It is said, if you want to truly understand something – teach it.
Have you ever experienced a moment where you are VERY familiar with a topic but as you begin to teach it a light bulb goes on and the topic is brought into a whole new light?
Like me, you may be standing there a little dumbfounded and mind blown.
After nearly two decades of salvation, reading the bible scriptures over and over, I continue to remain in awe of the God of the universe.
So, let me tell you what happened when our Sunday school lesson turned into an aha moment for this mommy.
Our little family is going through the Bible Gems to Remember book. This book has 52 illustrated stories, so I can rest assured that we have enough bible stories to review for the entire year.
Recently, we discussed Genesis Chapter 4, the story of Cain and Abel. This was our first time reading this story together. My children were quiet and attentive as we went through the scripture.
As I mentioned Abel was a shepherd, one of them chimed in … just like David.
Yes, like just like David!
As I explained the familiar story to my children, I was amazed at how the Lord was opening my eyes to this story in a whole new light.
Abel, a shepherd.
David, a shepherd turned King.
Jesus, THE SHEPHERD and THE KING.
What was the job of the shepherd? Typically, during this time, the youngest boy was relied upon to be the shepherd until he was strong enough to move to the more difficult manual labor jobs. The family relied upon the sheep for food, wool and sheepskin.
The shepherd tended to his sheep day and night, even sleeping with them to protect them overnight. He was responsible for not only protecting the sheep, but also taking them to good pasture (preventing malnourishment) and making sure they had easy access to water. The shepherd tended to all the needs of the sheep. They were well acquainted and the sheep knew the voice of their shepherd, their protector.
Cain tended to the fields. Cain was the older, more established sibling in his family. He was stronger and had more experienced in his field. He knew the routine very well.
Matter of the Heart
“In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted?[b] And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to[c] you, but you must rule over it.”
You may find yourself asking, what distinguished the offering of Abel from the offering of Cain?
The Bible does not give a clear reason why so we can only speculate. That is not what I am here to do today.
I can only ask what is in my heart when I’m giving an offering to the Lord?
This story is a reminder to me to ask myself what am I offering God? What is my heart posture as I approach the throne of God?
The Bible says the Lord had regard or respected Abel’s offering.
Brothers and sisters, as children under the grace of Jesus, God says this of Jesus and His sacrifice for you and me:
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus is our ultimate and most perfect sacrifice. He redeemed us from our sins and He reconciles us to a Holy God.
As I read and reread this story, I found myself seeing Jesus in everything. Was this story an earlier predictor of what we would see in the days of Jesus and what we can see in the today?
Cain and Abel speak of the times and the types of worship that would come. Times where people worship in deeds but not in truth.
Cain can be likened to a religious zealot in the times of Jesus. Being presented with the savior, they chose their familiar religion and killed their brother. They killed the Messiah in which they waited.
People today can attempt to judge the motives of their brothers and sisters, never fully knowing the heart of someone, and make judgements, even accusations. Even “killing” their brothers and sisters reputations with words and falsehoods. The internet, social media, and the cancel culture made this all too easy.
From the first offering through today, there will be religious people presenting their offerings to the Lord with hearts postured towards God while others hearts are postured towards the things of the world.
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
It wasn’t the biggest or even the best that God the attention of Jesus. It was HER biggest and best that left her infamous for all time and history.
What is our heart when we present an offering before the Lord? Are we saying …
- Look at me
- Look at how much money I have
- Look at how great I am
- Look at how well I pray
- Look at how God speaks to me
- Look. Look. Look
Would someone look at this women and say judgmental things towards this widow? Judging her offering? Judging her status?
Jesus said, it is a matter of the heart. Am I giving my best? Am I giving my biggest? Am I just getting by with the bare minimum? What is my heart toward God when presenting my offering?
Here I’d like to stop and make a note that offering is not just money. We can offer God our time, resources, skills, gifts and talents. When I speak of offering I am looking beyond money and looking towards my life as a whole.
Righteous and Justice
The prophet Amos warned of such a time.
“I hate all your show and pretense— the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.”
Amos 5:21-24 NLT
Amos came to Israel at a time when the people’s hearts were torn between God and idols. They had a form of worship for God but also worshipped the gods of fertility, weather and lust.
Do we have secret idols in our heart? Are our hearts torn between God and something else? Do we trust God to meet our provisions?
Jesus in Everything
I am in awe of God’s goodness. This familiar story of two brothers presenting their offering to God showed me:
- Strive for the heart of a shepherd, humble, caring and protective over all (or the little) God has asked me to tend to
- Position does not mean more blessed or anointed (Cain, Pharisees)
- Presenting my offering does not guarantee acceptance
- Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice
- Strive to give my biggest and best
- My heart posture matters
- Do not attempt to judge the motive of others
- Do not hold anger or bitterness towards others. It will poison me.
- Continually do a heart check for false idols that try to rise up and take the seat of God
And just like that, this very familiar story has given me a renewed sense of awe in my Lord and savior.
Today, I pray that we will strive to live a holy life. Seeking righteousness and justice from ourselves. I pray that we remain in right standing with God all the days of our lives until we see Jesus.