When Cain brought his offering to the Lord, he brought the product of the ground, for he was a tiller of the ground. God had no regard for his offering, and it could be that it was rejected because it was a bloodless offering. However, God does specifically state this as the reason for His rejection, and offerings from the ground were perfectly acceptable for certain types of offerings in Israel years later, however, these offerings were always associated with blood offerings. Some theology emphasizes Cain’s attitude while others emphasize the offering itself. What is clear is that there was something wrong with Cain’s inner man.
Cain’s offering, even if it was the wrong one, was rejected because he had no regard for God. This is made clear by his response to the rejection of his offering. His heart was not in it while his brother Abel’s was, offering “the fattest of the firstborn of his flock.” Abel went out of his way to please God. Cain thought that God would be satisfied with the performance of the routine, but he was wrong.
I bring this up, because we are learning about the inner man, and the spirit of man, what motivates him, what makes him passionate, is an important part of our response to God. A believer should be aware when something in wrong in his inner man and he should be ready to fix it if there is.
Cain was angry after his offering was not accepted and his countenance fell. There is no inkling of repentance or intrigue as to how he may please God. God appeared to Cain after his offering and asked him why he was angry, and then God made a most simple and startling admission:
Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."
God graciously, as a Father to a son, points the way out of sin so that our inner man would be filled with joy.
The sin crouching seems to be a reference to Satan, the serpent, lurking and desiring to devour a man’s life.
The Hebrew word is simple. “If you do good.” Everything was up to Cain. There was something wrong with his inner man, not his sacrifice per se. “If you do good, your countenance will be lifted up,” which is the outward manifestation of joy.
The reason of the rejection of his offering was his own evil condition of the heart. It was not accepted because he was not doing well. His offering was a mere form; he complied with the fashion of the family; but in spirit he was alienated from God, cherishing thoughts which the rejection of his offering brings to a head.
A truth may be understood in the examination of Cain, which is quoted from Marcus Dods’ The Book of Genesis from The Expositor’s Bible. “We never know where we may be led by jealousy and malice. One of the striking features of this incident is the rapidity with which small sins generate great ones. When Cain went in the joy of harvest and offered his first fruits no thought could be further from his mind than murder. It may have come suddenly on himself as on the unsuspecting Abel, but the germ was in him. Great sins are not so sudden as they seem. Familiarity with evil thought ripens us for evil action; and a moment of passion, an hour’s loss of self-control, a tempting occasion, may hurry us into irremediable evil. And even though this does not happen, envious, uncharitable, and malicious thoughts make our offerings as distasteful as Cain’s. He that loveth not his brother knoweth not God. First be reconciled to they brother, says the Lord, and then and offer thy gift.”
And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.
The acceptance of the offering depends on the acceptance of the offerer. Abel and then his offering. Abel’s faith and attitude were first (his soul and spirit) and then his offering.
Abel’s soul was of a certain type. Abel was faith. Abel was thankfulness. Both sons were taught about creation and the fall and the prophecy of the serpent and the seed of the woman and the skins that God had used to cover their nakedness. Cain was the type of soul that was faithless and ungrateful.
We are to be constantly renewing our inner man to be of the type that Jesus, the Son of God, is. Outward, religious practices of rites and services are meaningless without regeneration and penitent humility and adoration of God for who He is and what He has done.
Our sacrifices to God in the church are the purest that have ever been performed.
In the church, our sacrifices to God are the joyous and thankful works that we do on behalf of God and in obedience to Him. We really sacrifice ourselves to God’s will.
We wish to honor Him and please Him and thank Him by being just like Him as in the image of Jesus Christ. Our attitude, the condition of our soul, the motivation of our spirit, the desire of our heart, the knowledge in our minds; all together and overlapping, are of the greatest importance.
Abraham built altars and sacrificed offerings to God on several occasions. When he did so, it was a spontaneous act of adoration in response of thankfulness to God’s deeds and revelations. But would Abraham still show his submission to God in this way when the joy and the hope were threatened? He was tested in this way when he was called to offer up Isaac, the greatest gift from God that evoked in him the most love and the most joy. By surrendering his beloved son to God, he would be complying with divine will and acknowledging that Isaac belonged to God and not to him.
Of course, the act never came about - except in Abraham’s heart as he raised the knife to slay his son, and in this sense the sacrifice was made. Abraham offered himself at that altar, his own will, his own desires, his own affections. Abraham learned that a pleasing sacrifice begins with the offering of oneself. In that central act of sacrifice, the Lord God makes the worshipper like Himself, for He would supply His own Son to be the sacrifice for us.
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
God would tell us many times that He did not desire sacrifice and offering. David would come to understand that it was a broken and contrite heart that God desired, and then David would write of Him who was to come, his own Son:
Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired;
My ears Thou hast opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required.
7 Then I said, "Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me;
8 I delight to do Thy will, O my God;
Thy Law is within my heart."
This would be quoted by the writer of the Book of Hebrews in light of the ritual sacrifices of Israel.