Sacrifice; Calling on the Name of the Lord
1 Chronicles 15:1–16; Genesis 4
Samuel Lesson #143
August 21, 2018
“Our Father, sometimes we take forgiveness of sin for granted. We’ve been saved many years, in many cases here. It may have been a long time since we really wrestled with the fact that we were sinners, that we’d failed, that we had failed You, and that we were under condemnation.
“But what a joyous thing it is to know that our sins are forgiven. We are in right relationship positionally with You. We’re adopted into Your royal family, and we have this unique fellowship being in Christ. Yet we realize the fullness of that as we abide in Him and as we walk by the Spirit.
“As we do so, Your Spirit fills us with His Word. He produces fruit in our lives. He is the absolute necessity and prerequisite for all spiritual growth and enablement.
“Father, we pray for us tonight as we study Your Word, that You would strengthen and encourage us.
“Father, we pray that as we study, we can focus upon Your Word, not upon our lives or our details or our plans and things going on that so easily distract us. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles tonight to Genesis chapter 4. We are progressing in our study of understanding the biblical parameters for worship. What struck me, and it struck me for many years, as we read through Genesis, is that there’s a lot going on in Genesis 1 to 11 and we just sort of get a very brief summary.
We have to stop and think about some of the things that are said because they tell us that Adam or Eve or Cain and Abel do certain things, and we don’t have any background in the Scriptures where it states that they were to do those things, why they were to do those things, or any of those details. We just have very short, brief accounts of these things.
It’s only as we understand them in light of the framework of the Pentateuch. When Moses wrote out these five books at the beginning of the Old Testament, the preface in these first eleven chapters would be read and understood by the Israelites in light of what they knew, based on what they had heard when they were at Mount Sinai.
Moses was given all the instructions. He gave it to them to build the tabernacle, all of the furniture of the tabernacle, all the details and the sacrificial systems.
Many of the sacrifices they will would have already been familiar with as they had developed subsequent to the flood of Noah. They weren’t ignorant of these things as they were already present.
When you get to the situation that we are going to get to in Genesis 4, when Cain and Abel bring offerings to the Lord, they would have understood much more about what was going on there than we do, because they had all this firsthand experience. We have to talk about some of those things to understand the dynamic.
Tonight what were you look at is the development of sacrifice. Last time we ended with the sin of Adam and Eve. They are cast out of the Garden. An army of cherubs was placed around the Garden of Eden to prevent man from reentering the sanctuary of God on the earth.
We learned certain things about worship: that man was created in God’s image in order to work and “to tend the garden” (Genesis 2:15), as it’s usually translated. I pointed out that these are terms related to priestly service, “to keep” and “to tend”, not working in the garden. They were not put in the Garden as gardeners.
They did not have weeds at that time. They didn’t have problems with needing to fertilize the plants. They didn’t need to prune the trees in the Garden. Everything was absolutely perfect. God didn’t put them in there to be gardeners, but custodians and to expand the dominion of man as he was to rule over the planet. He is a king-priest, male and female, created to be a king-priest.
They are ejected from the Garden, which was the sanctuary where they met with God, because of sin.
Thus, we see two things develop. We see it in a very abbreviated sense right at the end of Genesis 3, where I stopped last time, that God clothed them with animal skin. That just brings to bear a lot of activity that is summarized in a very short sentence.
The next thing we see at the end of Genesis 4 is the statement in the last line in Genesis 4:26, “then men began to call on the name of the Lord.” This is a significant statement that is developed over the next couple of books and into the Book of Exodus.
That is a fundamental aspect of worship, “calling on the name of the Lord”. Some people think that means prayer. Some people think that means evangelism. Some people think that means different things, but we have to see what the Bible actually says. If you study the Word, the Word will make it clear.
We are going to begin tonight by moving to the next level in talking about worship. One of the things we saw before was that man is created to be a worshipful being. He is to worship God. He is to serve God.
Their failure came because they didn’t know. Eve did not know the Word of God. If we don’t know the Word of God, we will fail in our ability to worship God. The Word of God must be kept precisely.
We looked at numerous examples. I pointed out last time where God gives precise instructions. When those are violated, sometimes there are terrible consequences.
We think of the two sons of Aaron—Abihu and Nadab. They offered what the Scripture describes as “strange fire before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1). God had been very specific as to the kind of incense that should be offered in the tabernacle at the altar of incense. He had a reason for that.
Apparently, somehow they got some other incense. They may have purchased it from some traders going along the way, some Midianites, or others who were merchants of the ancient world.
However, they got a hold of it, they thought “Well, this will be fine. It smells good and looks good. It’s just as good as what God had said.” They’re doing something that has plagued man since Cain and Abel. That is, they are defining worship on their own terms.
When they went into the tabernacle and they put this alternate, unauthorized incense on the altar of incense, God took their lives immediately. God wants worship to be on His terms and not on our terms.
Yet throughout the generations, both in the Old Testament and New Testament, we see that the trend of the sin nature is for man to redefine God in terms of his own image. As the joke goes, “God created man in His own image, and now man is returning the favor and creating God in his image”, in man’s image. We’ve anthropomorphized God. We made Him like a human being.
This is completely false. We’ve redefined God, and we’ve redefined worship in terms of how it makes us feel, rather than what truly honors and glorifies God.
Just in terms of review, we saw that in the original earth, the original Creation, there are three basic areas. There’s the whole earth. There was an area known as Eden, which is subdivided into a smaller area, a Garden that was planted east in Eden. That is where Adam and Eve walked with the Lord.
We see those same distinctions in the tabernacle. There’s an outer courtyard. There’s the Holy Place, and the sanctuary where the priest met with God in the Holy of Holies.
In the tabernacle and in the temple there were veils that had cherubim embroidered into the veils in order to show that the sanctuary God was still being protected by those cherubim.
We saw that there were other similarities. The tabernacle, the worship that God gave to Israel, was to remind them of what was lost, but also look forward to the future.
We saw this basic principle that failure to know the Word leads to a breakdown in worship. It leads to sin. Sin leads to separation from God.
Adam and Eve are removed from the Garden. They no longer have access to the Tree of Life. God is not walking with them every day. There is a barrier that is between God and man, but God has provided a means of restoration that is based on sacrifice. This is implied when God makes clothing for man in Genesis 3:21, “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”
It is really important to pay attention to a lot of the contrast going on in these chapters. When Adam and Eve realized what happened when they sinned, they try to solve the problem, and it was not substantial. It was incomplete. It was not sufficient.
You don’t see it in the English, but it they “... made for themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7). That word in the Hebrew for “coverings”, as I pointed out last time, is a word that is most often translated as “a belt”. I think once it is translated as “a girdle”, which is also very narrow, something that just covered the loins. It was basically loin cloths. It is insufficient to cover everything.
The contrast is that when God clothed them, He made them “tunics” (Genesis 3:21). The word there translated “tunic” was a term that will describe the robes of the priests. It was something that went from head to toe. They were fully clothed, emphasizing that God’s provision is sufficient and complete, whereas man’s ability to solve his own problem is always insufficient and incomplete.
We saw also that “Adam called his wife’s name Eve” (Genesis 3:20) and I talked a little bit about how, down through the generations, that man rejected God and began to pervert the story of Creation, began to pervert the meaning of God.
I used the illustration of a Phoenician goddess who is called the “goddess of living”. She’s pictured by a serpent. Serpents show up in various ways in ancient polytheism and ancient temples and things of that nature. There is a complete breakdown that occurs because of the corruption of sin. This is depicted as we go along.
As we move from the sufficiency of God’s grace at the end of Genesis 3, we quickly shift to the first generation. We’re introduced to them in Genesis 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain ...” The root meaning of the word Cain is “to acquire”.
Some people wonder what the original language was. I’ll just throw this in extra, free of charge material. If Hebrew wasn’t the original language in the Garden, then none of these names would make sense. They are all names that are given meaning, but they are Hebrew names. You have names like Adam, Chavvah, Qayin, and Hebel. These are all names that are Hebrew and have meaning and significance in the Hebrew language. This would’ve been, very likely, the original language.
At the end of Genesis 3, we see as I stated that “... God made tunics of skin” (Genesis 3:21). That means He had to kill animals, so they experienced death for the first time. There would have been bleeding, indicating a blood sacrifice. God would have had to teach them how to treat the leather so that it would be soft and supple and could be used for clothing.
All of this takes a long time. Even though we read about this in a very short verse, in Genesis 3:21, it describes something that would have taken hours, or days, to accomplish. Since the Israelites already knew about how to do all of that, Moses doesn’t need to go into detail. They get the point. They understand what is going on.
Sacrifice, as I pointed out last time, is now introduced in Genesis 3:21.
We’re going to get into the familiar story of Cain and Abel, the two brothers. Cain being the first born, Abel is the second born. Abel is going to be murdered by Cain.
This chapter contributes to our understanding of worship. What we’ve seen so far is that man is created to worship. He is designed to serve God. Because of sin, now man comes to God’s presence on the basis of sacrifice.
That plays itself out into the New Testament. We come to God to worship Him on the basis of a sacrifice. That sin has to be dealt with. As we’ll see as we develop it, not only is the penalty of sin dealt with by the death of Christ as the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice—the sacrifice toward which all other sacrifices point—but also we have to be cleansed of sin. Cleansing is the point of sacrifice.
But what’s connected to this is what comes at the end of Genesis 4, that last line “... Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26)
Seth is the son that is given to Adam and Eve to replace Abel. His firstborn is Enosh. It is in that third generation that “men” is plural. It is plural because now you have multiplied quite a few on the earth. Just because Cain, Abel, and Seth are the only ones mentioned doesn’t mean that they only had three children. They had a lot more. They had to at least have sisters. They had to have daughters.
Cain, Abel, and Seth had to have sisters because, up until the giving of the Mosaic Law, there were no prohibitions against marrying siblings. That’s all they had for a long time, along with first cousins. The genetic pool at that time was so rich and full and complex that you didn’t have genetic problems with siblings marrying, or people who are too close in relationship marrying.
It wasn’t until the human race got really spread out, and the gene pool got thinned out to some degree, that God then said that there would be restrictions on marrying siblings. That came only under the Mosaic Law.
Remember, Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister. Rebekah, who Isaac marries, is a cousin. This was very common in the ancient world. But ever since the time of the Mosaic Law, roughly 1446 BC, this has been prohibited. But before that, it was not.
So when we look at Genesis 4:1, we see that Eve is very focused on the Lord. She calls her firstborn Cain, meaning “I have acquired something”. It’s related to the word “to purchase or buy” or “to be given”, and she’s given a man from the Lord. She thinks this is the seed that will defeat the Serpent (Genesis 3:15). She says “ ‘I have acquired a man from the LORD.’ Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper the sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Genesis 4:1–2)
Some people say that this is the ongoing battle between the cattlemen and the shepherd. No, let’s not get off into all that. There were preachers in the so-called “Wild West”, especially in places like Wyoming and other places, where you initially had cattlemen and big ranches with cattle. Then the shepherds came in with their sheep and goats, and there were the big battles between the cattlemen and the shepherds. You would hear sermons based on Genesis 4 from time immemorial about the battle between the cattlemen and the sheep herders. That’s just reading something into the text.
Then we read something very interesting that happens in Genesis 4:3 and Genesis 4:4. “And in the process of time.” That’s the King James Version. It’s a good translation. It’s not quite accurate but it’s close. It’s closer than other translations.
As I put up here on the screen, the NET Bible says, “At the designated time.” And there are other translations that will just say “And it came to pass when.”
But the Hebrew term is very clear. It’s “at the end of days”, “at the end of a set period of days”. We will look at the significance of that in a minute. But a certain set, prescribed, period of time and gone by.
“It came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD”, to Yahweh.
Why is he bringing this offering? This ought to raise certain questions. If you’ve read through Genesis 1, 2, and 3, and now you read that Cain is bringing an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord, you should ask:
“What does this word ‘offering’ mean?”
“Who told him to bring an offering?”
“What kind of offering is this?”
“What is the purpose of this offering?”
“Where did they get this idea?”
I think that’s one of the things we can infer from the end of Genesis 3. Something must have been taught to Adam and Eve surrounding this making of the covering of animal skins, which I think is a picture of imputation of righteousness. Something had to have been explained there.
We see that there are other things that happen, when you get to Genesis 6 and 7, when God gives instructions to Noah to take seven of every clean animal onto the ark, and two of every unclean animal (Genesis 7:2). Where did he get in the idea of “clean” and “unclean”?
If you were a Jew, and you were living in the Exodus generation, then you knew what “clean” and “unclean” animals were. After you heard the Law given at Sinai, it was specified. But how did Noah know that? Obviously there had been some revelation for him to have known what the difference was.
Once again, these are the hints that we have in Scripture that there was a lot more communicated from God to Adam and the other Patriarchs than what is revealed to us during this period.
I can’t wait to get to Heaven and start asking questions like “What was left out?” I want to know what was going on during that whole period, that almost 2,000 years before the Flood. What was that like? Let’s see the movie. I think that’s going to be fun.
But what is it all about, this offering? There’s a lot of debate and discussion about the answers to each one of these questions, because so little is told us about the question.
The first question is, “what’s the meaning of the word ‘offering’ ”? This is not the word for “sacrifice”.
It is the word minhâ, which is used to describe an offering where an animal is sacrificed, as it is here, because Abel also brings a minhâ to God. In Genesis 4:4 we read “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his minhâ.”
When you get into Leviticus, minhâ is almost exclusively used of a grain offering. Some people call it a cereal offering, but it’s basically the grain offering at harvest time. That’s described in Leviticus 2:1–16 and Leviticus 6:14–23.
It wasn’t a blood offering. Here, because it’s applied to what Abel brings, it would also describe the meat offering, which would imply death. It has a broader distinction in meaning than what it normally has in Leviticus. There seems to be a narrower sense.
It’s also used in secular writings to refer to a gift from an inferior to a superior. It could be even a gift between two people of equal stature.
So it is a gift. That’s the core idea that underlies many of the sacrifices. They are gifts given back to God.
This is part of the picture that we see with Abel’s offering. We’ll talk about the quality of that in just a minute.
The second thing is “when to bring the offering?” Literally it says, “at the end of days” (Genesis 4:3). This doesn’t tell us a whole lot, does it? But it seems to suggest that there was some sort of schedule, which means there was some sort of calendar. They were supposed to wait until a certain amount of time, and at the completion of that time period, they would bring offerings.
What this suggests is that, even at this early stage, God has given them some sort of calendar. Later this is given much more precision when you come to the Jewish calendar and you have your spring feast days and your fall feast days.
By the way, we’re approaching the Jewish fall festivals. Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, is on the 10th of September. On the 18th and ending on the 19th you have Yom Kippur. There are a couple of other days that come after that which are significant in the Jewish calendar.
When you get into the Christian era, they followed that procedure and said that we should observe certain things annually, and remember certain things annually.
During the period of the Middle Ages, this got a little overboard. Not only did you have the basics of Christmas and Resurrection Day, but many other days were noted, advertised and were part of worship. A very complex church calendar developed during the period of the Middle Ages. As part of the Reformation, they divested themselves of a lot of that.
We get into a lot of churches today and they don’t pay much attention to that, other than the birth of our Lord at Christmas and the Resurrection of our Lord in the spring.
But we also have the day of Pentecost, which was significant because that’s the birthday of the church. You know, we might ask the question “Why is it that we never, as Christians, celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost?” There are a lot of churches that do. Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic, they still have their very detailed, complex calendars.
I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be paying attention to some of these days because they are significant. Part of the reason for that is to be reminded of what happened on those days and to remember those things without going overboard on that.
If this is all we had, we wouldn’t develop it. But it seems like from the very beginning, something that is developed all the way through Scripture and follows even into the early church, is this establishment of a ritual calendar—a calendar for remembering certain key events.
That whole idea of memory, of course, is embedded in Scripture. It’s important for us to be reminded because we do forget very quickly.
That’s the idea there. “When should they bring the offering?” They had some sort of instruction from God as to when they were to bring that offering.
“What kind of offering is it?” As I pointed out the word minhâ can refer to a grain offering. That would be a Thanksgiving offering in the Levitical Law. But this is long before you have the details of the Levitical Law enacted.
Is it an atoning sacrifice? A whole lot of people say that this has nothing to do with an animal sacrifice versus a vegetable sacrifice. I’ll show you why I think that’s wrong. But for the time being and for our topic, I don’t think that that’s as important as recognizing a key principle here: this is a historical event, but it is a paradigm.
It is a paradigm that there are two kinds of people. Other than the two kinds of people, one being those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.
There’s another breakdown of two kinds of people. There are those who come to worship God on God’s terms because they want to please the Lord. And there are those who want to worship God on their terms, and to use God, and manipulate God to get what they want. That’s what we see in the distinction between Cain and Abel.
But one of the reasons that I think that this is a blood sacrifice and that Abel’s offering should be understood as a blood sacrifice is, contextually, it lies between only two mentions of sacrifice or indications of a sacrifice in the beginning of Genesis.
You have clearly the implication of the sacrifice when God kills the animals to make the clothing for Adam and Eve. Then the next time you have anything specific said, it’s in Genesis 8 when “Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and every clean bird”—that’s why there had to be seven, because one was going to be taken for this offering—“and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Genesis 8:20).
Now where did he get that idea? Burnt offerings are never mentioned before this time. This is brand new. It’s in a different language. It’s not a minhâ. But you have a clear indication of a blood sacrifice in Genesis 3, and this is clearly an animal sacrifice here.
It makes more sense, if that’s all you had, it would be more consistent to see the distinction between Cain and Abel as being an animal sacrifice.
But we have the value of three passages in the New Testament. In Hebrews 11:4, we’re told that “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Now let’s think about that.
“By faith” means that Abel is operating on the basis of faith. He’s not just saying “Oh, I believe God will take mine.” That’s mysticism. That’s emptiness.
Faith is always in a proposition from God. It’s in a specific piece of revelation from God. A statement from God. Abel is believing something that God said, and Cain is not believing it.
Then we’re told that “Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice”. What this means is that the sacrifice itself, of Abel, was of higher quality than the sacrifice of Cain.
That could be for two reasons. It could be that the issue really isn’t between a blood sacrifice and a grain offering, both of which, as the argument goes, possibly could be accepted by God.
But then the emphasis would be on what Abel brought. Notice in Genesis 4:4 it says, “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock.” That is a really important statement that most of us just fly by as if it’s just words. He brings the firstborn of his flock. Who told them to bring the firstborn? Who told him that the firstborn was better?
Then it says, “and of their fat” (Genesis 4:4). Who told him to bring the fat? Why is he bringing the fat? What’s the big deal about fat? If you lived in the early stages of mankind, you lived on a paleo diet, so you really didn’t necessarily have that much fat. So what’s going on with all this fat and the animal? Let’s think about it a minute.
First of all, did anybody here ever raise sheep? (Speaking to an audience member) You did when you were a kid, didn’t you?
I miss Gene Brown. Gene Brown and I had a lot of talks because Gene knew a lot about what it was to herd sheep and to be a shepherd. There are a lot of things about sheep that are pretty nasty.
How many people think that Abel just had 15 or 20 sheep? I don’t think anybody would believe that. He probably had hundreds of sheep. In most scenarios that we have in the Old Testament, the shepherds would’ve had hundreds of sheep.
One thing I know about sheep is you can’t go out this afternoon and look among your 800 or 1,000 sheep and say “that one was the first one born this spring.” You can’t do it. You have to have been watching for that firstborn.
When that first lamb is born at the beginning of the spring, to make sure you don’t lose sight of it, you have to take that lamb and the mama, and you have to isolate them. You have to build a special pen for them. Then you have to take care of that lamb in a very special way because you know that this lamb is going to be a sacrifice to God. You’re going to feed the lamb, you’re going to take care of it a lot.
If you are familiar with high school programs, you have FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4H clubs. These kids go down to the stock show at the Houston Rodeo. All these kids are bringing these livestock that they have raised and prepared to show. That’s what it would have been like.
You would have isolated this lamb as soon as that little lamb was born, knowing that this lamb is going to be the sacrifice to God. You’re going to feed it.
It’s not going to be like the Jews were when they were apostate at the time of Malachi, when Malachi says “You guys are just bring in the scrawniest, most diseased lambs to sacrifice to God.” (Malachi 1:7–8.) But that’s not right. You bring the first and you bring the best.
That’s what they were bringing. They were bringing the first, and they were bringing the best. That was what was going to be there for God. They had to really pay attention to it. They had to feed and nourish and take care of this one lamb. It was going to be the very best.
The fat is important also. As I pointed out, I thought about this for years. I talked to Jay many times about “what is so significant about the fat?”
It finally occurred to me as I was doing study that you don’t have fat sheep or fat cattle if God has not given you a lot of rain and a lot of grain.
So what “fat” means is that God has blessed you richly. You have animals that are fat because God has given you abundance. Now you’re giving the best of what God has given you. It symbolized that God has richly blessed you, and you’re giving that back to God. But somebody had to tell him about that.
It’s interesting, in the Law, that you have a lot of regulations related to giving the firstfruits to God. The firstborn and the firstfruits. In fact, there is a law in Leviticus 19:23.
I know some of you have lime trees and lemon trees. I know couple years ago, we got our first lemon tree. The first year we got five or six lemons. That was really great. Then the next year, we got about eight or nine. This year it looks like we might get fifteen or so.
But if you are an Israelite and you planted your fruit orchard, your apple orchard, or your date orchard, or whatever it was, God says in Leviticus 19:23, “When you come into the land and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised to you.”
How many of you have noticed that in your daily Bible reading, as you have gone through Leviticus and your eyes are glazing over?
What is “uncircumcised fruit”? What that means is: that which was uncircumcised was not set apart to the Lord. That which is uncircumcised is that which has not been dedicated to the Lord. Their fruit is uncircumcised. That means it’s unclean. It’s not under the covenant. So they can’t eat it. “You shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you” (Leviticus 19:23). It is using that as a metaphor that it’s unclean. It’s not permissible. For the first three years, you can’t eat the fruit from your fruit trees.
“But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy” (Leviticus 19:24). Now you have waited four years, but now it’s holy. That means it is set apart to God. All of the fruit that you get in your fourth-year harvest is taken to the temple and is given to God. It’s your firstfruits. That is the best and that is your first offering.
You have to wait to the fifth year. “And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:25). That’s what God wants from us, our best, because He’s the One who gave it to us.
I point this out, I think Sunday morning. There was a Rabbinical illustration that giving offerings to God is like a little girl going out into her mother’s garden and cutting a bouquet of flowers. Then putting it all together, and decorating it, and then giving it to her mother as a present.
It’s her mother’s flowers. It’s her mother’s garden. She has done something with it that is beautiful and attractive, and gives this as a gift to her mother. That is what we’re doing when we give back to God. Whatever it is that we have made or produced, we made it, and we produced it with that which God made to begin with.
It’s like that joke that I’ve used for many years about the scientists who finally created life in the laboratory. They were so overjoyed saying “We don’t need God anymore. We’re going to go off and tell God that that we don’t need Him anymore. We will even challenge Him to a contest.”
They go off and challenge God to a contest saying, “We can make man just as good as You can.” God says, “Okay, I’ll accept the challenge and, since you challenged, I’ll let you go first. You make a man.” So the scientists stooped down and scooped up some dirt. Then God said, “No, no, no, no, no. You make your own dirt.”
See? Everything we have comes from God. You may think that you do well at your job, but everything related to that job originally came from God. God gives us everything. He gives us all the raw materials out of which we have manufactured something to glorify God.
Then we get into this passage in Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” It was qualitatively better.
It could have been qualitatively better because he gave “the firstborn of his flock and of their fat” (Genesis 4:4), but maybe it was because he gave the right kind of sacrifice.
That’s in contrast because it doesn’t say that Cain brought the firstfruit of the ground. It says he just “brought an offering of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3) so it could be qualitative. He just brings whatever he has. It’s not the firstfruit. Abel is bringing the firstfruit.
But I think it’s more than that. In Hebrews 12:24 we read “to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”
What’s interesting here is we have to break down the Greek language a little bit. The head noun in the phrase “the blood of sprinkling” is “the blood”. “The blood” is a neuter dative singular. The participle “that speaks” is also a neuter dative singular. That means that the participle modifies the noun “blood”.
What is it that “speaks better things than that of Abel” is “the blood”. This indicates that what Abel offered must be of the same character as the “blood of sprinkling”. That means that Abel’s sacrifice had to be a blood sacrifice.
And then we look at 1 John 3:12 “not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil.” It’s not just that he didn’t give them with the right attitude. It’s that his works in and of themselves were evil. He gave the wrong kind of sacrifice.
Usually when I have read, and I’ve read a lot of different people on this over the years, they never go to these other passages, which are very informative in the New Testament. I think that the Hebrews passage and the others are the ones that really make it quite significant.
In Genesis 4:3–4, what we read here is that “in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD.” He is not seeking to please God. “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and their fat.” He is responding to God’s revelation, and worship is on the basis of God’s revelation. This sets things up for why this is correct.
I’ve already read that passage.
Genesis 4:11 is about the consequence of Cain’s sin. God says, “So now you are cursed from the earth.” What does it mean that you are cursed from the earth? Cursing and blessing are the opposites.
Blessing refers to that when we are enriched. We may be enriched materially. We may be enriched spiritually. Our life experience is more joyful, that would be spiritual. We may have abundance in our produce, and in our finances. That is how God enriches us. He can enrich us in our health, our family, our talents, and our abilities.
To be cursed means to be removed from the place of blessing as a result of God’s discipline for disobedience. This is what has happened. He is judged by God. He’s disciplined and removed from the place of blessing. “you are cursed from the earth” (Genesis 4:11), the adamah. The rich soil that was to produce what he had brought to the Lord, it’s now cursed for him.
And “it’s opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth, and Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is greater then I can bear!’ ” (Genesis 4:11–13)
Let me point out a couple things that are going on here. By the writing of and telling of the story, God is really emphasizing this contrast between these two men. They represent two types of worshipers.
This contrast is indicated by the way Moses wrote this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Cain’s name is mentioned fourteen times. Abel’s name is mentioned seven times, but the appellation “his brother”, referring to him as a Cain’s brother, is then mentioned seven times. So, Cain is mentioned fourteen times. Abel is mentioned fourteen times. It’s a perfect balance of contrasting one with the other.
Cain goes on, and he is going to quit being a farmer because he can’t farm. His descendants are those that develop culture. They develop music. They develop metallurgy. They develop the cities, and all of these things. Culture and civilization develop with them. But also there is an increase of sin and murder and the beginning of polygamy.
The contrast that comes at the end of the chapter is that it’s with the line of Seth that “men began to call on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 4:26).
So we have to ask this question: “What does it mean to call on the name of the LORD?” What is in a name?
I covered this couple weeks ago in 1 Peter. In Peter, he is talking to his recipients about suffering for the name of Jesus. What is this that the Bible emphasizes about the name?
First of all, in the Scripture, names are not just simply tags. It’s not just simply nomenclature. It’s not just saying, “well, we’re going to call this ‘chair’ ”, but the name has nothing to do with the essence of what it is.
I’ve always used this illustration of a medieval mystery novel written in modern times by Umberto Eco, an Italian writer. He wrote a book called The Name of the Rose, which was later turned into a movie starring Sean Connery as Brother Bartholomew. He is sort of a Sherlock Holmes character.
The movie is fun and makes a lot more sense than the book because the book has all kinds of themes and sub-themes. You finish reading the book or watching the movie and if you are a thinking person you are saying “Why is it called The Name of the Rose” because there’s nothing in it about a rose?
That’s where we have to get into deep philosophy. In deep philosophy, you have something that developed in the Middle Ages called nominalism.
Before that you had realism. In realism, you had the idea that names meant something and indicated the essence of the character of what they named. There is a correlation there.
But in nominalism names didn’t mean anything. They weren’t significant.
So Brother Bartholomew is a nominalist. The Name of the Rose is what the book is called but it doesn’t have anything to do with anything in the book. It’s a pun.
When I read it, I was getting a Masters in Philosophy, so I just had great fun with the whole book. I was really into that at the time. But most of us would’ve missed that otherwise.
Names in the Bible represent the nature or character of a person. Abram is “exalted father” and Abraham is “the father of multitudes”. Jacob is “the heel grabber” and Israel is “the one who fought with God” and “who is the prince with God”. Jesus is Yeshua, it means “Savior.” These names meant something and reflected something about the character of the individuals.
When we come to understanding something about the name of God, we read in Exodus 3:13. Remember the theme is “what does it mean to call the name of God?” So, what does it mean to call on the name of the Lord?
In Exodus 3:13 Moses is talking to God and he says “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say?”
In Exodus 3:14 God answers and says “I AM WHO I AM.” The name of the God, the sacred Tetragrammaton, YHWH is not “Jehovah”.
Jehovah is a bastardized word. A lot of early Jewish scholars were Ashkenazi in Germany. So, when they saw a Y they wrote it as a J. And when they saw a W, they wrote it as a V. The J was pronounced like a Y, and the W was pronounced like a V in German. That’s where you got JHVH.
The Jews don’t ever read the name of God out loud because it’s holy. When they put vowel points in, they put the Hebrew vowels for adonai under the consonants for Yahweh. That would remind them that they were to read adonai instead of Yahweh when they read the text. Today, they will frequently read HaShem, “the Name”.
In the mid-1400s you had a priest who was doing transcribing, and he began to transcribe the Name of God as Jehovah. That’s the origin of the name “Jehovah”. The consonants come from one name and the vowels come from another name. So that’s not really God’s name.
The sacred Tetragrammaton YHWH comes from hayah, the Hebrew verb that means “to be” or “to exist”. God is saying that “My name means the One who is self-existent. I’m the One who always has existed, and that is My essence.”
This was not a name that was unknown. We know that Yahweh walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. The name of Yahweh is mentioned in Genesis 4, which I just read through, and Genesis 5 and Genesis 6. Abraham called on the name of Yahweh all the way through the story of Abraham.
What this means is they learn something new about the meaning and significance of His name, that it emphasized His being the self-existent One. This shows us that God’s name means something.
In Genesis 12:8 we read that Abraham moved from Shechem. “He moved from there to the mountains east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.” Some of you been with me when we stopped the van or the bus in Israel right at that spot and could look west to Bethel and east to Ai.
And “there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.”. I got goosebumps the first time I went to that location.
In Genesis 21:33 “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba” when he went south to Beersheba, “and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.”
In Genesis 26:25 Isaac “built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there—this is in Beersheba also—“and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.”
In Exodus 34:5, this is a real kicker. How do you know what it means to “call on the name of the Lord”?
Does it mean to evangelize? That doesn’t work here.
Does it mean to proclaim or preach? That’s not quite what it means here.
Does it mean to pray? That’s not what it means here.
You have the exact same phrase here in Exodus 34:5 “the Lord descended in the cloud on Mount Sinai and stood with him there,” that is with Moses, and He, that is God, “proclaimed the name of the Lord”. God is telling and revealing who He is, His essence, His character. He’s revealing Himself to Moses. That’s what it means to call on the name of something. It is to tell something about the essence or character of someone.
Slide 30 (skip)
We also look at passages like Exodus 33:19. God said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you,” His goodness, His character.
In both of these passages, in Exodus 34 and Exodus 33:19, He emphasizes His character.
In Exodus 34:5, “the Lord descended in the cloud”. In Exodus 34:6–7, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” He’s proclaiming who He is, His character.
When he says, “calling upon the name of the Lord”, Abraham was teaching about who Yahweh was to the surrounding pagans, and the Canaanites.
We see the opposite of this in 1 Kings 18:26, where the prophets of Baal are calling on the name of Baal. They’re reciting all of his different names and titles which relate to who Baal was.
In Isaiah 9:6 we see that the name of the Messiah “will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father”—should be “Father of Eternity”—“Prince of Peace.” These are not names that are given to Jesus, or the Messiah. But these reflect His character, who He is.
That’s fulfilled in Matthew 1:21. Mary is specifically told to “call his name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins.” It has a significance.
Salvation is based on this. John 1:12, “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
That’s not just believing in a nomenclature, or the name that is on a birth certificate. It’s believing in who He is and what He’s done, His character. You are believing Jesus is the Messiah who died for our sins.
John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but He who does not believe is condemned already.” Why? “Because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son.” That’s not saying “I believe there was somebody named Jesus. I believe that was His name.” That’s not what it means. It means you believe who He was and what He did.
The fourth, we see that it represents the character of the Father. Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are One” and in John 5:43, “I have come in my Father’s name”, I have come as a representative of His character. This is what He did. No one had seen the Father at any time, but Jesus had explained Him. He is the revelation, the One who reveals the Trinity.
John 17:6, “I have manifested Your Name to the men whom You have given me”. That means “I manifested Your character. They could look at Me and see what You are like.”
John 17:11, these are men I kept “through Your name, those whom You have given me” through Your character.
John 17:12, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name.” In other words, by Your character, by Your essence, by who You are.
John 17:26, “And I have declared to them Your name”—I’ve taught them who You are, Your essence—“and I will declare it”.
In the upper room, Jesus says that we are to pray in Jesus’ name.
This is not some magic formula, to conclude prayer by saying “in the name of Jesus.” That is, if I say, “in the name of Jesus,” my prayer is going to be answered but if I don’t say “in the name of Jesus” my prayer will not be answered. That’s not what Jesus is talking about.
It’s fine to conclude prayer that way because it teaches the principle that we come to God on the basis of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross, that we come to Him because He is our high priest.
This is what Jesus is saying, “whatever you ask in My name,” when you come representing your prayer based on who I am and what I’ve done, then “the Father will be glorified” and the Father will listen. But that’s because we’re coming, and our prayer is based on who Jesus is and what He did.
Think about that the next time you pray. When you pray for all the things that you’re praying for on your prayer list, think about the fact that you’re praying it because this represents who Jesus is and what He did and His plan for you as a believer.
That is a rich, robust understanding of what we’re praying for. We’re praying these things because of who Jesus is and what He did for us. That’s our authorization to come into the presence of God.
So, Jesus makes these statements: “If you ask anything in My name”—and on the basis of who I am—“I will do it” (John 14:14).
John 15:16, “whatever you ask the Father in My name,” on the basis of who I am and what I’ve done.
Also, in John 16:23–26 this is repeated again and again. It’s on the basis of who Jesus is that we come into His presence.
When we’re looking at worship, what we see here is that worship now, after Genesis 3, and because of Genesis 3, is based on an accurate understanding of God’s revelation. Cain fails. Abel passes.
Second, worship is not determined by the thinking or the mental attitude or the ideas of the worshiper. It’s based on what God has said about worship. We come to worship God on His terms, and not on our terms.
The new thing that we learned tonight, along with sacrifice, is that we come in the name of this God, to proclaim His name. So, part of worship involves sacrifice. It’s going to involve confession.
It involves sacrifice because that’s a recognition of the sin problem. It is going to involve “calling on the name of the Lord,” or proclaiming who He is and what He has done. Those are elements that we see added in now in Genesis 4 because of what God has done.
We’ll come back next time and start working our way a little bit through the perversions of worship that develop in Genesis, and then get into Exodus a little bit.
“Father, thank You for this time that we can think about worship, that we can think about the fact that we come in the name of Jesus. We come because of who Jesus is and because what He did for us.
“He is our foundation. He is our only hope. We are in Him, and on that basis and that basis alone, we have the privilege of praying to You.
“Father, we pray that You would help us to think about the things we’re learning about worship, that it might elevate our thinking. And that we may have a much more robust concept of what it means to be in your image, that we are to serve you in preparation for our future role as king-priests. This we pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”