Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
(Heb 11: 1-4). The writer to the Hebrews reminds the church about our ultimate blessing in Christ and that His finished work is far superior to any other way of attaining justification. Nevertheless, the elders or the saints of old were justified and made righteous because of their faith in the Father God (Heb 11: 2).
The long list begins with Abel. Nothing much is written about this man of God in the Old Testament. However, the Lord God Almighty was very pleased with him and his offering, unlike his brother Cain. 1. OFFERER
Abel’s name is the first to appear in this list of the ’Hall of Faith’ in Hebrews 11. But why Abel?
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him
(Genesis 4: 1-7). Although the writer in Hebrews 11:1, offers a biblical definition of faith as related to what is 'hoped for the and evidence of things not seen' or in another version ’confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’, Adam and Eve should have been the prime examples of faith in God, whether they saw Him or not, but they succumbed to the voice of the serpent in Genesis 3. Abel could see with his spiritual eyes, the supremacy and wonder of the One who created his father and mother. Abel was counted righteous and a man of faith. He knew what confession and short accounts with the creator God meant, unlike Cain or even Adam.
Job's view of this is certainly commendable: If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom: This is what King David learned and professed. This is what the Son of David came to proclaim.
(Job 31:33). Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."
( Mark 1: 14 -15). Cain had an opportunity to confess and be justified by the actions which the Lord God demanded (Genesis 4:6 -7). But his heart was hardened and unrepentant: And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
(Genesis 4:8). Before he died, the offeror Abel, was commended by the one who would receive the offering. God could see the heart of this righteous man. 2. OFFERED TO
We see both Cain and Abel brought their offering to the living and true God (Genesis 4:4). The Lord had respect or regarded Abel and his offering favourably. There are no reasons or details given here, but God could see the purity of this man and we note the second person of the Godhead affirming the righteous heart and offering made by Abel. Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar
(Matthew 23: 34-35). From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation
(Luke 11:51). Abel, is deemed righteous by the Son of God. The message of the gospel has never changed. In the same way our righteousness is of God when we repent and turn to the Lord Jesus. He took our place on the cross and is able to forgive us and also at the same time impute His righteousness on us:
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him
(2 Corinthians 5:21). Abel was the first one to experience the fullness of the gospel and he is commended appropriately.
Details of what should be offered and the significance of this was emphasised to Israel (Leviticus 1-7). Malachi also rebukes the people for their unacceptable offering, which was a reflection of the state of the heart (Malachi 1:7- 8).
However, the poor who brought the offering were also looked after and welcomed: And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the Lord ; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering (Leviticus 5:7). The emphasis in the scripture has been the heart of the one who brought the offering and the willingness to repent with the knowledge that it was only the Living God who could forgive sins and offer restitution. Impurity of the heart and impropriety of actions resulted in death, as in the case of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron who was the father of the Jewish priesthood (Leviticus 10:1, 2). Hebrews 11:4 reminds us that God is well pleased with Abel’s offering and that it continues to be a testimony even though he is dead. Cain, the tiller, gave the ground the first ‘taste’ of human blood! And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand
(Genesis 4: 10-11). The last mention of Abel in the scripture turns our focus and worship to the Lord Jesus: And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:24). Jesus was the final and perfect offering for the world. The Lord God is waiting for our response.
Is there a call to repent and change our course in life as Cain had?
Have we brushed aside the warning which was so clear to Cain?
We have a mediator of a new covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can, while there is time, go to this God of Abel through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ: Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me
”…he being dead yet speaketh”
Lord teach me to be like Abel!