I'm reading through the New Testament again this year but the reading plan I selected adds chapters from the Old Testament that correspond to the NT reading at times. Today, was one of those times. In fact (love the way God works) the OT reading for today was Genesis 4, it's the story of Cain and Abel. You remember. The first murder in the history of the world. Cain, killed his brother Abel because God approved of Abel's offering but was not so happy with Cain's.
Let me start out with what we don't know.
- We don't know who told them to make offerings to God.
- We don't know what the rules for those offerings were.
- We don't know if they made their offerings at the same time or in the same place or at different times/places.
- We don't know how Cain knew that God did not find favor with his offering.
- We don't know how God "took" their offering. But, typically (like, every time God consumed the offering like the bull on Mt. Carmel after Elijah had prepared it and the offering that Gideon prepared. by Fire. But we don't know how it happened in this case.
Genesis 4 simply jumps right into the narrative of Cain and Abel with very little background and very little to go on.
Cain was a farmer. He grew things. How he knew how to do all this could be added to the list of things we don't know. He took some of what he grew and he offered it to God.
Abel was a rancher. He tended animals. He took some of what he had raised (Gen calls it the "fat portions from some of the first born of his flock) and offered it to God.
God is the creator. He made everything. He apparently told the boys, directly or through their parents, what He would accept as an offering and what He wouldn't. But how this happened or what the rules were we don't know. We could speculate based on the law given by God to Moses in the desert. We could speculate that since God never changes the rules would be similar to but we just don't know for sure. But the narrative says that Cain brought "some" of the "fruits of the soil" as an offering but that Abel brought "fat portions of some of the first born of his flock." Here are my GUESSES:
- Cain brought left overs to God - some of the fruit but maybe not the best or from the first harvest.
- Abel brought the first and best he had as an offering to God - he held nothing back for himself.
- When God gave the law He required the best animal from the firstborn of the flocks and herds and an offering from the first of the harvest. So it stands to reason that God was not happy with Cain because he either brought the wrong sacrifice or an inferior quality. And since God is a loving and just God He would not have had the boys guess at their sacrifice, He would have told them plainly what was expected. Given that, Abel obeyed the rules and Cain didn't.
I'm assuming that God told Adam and Eve about the offerings He desired, though there is no indication in Scripture that Adam and Eve ever made an offering to God. But if you had lived in paradise and perfection for who-knows-how-long and then broke the rules and got kicked out wouldn't you want to try and make it up to God? Anyway, Cain and Abel surely knew what was expected of them.
But here's what caught my attention this morning. Cain held something back. He kept something for himself. Perhaps he thought that God did't need the best he had harvested or that it was just as good to give God an offering from the last of the harvest instead of the first. Which means, He kept something back. He didn't give God the whole offering or the best offering. He withheld something from God. There are some pretty extreme cases of people withholding things from God - none of them turned out well, just ask Ananias and Saphira (they were killed immediately for withholding information and sacrifice from God).
But Abel gave the best and the first and his offering was accepted.
Is there something you are keeping back from God? Something He's asked you to give but you're holding on to? He's asked you to give Him your past - are you holding on to it? Keeping it for future reference? He wants to redeem your past and restore the future He has for you but if you hold on to it, keep it so you don't forget who you "are" then you're withholding what belongs to God. Maybe you're holding on to your family and haven't been able to give them to God, you know, cause you know better than God how they should be raised or disciplined or what they should do with their lives. Are you keeping back financially and not giving to God like Abel did, from the first and best of what you have been given? Are you keeping your time so you can decide what to do with it? Or are you serving and using your time for an eternal purpose.
We'll look at how Cain and Abel resolved their difference another time, but for today, what are you keeping from God? He won't use what you don't give Him - don't be a Cain, give from the first and the best that you have and see how God wants to favor you.