I am about to lead in a Bible Study. I just recall writing this note in my office a few years ago. Hope this blesses you.
Abel was the 2nd son to Adam and Eve. A careful reading of the Bible clearly points out to you that he was not the favoured son. Cain was. God had promised after the fall of Adam and Eve, a man born from a woman who brings them redemption:
Genesis 4: 15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [a] and hers; he will crush [b] your head, and you will strike his heel.”
God had said that a man from Eve would bring forth the destruction of the seed of the Serpent the Devil. Adam and Eve believed that such a man would bring forth their salvation. Hence Adam believed the promise and placed his faith on such a “Man”. Adam’s reflection of his faith is clearly shown in Genesis 4:20 when he called Eve because she would become the mother of all the living.
ADAM THOUGHT CAIN WOULD BE THE BEARER OF SALVATION.
Adam laid with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man. Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. The NIV doesn’t really do justice here. However if you would note, Cain was not only just a man, BUT a man who was acquired from THE MAN Adam. Cain was Adam’s pride and joy. You may observe this from its (the NIV’s) footnote. Adam was no longer just a man but He became the Man. In other words the Holy Spirit was careful to distinguish that Cain was from Adam’s flesh and not God’s.
Without a doubt you cannot but be impressed by the Holy Spirit that Adam and Eve actually thought Cain would the man that would lead them to salvation! In Hebrew “man” the word is translated as “isyh” meaning Champion. The Hebrew spelling speaks of a Aliph (“1st or finest”), a Yud (“Open hand”) and a Shin (“Righteousness”) which clearly points out that he is the first person (or the finest person) receiving righteousness. The intention for God in a man in this that even if he is the finest he must open his hand to recieve righteousness to be right in the eyes of God. We know this point to Jesus and only a man who receive Him as a gift with open hands is righteousness.
Hence Adam and Eve thought Cain would be their Messiah. Abel on the other hand Abel or Hebel means “a breath”. This clearly points to the fact that Abel was clearly insignificant to their parents’ eyes. Abel lived in the shadow of his brother’s shadow. To Adam and Eve, Cain could do no wrong. He was their Champion. He was their “acquired” one.
Abel on the other hand had been label a “mistake”. A “breath” of air. Here today gone tomorrow. In fact Hebel is spelled with a Hei, Beth and Lamet. Hei points us to grace, Beth speaks of the heart or house and Lamet speaks of Learning. While Cain was busy making himself proud by the accomplishments of his hands by toiling the ground, Abel spent his days with the flock learning to live his life learning that only by grace can he survive in his world of prejudice. He learned to keep grace in his heart. Hence, Hebel.
As a quiet and humble man Abel found that God smiled at him with favour not because of his demeanor or merits for it was the very last thing that would help him survive. This is because he was nobody in the world of 4 persons. He was a worthless man in his parent’s and brother’s eye. However the same could not be said of his gift to the Lord. He offered a lamb. The same offering God gave to Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness and shame. Abel offered what God offered to Adam and Eve.
SINCE GOD WAS THE ONE WHO DRESSED ADAM AND EVE, IT WAS NOT ABEL’S PARENTS THAT TAUGHT HIM GRACE.
You would note that God had to dress Adam and Eve. God did not only provide the clothing. He had to dress Adam and Eve. Prior to this, Adam and Eve had desired to earn their knowledge of good and evil hence out of their disobedience became self righteous and that condemned them. They found themselves naked before the Lord. The Lord hence replaced their nakedness by shedding a blood of an animal to cover their nakedness. However, Adam and Eve in their state of self-righteousness will never on their iniative put on what the Lord provides. Hence God had to dress them. Adam and his wife would never put those clothes themselves. They would have preferred the fig leaves.
Such is the arrogance of man. They desire before a loving God not His grace but His favour based on what they can do for Him. I am not a father yet but I would pray that my love for my son has to do with my relationship with him and not what he does for me. Yet every child seeks his father’s approval not knowing the father’s approval is readily there even if he does not show it. This so true in terms of the Chinese families. I had always taught my father never to approve of me but only to learn recently that I was the apple of his eye.
As such for Abel to learn to offer what God had offered his parents must have been an inspiration that was led by a revelation that pierce the stubbornness of the human soul of self righteousness. Abel must have learned in his heart the grace of the living God by offering a lamb. In other words, Abel was given revelation from God that only what God gives to man is the only thing that God is pleased with and will accept as sacrifice.
ABEL’S GIFT IS THE KEY
Abel’s gift was his turnaround. Upon seeing his offering God declared to his parents and creation that Abel was the favoured one of God. His was the offering that pleased God. His was the better choice. By giving to God a better offering Abel became THE MAN whom the promised Messiah would come. By that gift Abel became the symbol and prototype of how this world, his parents and his future brothers would be saved. By that gift Abel became the key to the world’s redemption. By that gift the worthless man became the MAN God would use and bring the key of salvation to a worth frustrated by the desire of man to please his God. Abel’s offering tells us that it is the favour of God that makes men pleasing to Him. Abel’s offering became the symbol and the approved way of worship. He offered what God gave to us in grace.
Even in death Abel’s worship continues as his blood continues to cry in worship. He became to model of a life that lives on even after his death. He became for us the first of those who is alive but yet merely “asleep”. Abel is very much alive!
What made the difference? What caused the change? From a worthless man Abel became the mode to please God? From a man considered just a “breath”, he became in God’s eyes the true MAN who carried the worship which was full of truth and of the “BREATH of God” the Spirit?
The answer is the gift. He gave what God gave to man. Dear friends the only thing God gave to us which is completely pleasing to Him is His Son, Jesus. This is my Son whom I am well pleased, God said it at his baptism and at his transfiguration. Nothing else suffices.
Cain on the other hand relied on his reputation, his social status and his toil and brought to God man’s best. He failed and became jealous. His methodology of killing his brother became the picture of every form of evil today. Human righteousness over the grace of God. Paul says in Galatians the flesh will always persecute the Spirit. Ishmael persecuted Isaac. The Pharisees persecuted Jesus. The Religious and Self Righteous persecuted Paul. The preachers of Pleasing God by Serving God persecute the preachers of a God who is already pleased with us.
PAUL TOO FOUND THE SECRET AND TRANSFORMED FROM THE WORKS OF CAIN TO THE FAITH OF CHRIST.
Yet it is always the gift and never the work. It is for this reason Paul crucifies his achievements and considers them rubbish in the light of a righteousness that is apart from the Law. Paul’s repentance from the faith of Cain to the faith of Abel is condensed in these words “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Philippians 3:3-6. NIV)
Paul then embraces the all for nothing grace of God by embracing a righteousness which is independent of a need to please God but a gift which makes him pleasing to God “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:8-9. NIV)
He calls this the gift which is independent of human effort and from the law: But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Romans 3: 21-22).
BY ABEL’S DEATH ABEL SHOWED US THE NEW COVENANT IS BETTER THAN THE OLD.
Dear friend, the difference maker is this: It is the gift that makes you righteous. It is not what you can give to God. We can offer nothing save Jesus. God accepts nothing less. By his death Abel showed us that the better covenant is grace and not human effort which is law based.
Many of us claim that God only wants faithful servants. Paul has this to say in Galatians, “So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Paul points out those who chose to please God under the principles of the Law are slaves. Only those who come under the grace of God are Sons.
NOT EVERY CHRISTIAN KNOWS HE IS A SON
A fundamental understanding in needed here. Paul is not saying every Christian is experiencing what it is to be a son. The context of Galatians is important. This letter was written as a rebuke to the Galatians Christians. The context of the rebuke is found in these words “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” Galatians 3: 1-2. The Church was going back to law after being set free from grace. Paul is not just talking about the rituals but even the 10 commandments as he points out in Romans 8. Covetousness is the 10th commandment. This is echoed in Galatians 5:3 “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.” Law is basically human being tolling to please God. It is the religion of Cain.
Hence if you chose to please God (even if you a Christian) by human effort, you are still have the mentality of a slave.
The great Oswald Chambers once wrote “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him. It is easier to serve than to be drunk to the dregs. The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him. We are not sent to battle for God, but to be used by God in His battlings.” In short Chambers is saying the most dangerous idol in your life is thinking you can serve Him who is not served by human hands.
Galatians 4 tells us the Law makes us slaves but grace makes us Sons. A slave serves under coercion. He serves as a prisoner to his calling. A son does not need to serve but he may choose to serve. Hence the issue of faithfulness does not apply to a slave. A slave has to serve. A son other hand has a choice. Hence in order for some one to even have a chance to qualify winning the prize of a commendation of a faithful servant, he must first be free to serve. A son is such a person.
Jesus made us sons in His image. He served His Father and us. He served by choice and in love. We too as sons are the true servants. We serve because Jesus compels us to serve by choice and in love. Because He serves His Father perfectly when we are able to serve perfectly as sons of His glory. Grace makes sons who love and serve our Father. We serve because we are free to serve not because we have to serve.
Jesus called Abel righteous despite all he did was to express his faith by offering what God offered Adam and Eve: “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias” (Matthew 23:35; also Luke 11:50-51).
Since Abel was our prototype and the symbol of things to come, we must understand the faith of Abel. He gave to God what God deems perfect. Only Jesus is perfect.
The blood of Abel cries out for vengeance along with “the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6), the blood of Christ Himself, as our text assures us, speaks of better things than those called forth by Abel’s blood.
A BETTER ABEL
There was an old covenant, demanding blood for blood, with the atoning blood of animals substituting for that of sinners. “And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant” (Exodus 24:8). But Jesus “is the mediator of the new testament . . . for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament” (Hebrews 9:15), and with His blood, we have “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience . . . to serve the living God” (Hebrews 10:22; 9:14). Jesus too redeem the race of Cain whose conscience condemned him into murdering his brother. In that sense Abel still lives while Cain remains dead.
My friends, Abel maybe the first man who entered heaven. I would say “he still is” since his still alive. He entered by offering a righteousness that came as a gift from God. We too can enter heaven thru this righteousness which is apart from the Law and human works and effort. This righteousness is a man. He is THE MAN, the mediator between man and God, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS! Come to Jesus and offer Him not your service and let Him serve your heavenly Father thru you.
By the grace of God and for His glory.