Cain and Abel's offerings

The Offering of Cain

And 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. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? if thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted, and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door; and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” Genesis 4:3–8

Cain and Abel had both been instructed in regard to the system of sacrificial offerings, designed by God to impress upon the minds of men the offensive character of sin, and to keep before their minds its sure penalty, death. The offerings were to be a constant reminder that it was only through the promised Redeemer that man could come into the presence of God. Cain and Abel knew that in presenting these offerings they showed humble and reverential obedience to the will of God, and acknowledged faith in, and dependence upon, the Savior whom these offerings typified.

Cain and Abel erected their altars alike, and each brought an offering. Cain thought it unnecessary to be particular about fulfilling all the requirements of God; he therefore brought an offering of the fruits of the ground, and presented his offering before the Lord; but there was no token from Heaven to show that it was accepted. Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock, the very best, as God had commanded him. In the slain lamb he saw by faith the Son of God, appointed to death because of the transgression of his Father’s law. God had respect to Abel’s offering. Fire flashed from heaven, consuming the sacrifice.

Despite the disrespect shown to his commands, God did not leave Cain to himself; but condescends to reason with him. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?”

The Lord was not ignorant of the feelings of resentment cherished by Cain; but He would have Cain reflect upon his course, and becoming convinced of his sin, repent, and set his feet in the path of obedience. There was no cause for his angry feelings toward either his brother or his God; it was his own disregard of the plainly expressed will of God that had led to the rejection of his offering. Through his angel messenger, God said to this rebellious, stubborn man: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” “If thou doest well”—not having your own way, but obeying God’s commandments, coming to him with the blood of the slain victim, thus showing faith in the promised Redeemer, who, in the fullness of time, would make an atonement for guilty man, that he might not perish, but have eternal life

Thus the matter was plainly laid open before Cain; but he was angry with God and angry with his brother. He was angry with God because he would not accept the plans of sinful man in place of the divine requirements, and he was angry with his brother for disagreeing with him. He was enraged to the highest degree that Abel did not sympathize with him in his disaffection.

Cain’s reason told him that Abel was right when he spoke of the necessity of presenting the blood of a slain victim if he would have his sacrifice accepted; but Satan presented the matter to him in a different light. He urged Cain on to a furious madness, till in his anger he slew his brother, and the sin of murder was laid upon his soul.

After some time had elapsed following the death of Abel, the Lord again spoke to Cain. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?” How true it is that one sin leads to another; and how forcibly is this truth illustrated in the case of Cain! He seemed surprised at the question, “Where is Abel thy brother?” He had gone so far in sin, had so far yielded himself to the influence of Satan, that he had lost a sense of the presence of God, and of his greatness and knowledge. So he lied to the Lord to cover up his guilt. Cain knew very well where his brother was; and God knew where he was, for there was a witness to the bloody deed.

Again the Lord said to Cain. “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” God had given Cain an opportunity to confess his sin before sentence should be pronounced against him. He had had time to reflect. He knew the enormity of the deed he had done, and of the falsehood he had told to conceal it. But he was rebellious still. The hand that had been stretched out against his brother was stretched out against God; and had it been within his power, he would have silenced the accusing voice of God, as he had that of his brother.

These two brothers, Cain and Abel, represent the whole human family. They were both tested on the point of obedience, and all will be tested as they were. Abel bore the proving of God. He revealed the gold of a righteous character, the principles of true godliness. By contrast, Cain’s religion lacked a good foundation, relying instead on human merit. He brought to God something in which he had a personal interest,—the fruits of the ground, which had been cultivated by his toil; and he presented his offering as a favor done to God, through which he expected to secure the divine approval. He obeyed in building an altar, obeyed in bringing a sacrifice; but it was only a partial obedience. The essential part, the recognition of the need of a Redeemer, was left out.

As far as birth and religious instruction were concerned, these brothers were equal, though Cain, being the first-born, was in some respects the favored one. Both were sinners, and both acknowledged the claims of God as an object of worship. To all outward appearance, their religion was the same up to a certain point of time; but the Bible history shows us that there was a time when the difference between the two became very great. This difference lay in the obedience of one and the disobedience of the other.

The apostle says that Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. Abel grasped the great principles of redemption. He saw himself a sinner; and he saw sin, and its penalty, death, standing between his soul and communion with God. He brought the slain victim, the sacrificed life, thus acknowledging the claims of the law which had been transgressed. Through the shed blood he looked to the future Sacrifice, Christ dying on the cross of Calvary; and, trusting in the atonement that was there to be made, he had the witness that he was righteous and his offering accepted.

In the case of Cain and Abel we have a type of two classes that will exist in the world till the close of time. The difference that marked characters of these two brothers is the same difference that is seen in the human family today. Cain follow, they are willing to render partial obedience, but not entire submission to God. The Cain class of worshipers includes by far the largest number; for every false religion that has been invented has been based on the Cain principle, that man can, at least in part, depend upon his own merits and good works to earn righteousness and obtain salvation.

The great controversy from Adam’s day down to our time has been on the point of obedience or opposition to God’s law; and every soul will be found either on the side of the obedient or the rebellious. Satan, who was once a mighty and lofty angel in Heaven, is the leader of the rebellion against God. From the first it has been his object to dethrone God, by breaking down the rules of his government. He had induced angels to join him in Heaven; and when Adam sinned, he thought to carry the whole human race on his side. The declaration of God, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed,” was the first intimation Satan received that the world would not be given over to his dark sway, but that man would have a Redeemer.

There is naturally no enmity between fallen angels and fallen men. Both are evil; and evil, wherever it exists, will league against the good. Those who cherish error have ever manifested a spirit of intolerance toward the obedient children of God. They are actuated by the spirit that led Cain to slay his brother. “And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” Through all the ages there have been those who have lost their lives because of their faithfulness to religious principles.

Our Saviour himself was a victim of religious intolerance. “He came unto his own; but his own received him not.” Had he praised and exalted men, had He called corruption purity, and given license to human creeds by teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, they would have received Him gladly. But His zeal for God, the righteous fervor with which He denounced every abomination that was done in the land, and, above all, the sinless purity of His own character, aroused the bitter hatred of the “whited sepulchers” who deceived the people by the appearance of great sanctity. Satan and evil angels united with evil men to destroy from the earth the champion of truth. There was a bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman, when Christ was scorned as a deceiver, and was hunted down and put to death as a criminal; but could Satan have induced Him to commit one sin, there would have been a bruising of the head, and the world would have been abandoned to the power of the prince of darkness.

Man was promised a Redeemer, and was granted a second trial, to see if he would develop a righteous character; but he is left a free moral agent. And in all ages the multitudes have accepted the Cain principle, and have maintained that a partial obedience is all that is necessary. They have claimed a right to the favor of God, while disregarding his positive commands. This is the position of the Christian world today. God has given men a code of laws, and the fourth precept of that code enjoins the observance of the Sabbath as a memorial of creation. There is but one Sabbath of the Lord, and that is the seventh day. Special injunctions have been laid upon men to remember this day to keep it holy; but many show their contempt for the divine authority by keeping, in its place, a day which God has given them as a day of labor—the first day of the week.

The religion of Christ is for men to accept, with all its inconveniences. They may invent an easier way; but it will not lead to the city of God, the saints’ secure abode. Only those who “do his commandments,” will have “right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14

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