Chapter 28 Abel's Acceptable Offering

And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering (Genesis 4:4). By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews 11:4).

The testimony of Abel is all-important. It is the first proof of God’s declared acceptance because of Abel’s trust in the blood sacrifice which pointed to the cross of Christ. The heart and substance of the gospel lies in Abel’s brief life—brief because he was slain while still a young and single man.

The Two Offerers

Both Cain and Abel offered a sacrifice to God. We are told that “in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” (Genesis 4:3-4). John tells us Cain “was of that wicked one” and that “his own works were evil” (1 John 3:12). He was elder brother to Abel in the first human family, and no doubt received the same instruction from parents who had been clothed by the sacrifice of innocent blood and another’s righteousness.

Cain came to God. He did not scornfully ridicule the existence of God. He, too, built an altar, prepared an offering, and bowed the knee as Abel did. But the all-seeing eye of God discerned a difference. The Lord “had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect.”

Cain’s coming before God seemed to be good. The appearance had the mark of godliness. He seemed neither deficient in sincerity nor devotion. Had it been otherwise, he would not have been “very wroth” so that “his countenance fell.” His deficiency lay in his lack of faith. He was a self-righteous worshiper, and when God stripped the disguise away, it was plainly seen that he “was of that wicked one.”

God had ordained the way of salvation and made it clear to Adam and Eve. But Cain thought he could come in another way, perhaps more suitable to the dignity of man. He put his own reason against the counsel of God and turned away from God’s revealed will to make his own approach to God on his own terms. We see, then, that the wickedness of the human heart does not always show itself in refusal to worship God. Neither does it prove we are acceptable in our worship because we draw nigh with sincerity and devotion. Unless we come with faith in God’s appointed way, the Lord will not accept us. But this is the delusion of many.

Both faith and unbelief implied previous instruction. But while Abel reverently believed what he was taught, Cain presumptuously refused it. The coats of skins worn by their parents were a daily instruction and witness in how sinners were saved and reckoned righteous.

Cain, however, felt neither the consciousness of sin nor the need of pardon. He left his sin offering at the door—a rejection of Christ of whom it was a type. He trampled on God’s truth and knew nothing of his own wretchedness and need. He brought “of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord,” which acknowledged indeed a Creator’s kindness, but it implied neither confession of his sinfulness nor recognition of a Saviour’s love.

Abel, on the other hand, realized he was a man who had sinned and who looked for acceptance through the provision of God’s mercy. Acting on this godly belief, he came with purpose of heart to consecrate himself to the Lord and His glory. He, therefore, “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.” It was an offering which pointed forward to God’s promise of the coming Redeemer, who would be God’s Lamb of sacrifice. Abel’s faith rested in this hope. It was an act of self-renunciation, and he found the grace he was seeking.

Abel’s More Excellent Sacrifice

Abel’s offering is spoken of as “a more excellent sacrifice.” With such an offering he “obtained witness that he was righteous.” We have every reason to suppose, as it was in the case of Solomon and Elijah, that fire from Heaven came down and consumed the sacrifice. By such a means did God in ancient days testify to His acceptance of an offering. Abel “obtained witness that he was righteous.” We speak of self-righteousness, but in truth there is no such thing. Without Christ man has no righteousness at all. The first element in obtaining righteousness is faith in the Lord Jesus. It is not the act of our faith which is our righteousness, for even that would be a work of man. But this faith is the gift of God and rests wholly on the sacrifice of the Saviour.

May we see our dearest Lord as the “more excellent Sacrifice.” It is this alone which brings peace to our conscience. It is said of Abel that “he being dead yet speaketh.” Let us, then, hear the voice of Abel and rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ as the “more excellent Sacrifice.”

Amazing, holy mystery,
Unfathomed Sacrifice,
Where Incarnate Love on Calv’ry’s tree,
Accursed for sinners, dies!
From His soul, pour’d out unto death, that cry
Utters sorrow and love unknown,
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”
O Suff rer, so wounded, so lone!

How couldst Thou—bruised, like crushed worm
Trod down in the dust of death—
O’er that scene of wrathful gloom and storm
Pour love’s sweet undying breath?
’Twas that doom that wrung from Thy soul the plea,
Out of depths of the direful cross,
“My God, O why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Forsaken, blest Saviour, for us!

For us Thy scars Thou wearest still—
Sweet mark of our advocate!
Soon Thy Form of love our souls shall thrill,
Low bowed at Thy nail-pierced feet!
How Thy wounds shall speak! how Thy soul’s deep cry
Shall in echo forever fall,
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”
Lord Jesus! our Glory, our All!

Frank Allaben