After Adam and Eve had been driven from the garden of Eden, they began to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” as God had commanded (Gen. 1:28).
First Cain and then Abel were born to this first husband and wife. Adam and Eve had been miraculously created by God, but beginning with Cain all have come into this life by the same means. The account of the offerings Cain and Able offered to God are preceded by the words, “And in the process of time…” (Gen. 4:3). There is no scriptural indicators of just how old Cain and Abel were when the events recorded came to pass.
Since both Cain and Abel were removed from the linage of Adam, the son listed is Seth. The scripture states, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth. Seth may well have already been born when the events concerning Cain and Abel took place. This does not help us narrow down their age much, but it does indicate they were grown men, not children.
The event we wish to consider is found in the words, “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” (Gen.4:3-5).
With no more information that this, we already know of a surety that there is worship to God that is not pleasing in His sight. This truth should cause us to desire to know just what kind of worship God does accept and what kind He does not accept. There is a statement made by Jesus that can always be used in determining worship that is pleasing to God from that which is not.
In His message to the woman of Samaria, Jesus stated, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Since God’s word is truth (John 17:17), we can know that the “in truth” part of this requirement is that it must be in the manner that God instructed. The “in spirit” part of the command has reference to the sincerity of heart involved. It has often been said that one can go through all the right actions of worship without really worshipping God, for they can do so without it being from the heart. In like manner, one can worship God with all sincerity of heart and yet still not be pleasing to God because the actions being performed are not in harmony with God’s word.
It may be noticed that Cain was a tiller of the ground and brought that which was convenient, the fruit of the ground. It would also have been convenient for Abel to bring the firstlings of his flock, for he was a keeper of sheep. The only lesson we can see for certain here is that it does not really matter if it is convenient or not convenient when it comes to how we worship God. If it is in spirit and in truth, convenience is not a factor at all.
Many years later, the writer of the book of Hebrews used Abel as the first in a list of people, sometimes called “faiths hall of fame”. He stated, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous…” (Heb. 11:4). Some have latched on to the words, “by faith” and concluded that the problem that Cain had was a lack of faith in God. However, we have further information concerning his offering.
In the Hebrew passage, the writer states that by the offering Abel made he obtained witness that he was righteous. The psalmist tells us that God’s commandments are righteousness (Psalm 119:172) and the apostle John tells us that doing righteousness makes us righteous (I John 3:7).
Abel kept God’s commands concerning the offering he offered. On the other hand, back in Genesis four, when Cain was wroth because God did not accept his offering, God told him, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen. 4:7). John wrote, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). Thus we know that Cain did not do what the Lord had commanded him. Before the giving of the law of Moses to the Jews, God spoke to the heads of the houses and they in turn instructed their families. This is commonly called the Patriarchal age.
There is not a lot of what God commanded under that system that is recorded for us, but we are able to glean a few of the required laws of God that they were given. Obviously, they were commanded to offer an animal sacrifice rather than a vegetable sacrifice. Later we do learn that the offering of blood was of necessity (Heb. 9:22) and such was shown to be the ultimate necessity in the offering of the blood of the Lamb of God (I Pet. 1:18-19).
One might also note the example of the worship offered by Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2) and see that there is indeed worship to God that is unacceptable in His sight. When it comes to our worship, let us make sure we can find it authorized in the New Testament. (Send any questions or comments to: email@example.com)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.