The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering. Genesis 4:4
One word characterized Abel’s life–favor. Other Bible translations use respect, regard, or accept. All the words indicate that Abel and his sacrifice pleased God.
For centuries scholars have debated what made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable and Cain’s unacceptable. The primary question, however, is what made Abel’s life acceptable?
In Matthew 23:35 Jesus described Abel as “righteous.” Hebrews 11:4 explains why Abel stood in a blameless position before God: “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice (Heb. 11:4 ESV). Abel’s heart condition, his faith, pleased God. He always looks at the contents of our hearts before He looks at offering in our hands.
In obedience, Abel also offered a blood sacrifice, a precedent God established when He provided animal skins for Adam and Eve after they sinned (Genesis 3:21). God never changes. Scripture affirms, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22, Leviticus 17:11). In faith, Abel was mindful of what pleased God and honored it.
Both Abel’s heart and his sacrifice foreshadow Jesus Christ. First, Jesus stood in a blameless position before God because He was sinless. Jesus alone could say, “I always do what pleases [God]” (John 8:29). And the Father said, “This is my son . . . with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Second, Jesus’ battered, bleeding body was the sacrifice that permanently satisfied God’s standard of righteousness. By faith, we stand righteous before God because Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice on our behalf (Hebrews 10:10).
What sacrifice, then, does God want us to bring? Consider the words of Elisha Hoffman’s classic hymn:
Would you walk with the Lord,
In the light of His Word,
And have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will,
To be free from all ill,
On the altar your all you must lay.
Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.
God’s favor is forever available to those who, like Abel, offer the right sacrifice with the right heart. Does He look with favor on me?
Read Hebrews 11:4 and Hebrews 12:24. What other connections do you see between Abel’s life and Jesus’ life? Why does the blood of Jesus speak “a better word” than the blood of Abel? (Compare Matthew 23:35-36 with 1 John 1:7.)
Read Genesis 4:1-7. How did God respond to Cain’s unacceptable offering? How does He respond to us when we do wrong? What should Cain have done after God spoke to him? What should our response to reproof be?
Read Psalm 51:15-17 and Micah 6:6-8. What do these passages say about the kind of sacrifices that please God?
To read all the lyrics of Hoffman’s hymn, Is Your All on the Altar?, go to http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/s/isyoural.htm
Denise K. Loock