“Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be self-controlled, set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13).
Abel is the first person mentioned in the faith hall of fame. There have been many interpretations of why God saw Abel’s sacrifice as more pleasing than his elder brother’s offering of the first fruits of the soil. Abel, scripture tells us, kept flocks; so his offering of meat, presumably the choice lamb, would be more in line with what God did to cover his mother’s and father’s rebellion against God’s instruction to them. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). This concept of sacrifice for forgiveness of sins stayed with the Israelites; and, finally, for the last time with the crucifixion of Christ on the cross.
John the Baptist proclaimed, “Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And as Peter, empowered by the Holy Spirit, said, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
How, you may ask, would he get this information? I know I am taking some liberties here, but it really does not seem that much of a stretch to me. Imagine, if you will, Cain and Abel sitting around a fire with their parents, listening to them talk of how great the Creator’s love was for them. Recall, if you will, their walks with God in the cool of the evening underneath the newly formed canopy of stars and planets. They recalled, as they had tried to hide from God after their transgression, how out of unconditional love God had killed an animal and made clothing for them so that they would not be ashamed of their nakedness. Both children listened to the same tale. With Abel, it resonated. God, their Creator, gave a blood sacrifice; and when it became time for them to respond, Abel returned the favor, while Cain either was distracted or did not have the same reverence for his Creator.
The same story still plays out today. If you have children of your own, you know this to be true. You are also aware that both children love you and you them. But for some reason, faith/trust/hope is greater in one than the other. So it was with Cain and Abel.
Scripture tells us that “it is better to obey than ask for forgiveness” (1 Samuel 15:22). Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
After God favored Abel’s sacrifice and obedience, Cain, his older brother, got very angry–sound familiar?–so much so that he murdered Abel. Even after this most egregious act had been committed, God’s love shines through, even though he sent Cain from the land to be a wanderer. God would have no harm come to Cain, so He put a mark on him so that he would not be touched. Cain actually found a wife and had a family of his own.
(His son, Enoch, is actually the second person mentioned in the faith hall of fame. Not so much is written about Enoch, but what we do know is, by faith, Enoch was taken from life to walk with God. Can you imagine Abel and Enoch sitting around their campfire, looking up at the heavens, Abel retelling the story of how their Creator had taken care of him and God’s great love for His creations. Even after Cain had committed the first murder, he was still shown love. So Enoch had come to know a loving God. Not only that, Enoch had faith and hope that God would always do what He had promised. Enoch’s faith had pleased God, and he had learned from his father’s transgression.)
It is only through honest dialog can families heal the wounds that generations have incurred.
Can you say the same about your family today, or are there still skeletons in your family’s closet that need to be addressed?