By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. Hebrews 11, verses 4.
Yesterday we explored how faith is truth. Today let’s talk about the first person in the Word who is remembered for believing that.
Read the story of Abel in Genesis 4. We don’t know much about Abel beyond his birth, his vocation, and his death. He was the second-born child to Adam and Eve. Abel was a shepherd, and he loved the Lord. He proved His love for the Lord by offering the best of his possessions as a sacrifice.
Stop and consider that. In a time when humanity was only beginning, before communities, before commerce, before money, before crime, and even before most families, Abel saw fit to offer worship to God by sacrificing the best of his flock of sheep (“the fat portions” from “the firstborn”). He recognized that the only thing he could offer in worship to his creator was all he had. He gave the best and he gave it from his heart.
Then he gave his life for that. His brother, Cain, murdered him for it. In truth, Cain murdered Abel because of Cain’s own sin. Idolatry, greed, rage, and envy took hold in the older brother so much that they consumed him and planted the idea of murder in Cain’s heart. Whatever his motivation, Cain killed his brother because his brother had done what he, Cain, had not.
Thousands of years later, when we talk about this story, we don’t just talk about Cain: we talk about “Cain and Abel.” We use their account as the ultimate story of how sin can divide loved ones. Cain lived a long life after he murdered his brother. God put a mark on Cain so that everyone would know who he was and would shy away from him. We know he became the father of a tribe, the builder of cities, and a ‘great’ man known for his actions. We don’t know how he died; he may have died as an old man, or even when the flood drowned everything other than the beings on the ark.
Yet it was Abel who we remember. The writer of Hebrews commends Abel – not Adam, Eve, Cain, or Seth the younger brother Abel never met – as being righteous. He does so because Abel demonstrated faith in God that God would accept the blood of his sacrifice as fitting. Indeed, God, who still walked the earth with people even then, regarded Abel’s gift as good while rejecting Cain’s as not. You and I can identify with Cain, who may have thought he was giving God his best when all he was doing was giving God what he wanted. Cain gave God leftovers: Abel gave God his best and his all.
Many billions of people later, do we do any different than Cain? Do you or I give our very best to God every day? Most obviously, do we do so in our tithes and offerings? More to the point, do we give God our best in our work, in how we live with our families, in how we relate to other people? Do we put God first in our thoughts and ask Him to be involved in everything we think, say, or do? Abel did and it cost him his life.
Are you prepared to go that far? Abel was.
For further reading: Genesis 4:4, 1 John 3:12, Hebrews 12:24.
My Lord, thank You for the story of Abel. May I be as willing as he was to give my all to you, to dedicate the best in my life only to you.