THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OBEDIENCE AND SACRIFICE
What was different about Cain and Abel’s offerings to the Lord? Some say it was that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because it was a blood sacrifice, demonstrating and foretelling Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of His flesh and blood for the sins of the world, whereas Cain’s was rejected because it wasn’t an offering in blood.
Some say, as I have said as well, that Abel offered without expecting thanks while Cain offered selfishly, seeking recognition and acceptance. Abel offered to please God while Cain offered to please himself.
In a way, both suppositions have truth but not necessarily as one might think.
It occurred to me this morning that the difference was this: God had called on Abel to make his offering while Cain presumptuously offered to God. Now, it doesn’t say so explicitly, but let me add some weight to this proposition:
One, it says, “And in the end of days, it happened, Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3 MKJV). It mentions nothing about his offering the best or firstfruits.
But of Abel’s offering, it says, “And Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat of it. And the LORD had respect to Abel and to his offering” (Genesis 4:4 MKJV).
Malachi prophesies that it is evil to bring to the Lord anything but the very best (Song – The Very Best) of what one has. Of this, the Scriptures are perfectly clear. To offer the best takes faith; it takes obedience, more than, or instead of, sacrifice. God is after faith, after obedience, never sacrifice.
Psalms 50:7-17 MKJV
(7) Hear, My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God.
(8) I will not reprove you for your sacrifices; yea, your burnt offerings are continually before Me.
(9) I will take no bull out of your house, nor he-goats out of your folds.
(10) For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
(11) I know all the birds of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.
(12) If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and the fullness of it.
(13) Will I eat the flesh of the mighty, or drink the blood of goats?
(14) Offer to God thanksgiving; and pay your vows to the Most High;
(15) and call on Me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.
(16) But to the wicked, God says, What is it to you, to declare My Precepts, and to take up My covenant in your mouth?
(17) Yea, you hate to be taught, and you toss My Words behind you.
“And if you offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Bring it now to your governor. Will he accept you, or lift up your face, says the LORD of Hosts” (Malachi 1:8 MKJV).
Seeing faith is a gift of God, Abel was commanded to offer his sacrifice by the fact that God gave him that gracious faith. Seeing Cain offered without faith, it tells us he didn’t have faith and therefore, wasn’t commanded of God to bring his offering.
I have had people do things for me, apparently in all willingness, things I didn’t ask for, which is invariably good, but when it came to my asking them to do things for me they hadn’t planned on or weren’t pleased to do or give at the time, there was denial, disagreement, displeasure at doing so. They would hum and haw, render argument, and rationalize their way out of obeying or cooperating. Yet, if a stranger or casual acquaintance asked things of them or even if they didn’t ask, there was a readiness to serve them.
I would scratch my head on that one, especially when these were people closest to me, people who I expected would be willing to serve me.
God had commanded King Saul of Israel to destroy the Amalekites, saving nothing:
“So says the LORD of Hosts, I will visit Amalek with what he did to Israel, how he set against him in the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek, and destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:2-3 MKJV).
But Saul decided to compromise and sacrifice rather than obey:
“But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fatlings and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not completely destroy them. But everything that was vile and feeble they completely destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:9 MKJV).
The Lord spoke to His prophet Samuel about King Saul and said:
“It repents Me that I have set up Saul to be king. For he has turned back from following Me and has not done My commands. And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night” (1 Samuel 15:11 MKJV).
Samuel declared to King Saul:
“And Samuel said, Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice! To listen is better than the fat of rams! For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idol-worship. Because you have rejected the Word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22-23 MKJV).
Saul offered something contrary to faith because he didn’t believe. God didn’t give him the gift of faith to walk in obedience.
Mary and Martha
Mary and Martha had Jesus and His disciples at their house as guests:
Luke 10:38-42 MKJV
(38) And as they went, it happened that He entered a certain village. And a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house.
(39) And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.
(40) But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she came to Him and said, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.
(41) And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.
(42) But one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
It was Martha who received the Lord into her house – an act of hospitality. It was she who took that initiative to give and to sacrifice. But it was her sister Mary who demonstrated faith.
Mary attended to the Lord rather than to His need. If you can hear, let those words sink in.
Martha complained that her sister Mary wasn’t helping serve. Jesus kindly reproved Martha.
Mary was obeying while Martha was sacrificing. Mary had faith to receive His Word while Martha didn’t believe that what Mary was doing was the better thing.
That Mary would pay attention to Jesus’ Word demonstrated the gift of Abel’s faith working in her. That Martha was complaining demonstrated Cain’s attitude toward Abel because Abel’s sacrifice was received. Mary demonstrated “Abel’s obedience” to the Lord’s “command.”
God didn’t command Martha to sit at His feet as He did Mary, through His Word and Faith.
John the Immerser and The Christ
He must increase while we decrease, as John the Immerser said of Jesus.
Understand, I’m not condemning anyone. That tendency to “do good” to please ourselves is ever in our flesh. This is the work of that first, sacrificial Christian of the First Adam Order that must make way for the Christ. The First Adam must go to the cross that the Last Adam may live:
Galatians 2:19-21 KJV
(19) For I through the law am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God.
(20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
(21) I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.
The Two Sons
How about the two brothers? One took his inheritance and spent it all in vain. The older son had done his duty all along. When the “prodigal” son returned in all humility, as unworthy of his father’s honor and mercy, he had prevailed and was rewarded.
Luke 15:11-32 MKJV
(11) And He said, A certain man had two sons.
(12) And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that is coming to me. And he divided his living to them.
(13) And not many days afterward, the younger son gathered all together and went away into a far country. And there he wasted his property, living dissolutely.
(14) And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land. And he began to be in want.
(15) And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country. And he sent him into his fields to feed pigs.
(16) And he was longing to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, and no one gave to him.
(17) And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father abound in loaves, and I perish with hunger!
(18) I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you
(19) and am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.
(20) And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
(21) And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son.
(22) But the father said to his servants, Bring the best robe and put it on him. And put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet.
(23) And bring the fattened calf here and kill it. And let us eat and be merry,
(24) for this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.
(25) And his elder son was in the field. And as he came and drew near the house, he heard music and dancing.
(26) And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
(27) And he said to him, Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him safe and sound.
(28) And he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and entreated him.
(29) And answering he said to his father, Lo, these many years I have served you, neither did I transgress your commandment at any time. And yet you never gave me a kid so that I might make merry with my friends.
(30) But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you have killed for him the fattened calf.
(31) And he said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
(32) It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
The elder son who served dutifully was annoyed that his “sacrifice” wasn’t sufficiently rewarded according to his desire and relative to what the father had done for his once wayward younger brother. The older son was upset, as was Cain (Cain was the elder, by the way, and likely so was Martha the elder and why she was the one who invited Jesus into her home).
Another example of obedience instead of sacrifice: Abram didn’t go wandering, “forsaking all” for the Lord by his own volition. Through faith, he obeyed God’s command to leave his country and kin. He didn’t offer up Isaac as a sacrifice of his own volition. God gave him a command and Abram obeyed.
Abraham (formerly “Abram”) was commanded to offer up Isaac, his most precious possession, his only begotten son of Sara, his wife, as a sacrifice. Yes, it was the supreme sacrifice, but an act in obedience by faith. It wasn’t a goodwill gesture or an act God didn’t call for.
There was a time when Abram had gone to Egypt but not by command. This was before his name was changed to Abraham – Gen. 17:1-5). He went of his own self-preservation, which lack of faith he also displayed as his natural tendency by fearing for his life and even willing to surrender his wife to preserve himself.
“And there was a famine in the land. And Abram went down into Egypt to stay there, for the famine was grievous in the land” (Genesis 12:10 MKJV).
It was for Abram’s own sake and not the Lord’s that he went, as with Cain, as with Saul, Martha, and the elder son.
Jacob was commanded to go down to Egypt, not as a sacrifice but as a matter of obedience.
Genesis 46:2-6 MKJV
(2) And God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob! And he said, Here I am.
(3) And He said, I am God, the God of your fathers. Do not fear to go down into Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation.
(4) I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again. And Joseph shall put his hand on your eyes.
(5) And Jacob rose up from Beer-sheba. And the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.
(6) And they took their cattle, and their goods which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his seed with him.
How about Job? God and the Scriptures declare of him:
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job. And that man was perfect and upright, and one who feared God and turned aside from evil” (Job 1:1 MKJV).
So then, God subjected Job to the fires of purification. “Purification?” you ask, “Wasn’t he already perfect and upright? So, what need of purging fires?”
Consider that in those fires, Job declared to his companions how righteous he was, standing for justice, giving to the poor, keeping himself pure of sins of lust. He spoke of the status, dignity, wisdom, and respect he had in his society. He thought he was very good, second to none in righteousness by the Law.
Throughout the severe trial, Job maintained his innocence and righteousness:
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him: but I will maintain mine own ways before Him” (Job 13:15 KJV).
When God was through with him, Job could only declare:
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye has seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6 MKJV).
I answer, “What need for self-abhorrence and repentance if there had been no need for cleansing fires?”
Job had been living a sacrificial life. It wasn’t good enough for God. The unsanctified life would never do in the Kingdom of God. There needed to be a life of faith, not in works or in the Law, but in God, which life could not come by keeping the Law but by grace only.
That Life in the Last Adam (Jesus Christ), Who displaces the righteousness of the first, brings peace and double reward:
Job 42:10-17 MKJV
(10) And the LORD turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends. Also the LORD added to Job all that had been his, to double.
(11) And came to him all his brothers, and all his sisters, and all those who had known him before. And they ate bread with him in his house, and consoled him and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought on him. Each one also gave him a piece of money, and each one a ring of gold.
(12) And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than the beginning. For he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.
(13) He also had seven sons and three daughters.
(14) And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Keziah; and the name of the third, Keren-happuch.
(15) And in all the land there were not found women as beautiful as the daughters of Job. And their father gave them inheritance among their brothers.
(16) After this Job lived a hundred and forty years, and he saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations.
(17) And Job died, being old and full of days.
The Poor Widow and the Wealthy
At the Temple treasury, the rich gave of their superfluity while the widow gave “all her living,” her two mites. The rich were sacrificing, but she was obeying. How? It took no faith for them to give; they could “spare the change.” They had no need. She knew that God would have to provide for her need. Theirs was a “Cain” sacrifice; hers was an “Abel” act of faith.
Mark 12:41-44 MKJV
(41) And sitting down opposite the treasury, Jesus watched how the people threw copper coins into the treasury. And many rich ones threw in much.
(42) And a certain poor widow came, and she threw in two lepta, which is a kodrantes.
(43) And He called His disciples and said to them, Truly I say to you that this poor widow has cast in more than all those who have cast into the treasury.
(44) For all cast in from their abundance. But she, out of her poverty, has cast in all that she had, all her livelihood.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
Luke 18:9-14 MKJV
(9) And He spoke this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others:
(10) Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-collector.
(11) The Pharisee stood and prayed within himself in this way: God, I thank You that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector.
(12) I fast twice on the Sabbath, I give tithes of all that I possess.
(13) And standing afar off, the tax-collector would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but struck on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!
(14) I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
I’ve seen sacrifice by others as unto me, but by those same, I’ve also seen lack of faith, lack of willingness to obey when it was my idea and not one they were pleased with. I say to them, “Fine, so you do this, that, and the other for me when it pleases you, which is fine, but when I ask you to do something for me that doesn’t suit your fancy or make sense to you, you balk. Why’s that?”
They have given me many good things but several times when I’ve asked them to do certain favors for me, they have delayed, balked, argued, excused themselves, and even outright disobeyed. Why?
When I’ve asked a disciple and friend for certain favors or duties, he has not been as willing as I would expect, seeing he’s done so many things for me without being asked. I’ve asked him for little things that would take a matter of minutes, some things two or three times, and he has left them undone – not great matters, but matters, nonetheless.
Been there and done it to the Lord, many times, sorry to say; I understand.
To their credit, these people of whom I speak have also changed their minds at times and conceded, even if they didn’t agree with me. Not that they are wrong in the matter or that I’m right. I value their counsel and do often defer to it.
Faith is the gift to enable to obey, not to sacrifice.
Therefore I say that Abel was commanded while Cain was not. God much prefers obedience to sacrifice. Obedience is an act of faith while sacrifice is an act of works. Obedience looks for no reward other than to please the master, while sacrifice looks for reward. Here is faith, without which it’s impossible to please God:
Luke 17:5-10 MKJV
(5) And the apostles said to the Lord, Give us more faith.
(6) And the Lord said, If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this sycamine tree, Be rooted up and be planted in the sea! And it would obey you.
(7) But which of you who has a servant plowing or feeding will say to him immediately after he has come from the field, Come, recline?
(8) Will he not say to him, Prepare something so that I may eat, and gird yourself and serve me until I eat and drink. And afterward you shall eat and drink.
(9) Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.
(10) So likewise you, when you shall have done all the things commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, for we have done what we ought to do.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 MKJV).
“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. And by it he, being dead, yet speaks” (Hebrews 11:4 MKJV).
Tell me now, are your works of sacrifice or of faith? Both are good and needful, but the latter necessarily to be attained to above the former. The latter is that place of peace and rest in Christ. Until your perfection exceeds Job’s, you’ll live in fear, even as Job lived in fear despite his perfection by the Law:
“I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came” (Job 3:26 KJV).