One night, in family devotions, I was reading to my kids from a Bible storybook about Cain and Abel. In this author’s rendition of the story, Cain’s offering was rejected because it was not his best, while Abel’s offering was the best he had to give and therefore acceptable to God. It suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks…this writer missed the entire point of the Biblical story! In fact, I believe the reality is quite the opposite. Cain was a “tiller of the ground”. His days consisted of backbreaking manual labor and he earned every morsel with the “sweat of his brow”. When asked to bring a sacrifice to God, he must have surely thought that his offering would be the best in God’s sight. Cain’s offering was the hard earned fruit of his labor, the work of his own blistered hands. But, in spite of all Cain’s striving, God rejected his offering. The Bible says, “Cain was exceedingly angry and his countenance fell” (Gen 4:5). Cain was so frustrated and angry because he had indeed brought his best to God…and yet his best was not good enough.
God said, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” “Do well?” Cain must have thought. “I’ve done the best I can do.” Perhaps Cain knew in his heart that he had worked longer and harder than Able ever did. Through sweat, tears and hard manual labor Cain had worked the thorny soil to bring this offering to the Lord. Yet God was pleased with Abel’s gift and not his own. Cain could not understand and soon his frustration boiled over into murderous rage.
Why was Abel’s offering acceptable to God? Was it a better offering? Had Abel worked more or harder or better? On the contrary…Abel brought the blood of an innocent other. The real sacrifice was not his at all…it was really the sheep who had paid the dearest price. Abel was NOT relying on the work of his hands and the fruit of his labor. Somehow he understood that it was the blood that satisfied God.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb 9:22). Cain is a type of all those who come to God with the work of their own hands. Even if we do our best and strive with all our might to please God, we will always come up short, no matter how well-intentioned we may be. Whenever you swipe the credit card of your own righteousness into God’s ATM it will ALWAYS be declined. All our righteousness is like filthy rags.
Abel is a type of all those who come to God with the blood of that innocent other; the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is the blood of Jesus that has cleansed us from all sin (I John 1:7). It is the blood of Jesus that has purged our conscience from dead works (Heb 9:14). It is the blood of Jesus that has reconciled us unto God (Eph 2:13). It is the blood of Jesus that has redeemed us (1 Pet 1:18). Abel came not on the basis of his works, but in faith, and like Abraham, “It was counted to him as righteousness.” By faith we carry God’s own credit card, without a capital limit, backed by the collateral of heaven’s endless supply, and billed to Calvary’s address. Hallelujah!
Daniel Kolenda is an evangelist with Christ For All Nations, along with Reinhard Bonnke.
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