We all make choices. Hebrews 11:4 reminds us of the first family and the very different choices the brothers made. The more complete story is found in Genesis 4:1-16.
At first glance they look similar. They both were hard workers. They both brought sacrifices to God. But God payed heed to one and not the other.
Both brothers had heard the first-hand account of living in the garden, the terrible choice their parents made and the consequences. They also must have been told of the need for a blood sacrifice, which was a picture of a Messiah (Redeemer) who would come. (Hebrews 9:22)
Abel realized his great need and brought the sacrifice God required. It was a picture of the coming Messiah. God paid heed.
Cain thought he could win God’s favor by bringing things he had carefully grown and tended. It was a “look at me” moment. “Look at what I’ve done.” …and when God paid no heed he became angry.
God tries to reason with Cain. He pointed out his sin and encourages him to master it. (repentance) God held out hope to Cain. Cain would have none of it. He goes from being very angry to bringing his brother out in the field with him where he kills him. His actions spoke louder than his sacrifice.
Titus 1:16 gives a perfect explanation. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.”
Once more God approaches Cain. “Where is your brother Abel?” It was another opportunity to repent. Instead he deflects and lies. “I do not know, am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9)
God confronts Cain with the truth. He knows what he has done. Cain will be cursed. He will no longer have the ability to produce from the ground. The very thing he was so proud of is taken away. He will become a wanderer.
Cain responds by complaining, not repenting. He was sorry for his situation or punishment, but not his sin. Still, God grants him protection for his earthly life by putting a mark of protection on him. Sadly, Cain was not concerned about his eternal soul, and he “went out from the presence of the Lord.”
Abel lived and died for his faith. He was killed because he was favored by God.
Which brother are we like?
Cain, who proudly thought he was good enough to approach God on his own merits, or Abel who realized his great need and humbly brought the sacrifice that God required.
“For it is by grace that you are saved, through faith. This does not depend on anything you have achieved, it is the free gift of God; and because it is not earned no man can boast about it. “ (Ephesians 2:8-9 Phillips)
For further study: Genesis 4:1-16; Proverbs 21:27; I John 3:12; Hebrews 12:24