By Faith Abel: A Righteous Sacrifice
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks”
Hebrews 11 is widely known as the “hall of faith”. The author of Hebrews is explaining what faith is to a Jewish audience, for the purpose of convincing them that Jesus was the fulfillment and purpose of the righteousness of their faith heroes such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, etc. The author starts naming these heroes in chronological order, and he starts with Abel.
This absolutely threw me. In case you are unfamiliar with the story of Cain and Abel (which I was) it is a story mostly about the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, and commonly used as a lesson against anger and the dangers of the power of sin. In fact, Abel never even speaks in the story. He has about 2 verses that are about him, and his name is mentioned only a handful of times in the Old Testament, and about three times in the New.
The story, found in Genesis 4, is that Cain and Abel both brought an offering to the Lord. It says that Cain “brought an offering of the fruit of the ground” and Abel “brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions”, and God “had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard”. Basically, Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s wasn’t.
What made the difference? It seems to me that the only difference between the two is that Abel offered “the firstfruits” of his offering. That was done by faith, and counted to him as righteousness.
What we see is that it was really the heart posture that made all the difference. Just one verse before this one, the author of Hebrews explains that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. Abel offered up to the Lord what cost him something, having the faith that the God he could not see would accept an offering of his best.
It is a righteous thing to offer up what is valuable to the Lord. It is an act of faith to place the things we love into His hands; it means that He can do with it what He wills it means we’re taking our hands off, and it means that we have to learn how to love the Giver of the gift more than the gift itself. He promises to honor what we offer up to the Him when we do it in the faith that the God we cannot see has promised to accept it.
Isn’t it a beautiful priviledge to be invited to offer something to the Lord who already has it? That He would accept something from us, knowing that He needs nothing from us. That we would have the opportunity to express our affections for Him, and see Him do something with the life that He has redeemed. King David expresses these sentiments in 2 Samuel 24:24: “I will not offer up to the Lord that which costs me nothing”
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