Have you ever wondered why Cain’s sacrifice of the fruit of the ground in Genesis 4 was unacceptable to God, and Abel’s sacrifice of the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions was? “I mean, wow, God, since Cain was a tiller of the ground (Gen. 4.2), why did you reject his hard work at producing a good crop from the ground and only accept Abel’s”? “That seems totally unfair, Cain wasn’t a keeper of flocks like his brother Abel, but shouldn’t his hard work of watering and tending and careful grooming of the fruit of the ground be enough”? “Why was this not acceptable’?
Well, the answer lies in what happened in Genesis 3 and the Fall of Adam and Eve. What do we see God do after he confronted Adam and Eve with their sin in Genesis 3? Genesis 3:21 tells us that “the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them”.
And how did God get those animal skins? “Poof, there it is”? No, the logical inference is that God killed the animal or animals and clothed Adam and Eve with their skins. You see, we have to remember what was going on here. Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which God commanded them not to eat. They felt ashamed that they were naked and clothed themselves by sewing fig leaves together. God confronted the man and woman in the Garden. He got confessions from Adam and Eve. The man blamed the woman and the woman blamed the Serpent, both of them unwilling to take responsibility for what they have done. God curses the Serpent above all ‘other’ beasts and between his seed and the woman’s seed, the woman in childbearing, and the ground that the man would have to toil and work in by the sweat of his brow to produce the plants and bread he would eat.
But God doesn’t leave them there in that sinful state, does He? He provides the way of atonement; a proper way back. That way of atonement required a sacrifice: the death of an animal. The animal’s death was a substitute for their penalty of sin. It was a stark reminder to Adam and Eve of the dire consequences of their disobedience. God Himself sets up the pattern for an acceptable sacrifice, for what is required to satisfy His holy justice. It required the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). You can see this pattern repeated time and time again throughout the Old Testament. The sacrifice of animals as a guilt offering (Lev. 5 & 6), the sprinkling and pouring out of the blood on the horns and base of the altar in the tent of meeting (Lev. 3 & 4), the bull, the sheep, the goats, the turtledoves and pidgeons (Lev. 1), were all required for the remission of sin. A sacrificial victim is slain, their penalty is paid, and they are covered by the blood of the substitute.
And when we come to the New Testament, Christ Himself, fulfilled this law of atonement by shedding His own blood, sacrificing Himself, and offering His own body on the Cross as the substitute.
So, how does this relate to Cain and Abel? In this mis hijas; God showed Adam and Eve the proper way to approach Him now that sin was in the world. Fig leaves as coverings weren’t enough and was not the proper way. It required a sacrifice; the death of an animal and the shedding of blood. Adam and Eve passed this knowledge on to their sons. Abel followed the proper way of an acceptable sacrifice, Cain did not. Cain knew what was acceptable to God, but chose to think his way of the fruit of the ground would be “good enough”. Notice God’s communication with Cain in Genesis 4: 4-7, especially verse 7, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up”? ‘Doing well’ meant the proper and acceptable way of sacrifice; an animal sacrifice and the shedding of blood.
The lesson for Cain was that he couldn’t approach God through whatever he himself thought was worthy. There was only one proper way to do this and it wasn’t through an offering of the fruit of the ground. It required an animal sacrifice and the shedding of blood. The lesson for us living after the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is the same. Christ paid the price, He is our substitute, and we only approach God through Him.
Dear ol’ Dad
Vaya con Dios mis hijas