As the credits start to role for those in the hall of faith the first name on the list is that of Abel. Immediately we are transported back to the start of human history and to a rather unusual incident involving him and his brother Cain.
Cain, a man of the soil, brought a fruit offering to the Lord only to have it rejected; while his younger brother Abel brought an animal sacrifice from his flocks only to have it accepted.
Cain responded angrily to God’s rejection of his offering, and despite being given the opportunity to repent – “If you do what is right will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4 v 7) he refused to change and instead introduced the world to the sin of cold blooded pre-mediated murder as he killed his brother. God’s response was to banish Cain and condemn him to be a restless wanderer for the remainder of his days. The story prompts an obvious question – Why did God prefer Abel’s offering to that of Cain? Here are some suggested answers:-
1 – God has the sovereign right to accept or reject whatever he wants, without us asking any questions.
2 – God preferred an animal sacrifice to that of fruit because it contained life blood.
3 – Abel offered the pick of the flock (firstborn); while Cain offered simply the fruits that were near at hand. One was a costly sacrifice, the other bordering on the worthless.
4 – Abel’s sacrifice was motivated by a pure heart; while Cain’s heart was impure due to his inability to master sin. God looks not only at the gift, but also at the heart of the giver.
5 – The most plausible reason would seem to be that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because according to Jesus he was – “righteous” (Matthew 23 v 35) and that according to the writer of the letter to the Hebrews it was offered – “by faith.” By contrast the Bible tells us that Cain – “belonged to the evil one” (1 John 3 v 12.) He was not a man of faith, neither was he righteous, and that is why his sacrifice was rejected (Proverbs 21 v 27.)
Pause 4 thought – Do you worship God in faith and out of a righteous relationship; or do you simply go through the religious motions?
But Abel’s brutal demise was not the end of his influence – “by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” So how does he continue to speak from the grave after all these years?
He has left a legacy that acceptable worship of God needs to be offered from the perspective of a right relationship to God and in faith – “And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11v 6.)
Pause 4 thought – What legacy will you leave behind?
Such a legacy continues to speak loud and clear, but there is someone whom the Bible connects to Abel whose legacy speaks even louder and is even better – “You have come to Jesus ….. The mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12 v 23 – 34.) Abel’s blood cried for vengeance and justice; while the blood of Jesus shed on the cross speaks from heaven announcing mercy and forgiveness, as well as a relationship with God.
Pause 4 thought – Have you received that “better” mercy and forgiveness?
Theme: “What legacy will you leave?”
Reading: Hebrews 11 v 4 & Genesis 4 v 1 – 8
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Chris Hughes