This passage helps us answer the question, “What does God require of me?” Click here to open a tab with the Scripture passage.

Abel, the rancher, and his brother Cain, the farmer, are adults and “in the course of time” brought their offerings. Abel’s is acceptable to the Lord. Cain’s sacrifice is not acceptable. Is this not unfair?

Why is one acceptable and the other not? The answer is not that Abel’s is acceptable because it was a blood sacrifice, unlike Cain’s. The difference is that Abel brings, “the firstborn of his flock and the fat portions,” and Cain just “brought the crops.” The difference is the personal intent and not the sacrifices themselves. Abel brought the best. The heart matters.

God pleads with Cain, who is incensed, “Why are you angry? Sin is at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” He rejects the call to confession. His quarrel is not with God or Abel; it is with himself and he loses. He deceives his brother in the field and slays him. But, lo, God walks in the Garden and the fields.

Where is your brother? What’s going on here? What did you do? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries from the ground! Adam and Eve worked the soil, introduced death, and were expelled. Cain worked the soil, brought death, and is expelled. The thorns of the ground will haunt Cain and choke the fruits of his labor. Oh, the curse!

We are like Cain—our heart is a jumble of darkness. We venture headlong into our mischief. We increase sin upon sin. The desires of our heart are corrupted, by nature and by choice. Can the cycle be broken?

The writer of Hebrews (12:24) tells us that we come, “to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Abel’s blood cries out for justice, but the blood of Jesus, another innocent victim, calls out for mercy. He, our perfect sacrifice, went into another Garden and took upon himself the Crown of the Curse and bore it, so we wouldn’t. We are able to bear fruit, because he has defeated the sin that lurks.

Today, shift the focus from your performance to what God has done for you in Jesus. God’s Spirit abides within, empowers us to change from the inside out, so that our lives may bear good fruit. The heart matters, so God meets us there.

Prayer of Confession

Beloved God, you who knew and were known by my ancestors, have mercy upon me. Like those who have gone before, I have not followed you without mistakes. I have been careless with my anger, flippant about my worship, and negligent with caring for others.

I come to you because you are kind, faithful, just, and loving. As I have confessed my sin, I take hold of your confessed faithfulness and care for me: through Christ I am called, redeemed, and loved. Please grow my awareness of my own self, so that I may know the sin that lurks and run to you, my help and salvation. Please grow my ability to be satisfied and confident with what you have done for me. I lift my soul to you and now receive assurance that you are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Amen.

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