In last week’s lesson on faith, looking at Hebrews 11:6, we discovered that if we want to please our Lord and Creator, we must first have FAITH in Him. We must first BELIEVE that He exists, we must BELIEVE in His gifts for us, and we must make use of those gifts, for without faith, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please Him.
Up until this point, we have looked at the definition of faith (lessons 1-4), and we have learned why having faith is important (see lesson 5). The majority of the rest of Hebrews 11 focuses on Biblical examples of how these basic principles we’ve been studying have been played out in the lives of our ancestors. A careful look at each of these people will give us all-important information about faith and how to develop it. Let’s go to Heb. 11:5, to the first example, Abel:
“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain [did]. By this he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through this.” (Hebrews 11:4 HCSB)
It was the scene that led up to the first murder: Cain and his brother Abel are sacrificing to the Lord. The Lord accepts little brother’s offering of a lamb, but rejects big brother’s offering of fruits and vegetables of the fields. Cain isn’t happy. You can almost hear him: “You just made a big mistake, God! How can you accept HIS offering over MINE? Am I not the first-born???”
The longer Cain contemplates this “injustice”, the angrier he becomes, until he is finally driven to take matters into his hands: He slaughters his own brother.
That’s the background. Now let’s look closely at a few details: Both boys offer sacrifices, but one is accepted while the other rejected. Why? Because Abel’s sacrifice was “better” then Cain’s. But just what was it about a lamb that made it a better sacrifice than the fruit of Cain’s labor? Doesn’t “sacrifice” mean something that we give of ourselves?
We don’t know too many details of the story, and this is the first time that the word “sacrifice” or “offering” is mentioned in the Bible. However, once the Mosaic law was given, it becomes clear that making a “sacrifice” to God often meant an animal, and if a lamb, then it represented Christ. We aren’t told if Abel and Cain knew about the lamb sacrifice, but if they did, then when Abel offered his lamb, he was humbly accepting Jesus’ gift on the cross. His offering was a token of his belief in a promise. Cain’s sacrifice, on the other hand, was given out of pride. In essence he was saying, “My own works can save me!”
We don’t sacrifice animals anymore, as this was simply a foreshadow of Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary, but God still requires sacrifices. He requires our time, our money, our love. In fact, it is as important now as in Able’s day. But we must not give out of duty or pride. We must not give because we wish to “earn” something from the Lord. Even worse, we must not give because we are trying to assure ourselves a place in Heaven, because we believe that somehow doing ANYTHING will help us to get there!
Who are you like, friend? Are you like Cain, giving of the works of your hands out of pride, believing that something you can DO will earn your redemption? Or are you like Abel? Do you humbly give your offerings to the Lord as a token of your faith in the blood of Jesus? As a token of your belief in the promise?
Enough to ponder, friends. But do ponder this: God requires a humble heart, He asks that we give out of love, and most importantly, He asks that our offerings be given in FAITH-faith in the promise of redemption through Jesus’ blood!
Join us next week for Faith, Lesson 7, where we will look at the lessons in faith that come to us through Enoch.
God bless you!
(To access tne entire “Faith” mini-series, please click here.)