Last Sabbath when my husband and I were having our worship, we discovered why Cain’s offering was not accepted by God. It was supposed to a sin offering. It is a sacrifice for sin; something offered as an expiation for sin.
What did God require for a sin offering? Blood. Without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin. Easton’s Bible Dictionary describes the entire process as follows:
(Heb. hattath), the law of, is given in detail in Lev. 4-6:13; 9:7-11, 22-24; 12:6-8; 15:2, 14, 25-30; 14:19, 31; Num. 6:10-14. On the day of Atonement it was made with special solemnity (Lev. 16:5, 11, 15). The blood was then carried into the holy of holies and sprinkled on the mercy-seat.
Sin-offerings were also presented at the five annual festivals (Num. 28, 29), and on the occasion of the consecration of the priests (Ex. 29:10-14, 36). As each individual, even the most private member of the congregation, as well as the congregation at large, and the high priest, was obliged, on being convicted by his conscience of any particular sin, to come with a sin-offering, we see thus impressively disclosed the need in which every sinner stands of the salvation of Christ, and the necessity of making application to it as often as the guilt of sin renews itself upon his conscience. This resort of faith to the perfect sacrifice of Christ is the one way that lies open for the sinner’s attainment of pardon and restoration to peace. And then in the sacrifice itself there is the reality of that incomparable worth and preciousness which were so significantly represented in the sin-offering by the sacredness of its blood and the hallowed destination of its flesh. With reference to this the blood of Christ is called emphatically “the precious blood,” and the blood that “cleanseth from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Genesis 4:3, 4 state: And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. Why? Abel offered an animal as an atonement. His offering was based on salvation by faith. He believed in the Redeemer to come. Cain, on the other hand, came to the Lord without the blood of sacrifice. He brought fruit. He believed in salvation by works. He didn’t do as was commanded. He didn’t come to God in humility as Abel did.
These brothers had been instructed in regard to the provision made for the salvation of the human race. They were required to carry out a system of humble obedience, showing their reverence for God and their faith and dependence upon the promised Redeemer, by slaying the firstlings of the flock and solemnly presenting them with the blood as a burnt offering to God. This sacrifice would lead them to continually keep in mind their sin and the Redeemer to come, who was to be the great sacrifice for man – The Story of Redemption.
Cain should have offered a lamb in addition to the fruit from the ground. His actions showed that he take God’s gift of salvation seriously. He thought he could offered God what He did not ask for and still be accepted but God showed him otherwise. He said to him, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:6, 7). God was giving Cain another opportunity to do what was right. If he wanted God to accept his offering, all he had to do was to follow His directions–offer a blood sacrifice.
Today, God is offering people the same opportunity. Accept the blood of Christ as atonement for their sins. The Bible clearly teaches, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We don’t offer blood sacrifices as did the people of old but now we offer our lives through faith in the atoning blood of the Lamb of God who came to take away our sins.
Today, “Sin lies at the door. And its desire [is] for you, but you should rule over it.” Do what is right in the sight of God. Come to Him in faith, humility and obedience and He will accept you. Don’t make the same mistake as Cain. Follow Abel’s example. “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).
The story of Cain and Abel has another lesson that is just as important–the second commandment which Jesus spoke of–love one another. The apostle John wrote, “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain [who] was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:11, 12).