Blood that Speaks

Joe Nell Clayton
Montebello, California

Every word of God has a message, and sometimes great lessons are compacted into a few brief sentences. Such is the case with Genesis 4:3-5. It reads, "And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell."

Here were two sacrifices, reflecting the occupations of the offerers, some would say, since Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer. Some would go so far as to say that God showed a mean and arbitrary streak of character in rejecting Cain's sacrifice. Those, however, who respect God as just, and as one who is no respecter of persons, realize that another force was at work here to cause God to respect Abel and his sacrifice.

On what basis, therefore, did God choose to respect the one and reject the other? Reason would show that since animal sacrifice was practiced,- by all primitive peoples, it must have its source in the command of God rather than the invention of men. However, we have revelation to guide us, instead of reason. When Cain's anger was aroused and his face showed his disappointment, God asked him, "Why are you angry, and why is your countenance, fallen? If you would do well, shall it not be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin couches at the door; and unto you shall be its desire; but do you rule over it." If sin was present, when one did not "well," there must have been a law regarding the proper sacrifice. It is universally accepted that "sin is not charged where there is no law" (Romans 5:13). If Cain was capable of sin, he had to be subject to law. Therefore, Abel and his sacrifice were accepted because they conformed to God's law (though that law is not recorded), and Cain's sacrifice was rejected because it violated that law.

Another way we can learn the reason for the acceptance of Abel's sacrifice is to read. from the New Testament "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness home to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts" (Hebrews 11:4). Since "Faith comes of hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10: 17), we know that Abel learned to offer the proper sacrifice by hearing the word of God. The fact, also, that God bore witness to his righteousness by respecting his gifts indicates that he offered according to commandments. Abel lived before the Law of Moses was given, but the principle of "obedience unto righteousness" is the same in every age. The Patriarchs were charged to teach this principle; "For I have known him (God said of Abraham), to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice . . ." (Genesis 18:19). Thus, righteousness such as Abels was possible through obedience to God's word.

But what of the message contained in Abel's sacrifice? Though God later permitted the kind of sacrifices which Cain presumptuously invented, the greatest emphasis was always on "blood" offerings.

The death of an innocent victim in the place of the sinner was the picture of such sacrifices. Abel knew that the sin of his parents was punished by death. Death as a punishment emphasized the sinfulness of sin (Romans 7:13). To avoid the punishment of his sin, Abel had to place his trust in the design of a merciful God. It was revealed to him that he must sacrifice the life-blood of an animal in the figure of transferring his guilt to the victim. This action was continued into the age of the Law of Moses (Leviticus 16: 12). The regular shedding of blood reminded the offerers of their guilt of sin. Yet the regularity of their sacrifices spoke eloquently of the lack of effect that animal sacrifices had for this purpose. New Testament writers could see the difficulty clearly (Hebrews 10: 1-4), because they were privileged to view and benefit from the better sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23-26). Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to take away our sins, and this is the 16 good news" of the New Testament (I Corinthians 15:1-3).

Abel's sacrifice certainly spoke of salvation, but only in a figure. God waited for the proper time and "when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that be might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sins" (Galatians 4:4-5). The "redeeming" spoken of in this passage is also mentioned by Peter; ". . . ye were redeemed ... with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ" (I Peter 1: 18-19).

This blood of Christ speaks, also. We are told by the writer of the book of Hebrews that we have come today ". - - to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel" (Hebrews 12:24). It speaks of one sufficient sacrifice, rather than many insufficient ones. It speaks of remission of sins, rather than remembrance of them. We should listen to the message of the blood of Christ, and obey every word in that message.

November 18, 1971