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Sacrifice By Faith

Hebrews 11:4
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. (NIVUK)

The repeated use of 'by faith' introduces a series of people who trusted God. The first is Abel, taking us back to Genesis 4:1-12. The second son of Adam and Eve, Abel grew up with his older brother Cain. The two men were farmers: Cain grew crops and Abel looked after flocks of animals. We do not know what prompted them to make the offering to the Lord; their parents, or the Lord Himself – because faith in God (and this is what this chapter is all about) is always a response to God's Word revealed.

Cain brought some of the crops he had grown, whereas Abel brought 'fat portions of some of the firstborn of his flock'. They both brought what they had, although it is clear that Abel brought the very best and slaughtered some of his breeding stock to thank the Lord for His goodness in multiplying the flock. Genesis 4:4-5 says that the Lord was pleased with Abel's offering but not Cain's. The older brother was furious but the Lord graciously gave him the opportunity to buy a sheep or goat from Abel and sacrifice it.

Instead, Cain's anger boiled over. He refused to respond in faith to the Lord's call, 'If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.' (Genesis 4:7). His pride would not let him accept that his younger brother was in the right with God. Cain's faithlessness despised what God said, and his anger boiled over into the hatred of cold, calculated murder. It was a living parable contrasting faith and folly. Abel knew what would please the Lord, and so He sacrificed the very best he had because of his faith. On the other hand, Cain was willing to go along with a ritual but had no relationship with God. His arrogance assumed that God would accept what he chose to give, and when he was corrected he showed the foolishness which flows from faithlessness.

When we know what pleases God, faith does it. When we do not know, but God then tells us, faith obeys. When we get it wrong and the Lord corrects us, faith accepts the rebuke and humbly repents – then does what is right. Cain's response of arrogance and pride brought condemnation. He was excluded from God's family for ever (Genesis 4:10-12). Abel's story spoke to the Hebrews who read the letter, and still speaks to us. We are all like one of those two men. Either we love the Lord and respond in faith to His Word, or we despise the Lord (even though we may participate in religious rituals) and earn His eternal exclusion order. So, if you know what is right: do it. If you have been rebuked: accept it and repent. If you are not sure, humbly ask the Lord to show you and then obey. Any other response brings misery in this life and eternal exclusion from God in the next.

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your Word which shows me what pleases You. Forgive me for the times of arrogant pride when I have despised Your Word. I repent and ask You to forgive me, and to show me how I may best please You from now on. Help me to learn to live in faith. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams