what the offering should be but in spite of Godís clear instruction Cain chose to show off the fruit of his hands.
He succumbed to the idea of pleasing God by his own works, an idea of his own making.
Now I suppose there was competition between the brothers and itís easy to imagine how hard it was for Cain to go to Abel and ask him for an acceptable sacrifice to offer to God.
Cain decided to think and reason instead of obeying God and in that reasoning he neglected faith for faith is always an obedient response to Godís word for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
God has given man the ability to reason but reason only extends so far.
True faith, Christian faith, never is founded on manmade ideas, conjectures, assumptions or theories.
Faith always is founded on the revealed word of God.
Therefore Abelís sacrifice was more excellent, not because he knew how to raise sheep well, but because he had obeyed Godís word.
Cain reasoned, as many do, that God will be just as happy to see what my creativity and talents bring to the altar.
But without faith it is impossible to please God.
Think hard about a man plowing his fields, taking great pride in his work and thinking that God also will be pleased by his works.
But what does God say about that man who is without faith for God calls him wicked in Proverbs 21:4 which tells us: An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
Godís measure of a man is not in his plowing but in his faith.
Abelís faith pleased God, Cainís disobedience displeased God.
God does not complicate things but instead makes it simple.
Believe his word which means be a doer of his word for that displays our faith.
When God says something, that settles it with no questions asked.
It is a time for obeying, not a time for thinking.
Abel and Cainís parents certainly communicated to them Godís mind about sacrifice.
For when Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves, God did not accept this and he provided an acceptable covering made of animal skin which of course required the death and shed blood of the animal.
So in this one act God established that in order to be approved of God, to stand before the Holy God, a proper covering was needed.
And it could not be made by human hands.
It must be provided apart from their efforts, and therefore it had to be a God provided covering and lastly the only acceptable covering of their sin required the death or shedding of blood of an approved substitute.
It cannot be imagined that Adam did not communicate this to his sons for we know that Abel did indeed bring to God a more excellent offering and Cain did not and was rebuked for it.
Cain would not have been rebuked if he had not known of Godís requirements but he reasoned instead of believing Godís word.
Even the very act of sacrifice had to be made known to them from outside of them for who but God would even think of the need for sacrifice.
Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel by faith offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.
We are told to not compare ourselves among ourselves but God is not holden to this for here he compares Abelís sacrifice to that of Cainís sacrifice, not for the quality of what they brought but by how close it was to Godís specifications for the sacrifice.
Cain brought that which was right and pleasing in his own eyes, but Abel brought that which was right in Godís eyes.
Abel by believing Godís word pleased God for the sacrifice he brought fulfilled Godís picture of his ultimate God provided sacrifice in his Son whom we know as our Lord Jesus Christ.
So by this absolute as to an appropriate sacrifice God insists that this picture of his coming sacrifice never be distorted.
However Satan since the beginning always has his Cain representatives in line to distort Godís approved sacrifice and bring to the altar manmade offerings which are only designed to elevate men.
But by Abel obeying God, Abel obtained witness that he was righteous.
Again we find this truth in Romans 4:3-5, for what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
The inference of course is also that Cain obtained witness that he was not righteous for he believed not God.
So you obtain righteousness only by believing God not by earning it through your works.
So in this lesson we learn that sinners can only approach God by faith in Godís approved sacrifice.
In this story of Cain and Abel it is easy to think that Abel was the better boy of the two.
But there is nothing given by God for us to draw that conclusion for both boys were sinners, and sons of sinners.
We do know that Abel responded to Godís word but Cain did not.
Abel brought a sheep from his flock because he knew we was a sinner deserving Godís judgment however he also knew that God by instituting a sacrifice would accept the death of a substitute.
Abel believed that he could not be right before God in his own stead and therefore he brought a substitute knowing that God would also bring a substitute to die in his place.
God had told Abelís parents that in the day that ye eat thereof ye shall surely die but he also told them there would be victory over the serpent that had beguiled them for their seed would bruise his head.
But the way of Cain is a way of reason apart from the word of God.
Cain ignored what he thought of as drivel, such foolishness and thought of a way to satisfy God by the work of his hands.
Abel knew it was just that he die for his sins and knew that only God could provide a remedy but Cain desired to know no such thing.
Cain rejected the shedding of blood as a way to approach God and established the way of Cain that the multitudes of the world follow still.
He was of the crowd that said, My way is just as good!
He was father of the famous singer of the past who did it his way when he sang:
For what is a man what has he got
So Cain with the mind of my way could say: This beautiful basket of fruit is so much more appealing than that horrible dead and bloody animal.
And this way of Cain persists for Paul told of it in I Cor. 1:18, For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
And in verse 23, But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
What is the difference in Cain and Abel?
Abel was a man of faith but Cain was a man of religion.
Both of course believed in God for both brought a sacrifice in order to worship God, one according to Godís specifications but the other according to his own ideas.
It is revealing to the nature of the natural man that Cain thought his sacrifice should have been accepted even though it was not of the making of what God had required.
When his sacrifice was rejected Cain became angry and depressed.
Not accepting Godís corrective rebuke, and not being able to take out his anger against God he took it out on his brother Abel who had obeyed God by faith and was commended by God for bringing the more excellent sacrifice.
But this is the way of all false religion.
We are seeing this on a massive scale in the middle east where the false religion of Islam founded in the heart of Cain turns against the one true God by violence against Godís Abels.
False religions reject the sacrifice of God, the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
False religions reject the cross for the cross rejects self-righteousness as a way to God.
False religions bring to God their own sacrifice of good works and reject the idea that they of false religions are sinners, undone and unable to do anything with themselves that will please the one true God.
They would never sing:
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Nothing can for sin atone, Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For false religionists like the Judaizers were not satisfied with only the blood of Christ but again following the principles of Father Cain preached conversion to Judaism in order to believe Jesus as the Messiah.
For they again turned to Paul and saw Abel who by faith believed God for Paul also by faith believed God because he proclaimed that the Gentiles could be justified by faith and faith alone.
Again following the example of Cain they persecuted the righteous Paul who boasted only in the cross and the blood of Christ for salvation.
But it is far better to gain Godís approval through faith, through believing His word even to the point of losing this life than it is to reject Him and lose your soul.
But that is what faith reveals for faith reveals a city whose builder and maker is God.
Faith reveals the reality of Godís realm in contrast to the realm of sin and misery in which this world lies.
Abel was the first murder victim but Abel was the first to go to God.
Oh how we hear of the American dream but if that is what you strive for your strivings could not be more trivial for all American dreams shall pass away and be forgotten.
I think God introduces us first in Hebrews 11 to the righteous man Abel, who was killed at the hand of his brother to show us that this life is not where dreams are to be realized.
We are not to be people of dreams but people of hope, hope that is built upon the solid rock of Christ.
For only faith in Godís perfect sacrifice of His Son will result in a life that spans from here to a glorious eternity with God.
We should learn from Hebrews 11 that the rewards of faith are not necessarily realized in his life.
Abelís life was probably short and he died in faith without receiving the promises as did all of these listed on the honor roll of God who:
Ö.having seen them afar off, Ö.were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
But while here Abel obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
In Genesis 4:10 God says to Cain: What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
Abelís message to all is that he will be vindicated and the wicked will be judged.
He speaks to all: Be sure your sin will find you out.
Abel, with a life so short, speaks to us by his life apart from any words.
Millions have learned from his faith example that even if we are persecuted and even if we die for righteousness sake, it will never be in vain.
God has given him high honor in this listing of faith, an honor roll of those who believed God and apart from any good works of their life were counted righteous in Godís eyes for they were people of faith, people who believed God.