“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” (Genesis 4:3-5 KJV)
On the occasions when I have heard this passage discussed, it is a common sympathy for Cain as though the decision of God to accept one sacrifice over the other was largely arbitrary. As though both men put their efforts into their respective trades and one was simply short changed. This misunderstanding can be further fueled by God’s use of the statement, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?…”, in verse seven as though Cain had not put the appropriate amount of effort into his trade. I have no doubt that the fruit that Cain brought was the finest of good fruit. I also have no doubt it was hand selected to be the ripest, choicest, and most medically enhancing fruit available. That is part of the problem though. Remember just a short way back in Genesis 2:16? Fruit was given freely to Man (except that of one tree) to eat. The fruit then, even more so than is the case today, was for the nourishment and the enrichment of Man. It gave them many things including the nutrients that their bodies needed to grow and be strong and healthy. (Talk about the organic vegetarian’s dream.)
The trouble with bringing this tray of perfectly selected nourishment to God is that this is one of the many areas that He is higher than we are (Isaiah 55:9). Not only can the fruit not increase the beauty or wellness of God, but it is counter productive for us to think we have prepared something so perfect and precious. The challenge with accepting Abel’s gift of the shed blood of an innocent animal is that it forces the question, why is this necessary? To Cain this would be both a senseless and an abominable waste of something that was good (and innocent). To Able it is a reminder of his sin and the necessary price that will one day have to be paid for his guilt. As God continues the dialog with Cain in verse seven and reminds Cain of the necessity of doing right, you can easily see a portion of the sin which is crouching at Cain’s door long before he invites Able out to the field. You can almost see Cain’s thoughts of what a ridiculous system this is! I have brought what is right and healthy and nourishing! Yet we can see how Cain has to make a clear and present choice between serving his pride or mastering it by humbling himself in service to God (see also Matthew 6:24).
There are many things in today’s world that can be learned, enhanced, better managed, and done more efficiently. As ordinary people, we can do extraordinary things. Yet, it is at those times where we present ourselves before God that we can see by his brilliance our lacking that we might more readily embrace Jesus as the only sufficiency for ourselves. This in part is why I believe the template prayer that Jesus gave His disciples began with the clearness of God and His position in heaven and His holiness before we get to the parts like, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:…” (see Matthew 6:9-13). It is why prayer requests are fine, but without an acknowledgment and clearness of who God is and God’s superior perspective and plan, they are little more than honey-do lists of things that need to happen for your management of the situation to come to a desired resolution. Our surrender to Jesus and the acknowledgment of the innocent sacrifice that He offered brings the fruit that is required by God and is most nourishing to our body. This is the fruit which reveals that we are His.
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” (Proverbs 3:7-8 KJV)