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Sunday, December 4, 2016

December 4: Abel's Offering & Jesus' Coming

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. - Genesis 4:3-5, ESV

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. - Hebrews 11:4, ESV

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. - Hebrews 12:22-24, ESV

Why Was Abel's Offering Better than Cain's
& What Does that Have to do with Christmas?

So far in our Advent devotions, we've seen that Jesus is the Word that framed the world in Genesis 1, that He is the tree of life in Genesis 2 and that He is the seed of the woman in Genesis 3. So on Day 4, why not look at Genesis 4? This is the first chapter after the fall and the curse in Genesis 3, and we see some other firsts in this chapter: the first offerings made to God, the first case of sibling rivalry in human history and, most tragically, the first murder.

One of the questions that emerges in the opening verses is simple: Why did God accept Abel's offering and not Cain's? We're not told explicitly why in Genesis 4, but God seems to expect that Cain would know why his offering was not acceptable. So, what's the difference between their offerings? Well, Abel offered a bloody sacrifice of the firstborn of his flock. Thus, Abel's offering was more costly and more deadly. Hebrews 11 tells us it was offered in faith, and killing your firstborn animal of your flock certainly is an act of faith. By contrast, Cain only brought God some of the fruit of the ground from his harvest. It wasn't the first and the best and it didn't require the shedding of blood.

God had already shown Adam and Eve that covering their shame would require the shedding of blood. Genesis 4 has the first offerings made to God but not the first deaths in the world. Genesis 3:21 says, "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them." Thus, God made the first sacrifice to cover His people after they sinned. Cain was essentially trying to take a short-cut, and in doing so was making light of his sin and of God's holiness. 

Abel's sacrifice was also better than Cain's because Abel's sacrifice was a better picture of the true and ultimate sacrifice. Jesus is God's firstborn, His one and only Son. Thus, when Abel offered the firstborn from his flock, he was offering his one and only, precious in his sight. Abel also demonstrated that atonement requires bloodshed. The cost for sin is death, which is what God had warned Adam: " . . . in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) 

Our sin is truly vile and it makes us vile in the eyes of a holy, holy, holy God. Sin is not a light and trivial thing to be paid for cheaply and conveniently. Ultimately, the price for our sin could be nothing less than the very life of the sinless Son of God. That's what Advent reminds us of: God's people longed for final and full forgiveness, and such redemption came in a most costly form, the priceless Prince of Peace, who came to ransom us by shedding His blood in our place. This is why Abel's offering was so much better than Cain's, because by faith Abel saw better than Cain what sin would require for real forgiveness. 

Heavenly Father, when You made the garments of skin for Adam and Eve, You knew that covering our sin was going to cost You Your own Son. Your people longed for full forgiveness for centuries before You finally sent Your Son into the world to purchase our pardon for us. What a precious and priceless gift! What marvelous and matchless love! Thank You for Jesus. Amen.

Abel's sacrifice points us to the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God:

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