If you’ve been following this weekly series, you know we’re studying the metaphor of “fruit” in the Bible. Specifically, we want to understand what it means to be the fruit of God’s image, because He also calls us bear fruit for Him. Therefore, over the past 5 weeks, we’ve taken a detailed look at the truth and applications of being God’s seed, the fruit of His image. You don’t necessarily need to read those before benefiting from today’s article, but it would give you a better background understanding.
This week, we’re taking a closer look at Cain’s offering of fruit in Genesis 4, especially why God had “no regard” for what Cain brought to Him.
The original Hebrew word that many translation render as “regard” is שָׁעָה (shaah), the root of which means “to gaze” or “look upon”. If we put it in our common lingo, we might say that the Lord couldn’t take His eyes off Abel’s bloody gift, but He didn’t give a second glance to Cain’s fruit basket.
But what sense does that make?
Farming is hard work! Tilling the ground, planting, watering and weeding, keeping bugs away, nurturing the crops, waiting until they were ready for harvest, finally preparing the crops is a daily grind, usually from sun-up to sundown in good weather or bad. I think it’s fair to assume Cain had done all of that before bringing his gift to the Lord.
Abel trapped or shot his and prepared it. Done.
Maybe you’re sensing why Cain may have been so angry. If God was looking for someone to bring Him something impressive, Cain was His man. But that’s part of the point. The Lord wasn’t calling him to impress Him with his work. If He wanted our efforts, He would have accepted Adam and Eve’s designer fig leaves. Which leads us to the greater point.
God calls us to be amazed at His work, not the other way around.
In Genesis 3:21, the Lord had replaced Cain’s parents’ attempt to hide behind their work with His own covering at the expense of another’s life. It’s also reasonable to assume that Cain’s parents had told him that bit of family history.
God’s covering and Abel’s sacrifice were pictures of a two-fold message: 1) any failure to trust and obey God results in a death sentence because the perfect God Almighty can only accept perfection. But 2) God Himself can accept another’s death in our place. Abel likely learned that lesson from his parents for whom the Lord had provided those animal skins. So he brought the Lord an offering of blood, acknowledging his guilt and trusting in God to forgive him by another dying in his place.
As you may know, ultimately, the Lord doesn’t need or even want animal sacrifices. He says so several times, even in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 40:7-9 and 51:16-19, Isaiah 1:11-14, Hosea 6:6, etc.). Abel’s sacrifice and his parent’s skin coverings were a promise pointing forward to Jesus’ perfect and, therefore, final sacrifice on the cross.
What does this mean for us bearing fruit in His image? Here are a few encouragements.
- The Lord’s desire is for us to trust Him to cover our sins, not to cover our own.
- When we do this, we are freed to serve out of thanks and joy, not guilt or pride.
- We must also focus on building others’ honesty before Him and trust in Him.
- We can gauge our hearts (and others’) by the response to rejection or acceptance.
- When we trust in God’s grace, we will be rejected by those who trust in their works.
- God will always honor those who call on His name instead of promoting their name.
On that last point, compare the seventh generations in Cain’s line with the seventh generation in Abel’s line. The former was Lamech (Genesis 4:19-24). He ungodly pride was subtly reflected in his children who were primarily known for “bearing fruits” of their own reputations: property, musicianship, and inventions. These are wonderful things, but when we use any possession or achievement to draw focus to ourselves, we are being idolatrous. Lamech’s pride was less subtle in his incredible sense of entitlement, presuming upon God to forgive murder for which he had no remorse. He even seemed to brag on his vicious vengeance.
Abel’s line, however, was known for one simple thing: they began calling on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26). Whether that means they humbly asked Him for help or praise Him or both, their primary focus was clearly their Almighty God, not themselves. In the same way that Adam and Eve donned God’s gift to them, we must “put on” Jesus’ sacrifice in our place (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 3:1ff., etc.). For He promises never to leave those who trust in Him. (Deuteronomy 31:6-8, Joshua 1:5, John 6:37, Hebrews 13:5)
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