“Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”
As the drama of Genesis unfolds, we are introduced to two of Adam’s sons, and given a glimpse into their lives and occupations. Abel, the younger, was a shepherd, while his older brother Cain was a farmer. It was not their occupations, but their character that determined their destinies. We read, Abel brought an offering of the flocks, while Cain brought the fruit of the ground; God respected Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. The question we must answer is why? What was wrong with Cain’s offering?
Two things stand out to me from the story. First off, back in the garden, God had already shown He rejected fig leaves as an acceptable covering for sin. Instead, He established a system of substitutionary sacrifice. This system will be further developed throughout Scripture, but will never change. We will see it in the Levitical system, established at Sinai, and it will have its ultimate fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Never will the work of our own hands be a sufficient covering for sin.
The second aspect of this story which stands out, is the reason a substitute is necessary. Cain brought the fruit of the ground because he did not understand the far reaching effects of sin. He looked at his crops that represented hours of care and labor and thought they were an acceptable offering. This was because he failed to see they were grown in fallen dirt. As good as those vegetables may have been, at their core, they bore marks of the fall. The same is true with all works. My very best efforts are always tainted with sin.
From the beginning, God established a way for sinful man to have relationship with Him, and from the beginning, men have been trying to come their own way. The way to God is paved for us by the cross; entrance is as simple as trusting that Jesus died in our place. Isn’t it time to trust in Christ, instead of clinging to your own goodness as a means to access God?
It has been, and always will be, about His amazing grace