Worship, faith and offering

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Genesis 3 describes the fall of humanity into sin.  Judgement comes, God had warned that death would be the consequence but at the same time, God has not done with his creation or with humanity.  The story continues and we will continue to see both God’s grace at work and evidence of the deepening depravity of fallen humanity.

Read Genesis 4:1-4

Adam and Eve have their first child. They name him Cain. In fact, Eve is responsible for naming him.  His name sounds very similar to the Hebrew word for “acquired, gained, purchased, recovered, redeemed.”  So here in the naming of their firstborn is further evidence of hope and a hint at faith.  Eve recognises that the child is a gift from God (v1). They have a second child, Abel, the name sounding similar to the word we find in Ecclesiastes meaning “breath” or “vapour.”  This could point to the brevity and fragility of Abel’s life and the lack of further explanation about his name could suggest that he was in effect an after thought with all the focus on the eldest. However, we may also recognise here a reminder that all life is dependent upon the breath of God (v2). They grow up to take on different roles, Cain as a farmer and Abel as a shepherd.

Cain and Abel bring offerings to God.  Here is the first meaningful description of worship in Scripture.  They have grown up learning that all they have comes from God. Their work is done in dependence upon him.  They bring offerings associated with their work. There are two distinctions though. First, it is made clear that Abel chooses the best portions of meat for his sacrifice whilst there is no suggestion that Cain offers the first fruits. Secondly, and perhaps in part because of this, God favours Abel’s offering.

The better offering

What was it that distinguished Abel’s offering from Cain?  Well, as suggested above, it is perhaps at least in part due to the better nature of it.  Abel chooses the choicest meats from the firstborn of his flock.  We may also be beginning to see that God is putting in place a pattern of sacrifice and worship. God himself had provided the first sacrifice when providing clothing to cover Adam and Eve’s shame and perhaps we are already seeing hints that worship and access to God is dependent on a redeeming death.

Hebrews 11:4 says

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.”

This is the crucial point. God saw faith in Abel’s offering that was not present in Cain’s.  Abel’s faith might be seen in his obedience to God’s pattern, especially if the sacrifice here was intended as an atonement offering.  It is also seen in his decision to bring the first and the best. This is a statement that he trusts God to keep providing good things for him.

This means too that for us, the priority question is whether our own worship, whether that is in our private devotions, corporately as part of the church family, our giving or our worship through work, family life and other activities gives evidence that we are living by faith.

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