Do you remember the first murderer in the Bible? His name was Cain. He had a brother named Able. We do not read much about them, but what we do find in God’s Word should help us much if we will only understand.
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD” (Genesis 4:3). We read that Cain understood he was to bring an offering before God, so he brought an offering. “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Genesis 4:4). Abel, too, understood he was to bring an offering. However, we can read a difference. The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering. Why? “By faith Abel offered unto 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 speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4). There is something very important to consider here. One must remember that God does not only look upon outward actions, He looks upon the attitude of the heart. Remember what we can read: “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.
God knew Cain’s heart. God knew Abel’s heart. It is always a heart issue with God. We can see what comes from Cain’s heart as we continue to remember. “But unto Cain and to his offering he (God) had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:5). Cain was angry. Read the warning God gave Cain: “6. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7. If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Genesis 4:6-7). If Cain would respond correctly to God, he would be accepted of God. On the converse, if he did not respond correctly sin lie at the door. Cain had a choice: To obey God, or allow the sin to rule his life.
Read what Cain chose: “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (Genesis 4:8). He chose to kill his brother, Abel. When God came to him, he immediately had a choice. He could confess and ask forgiveness. “And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Do you think God would have forgiven Cain if he had only asked? Remember: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Instead, Cain lied to God. “And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16). Cain chose to leave God.
See what Jesus said about Abel in the New Testament: “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:35). Jesus declared Abel was righteous. Next, read some insight we gain on Cain in the New Testament: “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Cain was of the wicked one, Satan, and he killed his brother because he chose his own works, which were evil.
Remember what God later told Moses: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
Have you realized that God sees the heart and not the outward acts of your attempts at righteousness?