Two stone altars frame their outline against the evening sky on a world newly touched by the impact of evil. The lush green grass, recently invaded by the thistle, bear silent witness to the depth of disobedience. Sin was here!
Not part of God’s original plan, even now He told His human family something of the awful price that evil will cost. Slain from the foundation of the world, His own Son stepped in front of the Adamic family, taking the blow for all generations of humanity. The price was blood.
Cain brought the sacrifice of his making to his altar, erected at the command of God. Placing his offering upon the altar he gave his all. Or so he thought. I suppose that some of the best fruits and vegetables Cain could find were placed confidently upon this altar. True, we don’t know exactly what the offering looked like; however we know from God’s word that two key components were missing in this offering — a telling testimony of the false confidence of the giver (Gen. 4:3, 1 John 3:12, Hebrews 11:4).
Nearby, his brother on the same world— Abel—also brought to his altar an offering. Both the ingredient and the motive of this offering were pleasing in the Lord’s eyes. The firstling of the flock, freely given by a heart of faith was a sweet savor to the Creator Lord (Gen. 4:4). Here was one who understood!
You see, the Bible says that God looked first at Cain, and then at his offering. Same with Abel. Same with us.
Abel's offering condemned Cain’s by contrasting their motives. Any offering that symbolized atonement must include the price of atonement—blood. Only in this way would the repentant sinner take the life of an animal that trusted him, and know that sin was horrible. Following that moment of reality, as the blood spilled upon the hand of the transgressor, was the horrifying realization that God Himself would open His throat to the knife of guilty man. Faith mixed with sorrow, directed by this simple thunder of justice: “I asked for a Lamb!
Instead, Cain brought his own gift, unwilling to admit that he needed a Savior. His second missing ingredient was faith (Hebrews 11:4). Faith, convicted by a sense of his own guilt that he would someday cost the Creator his Life. Therefore, Cain got angry (Gen. 4:5) just as all who realize that they are not going to get any credit for “doing things their own way” will. Unrepentance kills repentance.
Down the corridor of time itself, the sacred doorpost over every life reflects this one command from the heavenly Father, “I asked for a Lamb!” Culminating in the Final Judgement, each life could bear testimony to this everlasting request. Wonder of wonders, the same Savior who foreshadowed every lamb that was slain, came to this earth and took the entire human family into Himself (Romans 5:18) and took them to the cross. In Him, we died there, stained by His blood. Then to each one comes a choice — will we stay there? Or like Cain, do we believe a lie and imagine that we can save ourselves?
The ultimate focus of this question is found in the final stages of the world’s history, the Judgement. Jesus Himself tells of two classes of people in Matthew 7:22 and Matthew 25: 31-46. Like Cain and Abel, the motives are revealed, and there are going to be some surprises. Describing the class of people representing Cain, our Lord tells how their focus was on what they did in life. They are quick to defend themselves, recounting all the works of their lives. Note here that the entire focus of these “tillers of the wrong ground” is on themselves, NOT on Jesus. But God “asked for a Lamb.” No Lamb is found in their lives; once redeemed (at the cross), they have wandered out from under the shadow of the Almighty. God reluctantly gives them what they request: Life without Him— DEATH!
Another class—this one representing Abel, have to be reminded that they did good works. “Who me?” (25:37). Their focus is entirely upon Jesus, so much so that their lives are wellsprings of good works, a natural outflow of the mighty power of faith.
Beloved, the same God who set the standard has also provided the cost (Romans 10:12-13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gen. 22:8). You may rest assured in His perfect hatred of sin, and in His eternal resolve to see the character of His Son reflected in faithful lives. What are you bringing to God, today?
He asked for a Lamb.