The Excellent Gift

Cain and Abel were brothers. They were the first brothers in the first family that God created. Adam and Even were their parents. Cain was a farmer, and Abel was a shepherd. Competition may have been fierce between them. Brothers will be brothers. As many will say. Or perhaps. Their personalities and demeanor were completely opposite. Nevertheless, things didn’t end well in their relationship.

They both presented gifts to God according to the custom of the times. Cain presented some of his crops. Abel offered the best portion of his firstborn lambs. God accepted Abel’s offering, but he rejected Cain’s. Scripture isn’t clear why Abel’s offering pleased God, but Cain’s didn’t. Many speculate on the reasons. But we can’t read into Scripture what isn’t there. And I’m no biblical expert or theologian. What I know is that Abel’s gift pleased God.

But that pleasing gift cost Abel, because Cain was angry that God didn’t accept his offering. So he took matters into his own hands. He killed Abel in a moment of rage. Was it jealousy? Did the brothers always provoke each other? Did Cain have an evil intent and Abel’s was pure?

Abel’s faith cost him his life. He gave his best offering to God. He wasn’t competing with his brother. He was offering the best of his livestock. His heart was pure. His motives were pure. He didn’t hesitate to give the best to God.  And God saw that and was pleased.

What we see in the story is that Abel offered the best of his livestock. Cain, on the other hand, offered some of his harvest. Perhaps he didn’t offer his best to God. Perhaps he offered second best. The leftovers, as an afterthought? Or perhaps an act of defiance. We don’t know what we don’t know.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord . Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Genesis 4:2-8

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Hebrews 11:3

Cain and Abel had been taught to love and obey God from an early age. Because oh. Their parents, Adam and Eve, had learned a very hard lesson on obeying and respecting God’s commands. Oh how the disobedient fall.

God respected Abel’s offering of faith. Perhaps God had given specific instructions on the types of offerings he would accept. Perhaps Abel obeyed completely and without hesitation. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. He sees the intent of our hearts when we give.

When we give our best in service to God, not everyone will be pleased. Some will be jealous. Some will ridicule. Others will try to discredit us. And others may want to harm us. We must still be faithful and serve God wholeheartedly, without fear of the actions of others. God is on our side.

I think of Stephen. He was defending his faith in front of the council. The crowd was angered by his testimony and charged at him. They rushed him out of the city and stoned him to death. And in those unbearable moments as stones were beating down on his body, Stephen asked God to forgive them. Stephen held no contempt for his killers. Stephen lived his faith in front of those who hated him. His faith stood strong to the end. Just as Abel’s.

There will be times in our lives, as we’re living in obedience to Christ, that our faith will be tested. There will be those who pursue us with the intent to destroy our witness. Perhaps there is the intent to destroy our lives. Our faith must stand strong in the midst of evil. We must remain steadfast in our faith, knowing that faith is the reality of what we hope for, the evidence of what we can’t see.

We know that living a holy life is an act of choice. Abel obeyed God’s commands. He chose to live under God’s authority. So must we. Regardless of the cost. Abel’s faith pleased God. Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves if our faith is pleasing to God.

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