2. Abel: A Better Offering

Hebrews 11:4–By faith, a better offering Abel offered to God than Cain, through which he gained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Image result for cain and abel
Photo credit: ancient-hebrew.org

Two sons were born to our first parents: Cain the firstborn, and Abel the second. We are told that they gave offerings to the Lord of which the Lord liked Abel’s better than Cain, but we are not told why God liked Abel’s offering better than Cain’s. I do believe the limited detail of Genesis 4 does offer a clue as to why God regarded Abel’s offering.

Genesis 4:3 It happened at the end of days, that Cain brought to God from the fruit of the ground his offering, but Abel brought to God from the first born of his flocks and their fat portions.

Some principles from this text is that Abel’s offering was better because he gave God the best of the best, because he believed God was the best of the best. Cain offered from the fruit of the ground, a common gift, an earthy gift. But Abel sought to give the best of what he had, and the best part of that thing.

This particular offering communicated something about God. What did Abel communicate about God through his offering that Cain did NOT communicate in his? Simply this: God is the best of the best, and deserves the best of the best.

A gift that a man gives God is a visible description of the invisible God. And when a man gives a gift that worthy of God, then God is able to attest to all witnesses that his gift is a right gift. If he had regarded Cain’s offering, he would have accepted a low rank of a common soldier from the gift of a man who did not master the corruption that was within him, but He regarded Abel’s offering and thereby he attested to all witnesses that Abel was righteous.

What does this look like today? Many treat God as a common household trophy: a glorious symbol of somebody to depend on when you need to reference the supernatural, but never more important than yourself, or your family, or everything in your own life. Such a view of God, such a treatment of God like drivel is like unto Cain’s offering.

However, there are others who see that the very best of their lives is the only thing that is close to worthy of God. To give it to themselves or to another would be simply ludicrous, because God is the One who deserves it. And while God has given us all things to enjoy, it is not the truest good for us to enjoy the best, because we are merely images of God, rather than the one who is truly good.

This offering of what is truly Good to God, is the better offering: and it is only possible by faith. Faith recognizes:

God alone is worthy of our greatest gifts, and the life of faith is lived
 where God truly is the most important person in the relationship.

This is what the blood of Abel still speaks, and also what moves Cain to jealousy today. Those who live spiritually mediocre lives envy the favor of God upon the ones who are regarded by Him as righteous. And all the while the answer is found in what God says to Cain, “If you do what is good, will not your face be lifted up, but if not, sin seeks to have you, but you must master it.

O the glory of having God Himself attest to your righteousness– that you actually serve Him rightly. Such a testimony is only the acquisition of faith which sees God for who he really is before it actually lays eyes on Him.

Application:

  1. Today, take stock of the most important things in your life: requirements, and enjoyments, and find a way to give God the best of each simply because He is worthy of it. Example: If TV is your greatest enjoyment, converse with God about a way you can use your TV time to please him: whether by spending time doing something else, or by watching a particular TV show He lead you to, or by moving something else up in the value chain.
  2. Repent of the areas where you have given God the crumbs instead of the main course. Areas where your love of God grows cold in comparison to what it once was. Example: You go to church, and while you’re there, you are thinking about what else you could be doing right now.
  3. Spend time earnestly trying to figure out what is actually pleasing to him: Is He pleased when you sing? Is he pleased when you work with your hands? Is he pleased when you are still and silent? Is he pleased when you read the Bible? What do you do that makes you feel his pleasure?
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1. Us: The World and the Word

Hebrews 11:3~ “By faith we understand that the ages of time were created by the proclamation of God, so that, from what was not visible, things that are seen came to be.” (Translation mine)

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Faith accounts for the unseen reality which is the basis for the seen reality. Faith does not just think there is something to the Unseen, it simply understands that the Unseen is real. We have already discussed this, and now let us look at the nature of faith.

Principle: It sees the Visible in terms of the Invisible. How are we supposed to make sense of the world of time in which we live purely by observation of the visible world? Even if those who claimed to have done so actually could, they would negate so many concepts that are unseen yet obviously real: such as meaning, love, happiness, even words. There is an invisible dimension behind everything, and faith sees it.

The Bible teaches us how to see the Seen world in terms of the Unseen.

Faith recognizes the designer in the design, the creator in the creation, and his word behind the thing. It is easy to think of Words giving us access to understanding things: a bridge between us and the world around us. This is not untrue, but words can also give access to the Person behind the Words behind the thing referred to with the word that is formed in your mind and heart. As words give access to the Seen reality, so words also give us access to the Unseen reality. Just as Paul wrote in Romans 10:13 “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the proclamation of Christ.”

This is also why faith can be trained by learning the Words of God, which we have in the Bible. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God bringing us to Salvation, because the very Gospel of Christ is woven into the fabric of the way God made the world. Paul wrote also to the Romans 1:20 that, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Faith gives a person the ability to see the world through God’s eyes.

Application:

  1. Read the Scriptures, listen to them on audio, and let the word of God, the SAME word that created the whole world, be your access to seeing the Unseen realm, and also the world around you.
  2. Learn to see the world from the Word of God’s point of view. It’s like how Neo saw the Matrix. God’s Word in the Bible is the same Word for understanding all of the Seen world. By this I do not mean the “Bible Code” or DaVinci anything. I simply mean that a person’s words are a result of who they are, and God has revealed who He is in the words that He used to create the visible world.
Matrix as it is
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0. Lessons on Faith: Intro to Hebrews 11

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I do believe many Bible-studiers have written devotionals on faith already. What’s one more?

The purpose of Hebrews chapter 11 is not to celebrate heroes of the Bible, but to inform and encourage believers concerning faith. Since I have heard so much malformation on the subject of faith, I thought it best to share the joyous and sobering results of my Bible Study in this space. These lessons can serve as a daily devotional to any seeking to fully grasp, grapple with, and be gripped by the greater unseen world unto which faith is the door. May you see Him Who is Unseen, here in the words that follow:

The Unseen Reality (a rather philosophical part of the intro)

Anyone familiar with the Bible when asked the question “What is faith?” will probably quote or cite Hebrews 11:1, here in New King James.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
–Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

For me, these words have gotten crusted over with interpretations and explanations. What does this really mean? With eagerness I return to the original languages and bring forth another translation, which I believe helps get to the fire behind the words.

Faith is the reality hoped for, and the proof of unseen things.–Hebrews 11:1 (translation mine)

This helps me see some important things about faith right away: that there is a reality that is hoped for, and there are unseen things being proven.

First, a reality that is hoped for. it’s not like a hoped for reality like “I hope that it will be a reality that it will rain later.” It is the reality which is the basis for our hope! It is already real and going to happen. This part of the definition itself affirms a reality in which the believer sets his hope.

Second, unseen things are being proven. Faith is the proof that there is an unseen dimension to all of life. Some scientist friends of mine may take issue to this, but history has recorded many things about unseen forces at work in the world. This part of the definition is affirming the tangible reality that corresponds things which cannot be seen.

These two halves of the definition of faith make faith a tangible and mysterious thing. It may be foolhardy to think I could offer a simplified definition of faith that is adequate but not simplistic. Here it goes:

Faith is the proof of the unseen reality in which we hope.

I want to vouch to all of those reading this that there is indeed an Unseen Reality. There are unseen beings and places and things in this reality. It is governed by rules and people just like the Seen reality in which we all live. It is as real as the physical world, and as we will learn in the verses to come, it also governs the Seen reality in which we live.

Faith is the two-way door from one reality into the other. It is where both realities meet: Because of this, Faith is not just the notion of an unseen reality, nor is it a practice in the Physical world with the acknowledgement that there is a spiritual reality. Neither of these sides of the roof classify as faith. Faith is where the two realities meet and bleed into one another.

Because of this, a person’s whole being must be engaged in the exploration of faith: Any ways of dividing up a person you can try: Body, Mind, Soul, spirit, heart, will, emotions, etc. All of these must be as you the one person presently engaged in this exercise of being. Faith is as deeply personal as the foundation of a person’s being: the reality in which a person exists.

The Way of Approval (The more straightforward part of the intro)

In Hebrews 11:2 we read:

“By this [faith] the elders were testified as approved.” Hebrews 11:2 (translation and parentheses mine).

This means that faith is how we can look back on those who came before as to whether or not they have been approved by God, (as we will talk about later). In the court case of whether not a man is approved by God, Faith is the deciding proof in the following cases which we will be examining. The nature of faith, then, will be our aim to uncover so that we too may be judged as approved as they were. Because:

Faith is the proof that God has approved a person.

These will be the lessons as divided up by number, character, themes, and verses.

  1. Us–The World and the Word (vs 3)
  2. Abel– A Better Offering (vs 4)
  3. Enoch–A Pleasing Walk with God (vs 5-6)
  4. Noah–Obedience is a Two-Edged Sword (7)
  5. Abraham I–The Way of Exile (8-16)
  6. Abraham II–The Death of the Promise (17-19)
  7. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph– Keeping Our Eyes on the Promise (20-22)
  8. Moses–Identifying with God (vs. 24-27)
  9. Israel–Obedience under Judgement (28-31)
  10. The Servants of God–The Visible Reality (32-40)

Each section will deal with the Biblical theme, what it shows about faith, and how it involves us.

Lightning Rod

I see him scrambling to the top of the building.
The lightning flashes all around him, but does not strike home.
He is the only hope they have for power
Because the rest of the people stay inside the lower building praying
And he is the lightning rod.

The classic architecture white and sturdy
Bears him up as he slowly reaches the highest point.
He had passed the gates and open field
He was admitted at the door of the house and allowed to serve
He submitted his appeal to the Highest office in the land.

The wizened Ruler had stared back at him incredulous
“What makes you think you could restore power?
Don’t you believe that your God can help you out without your sacrifice?
Let me give you the power you need, you can stay alive.
Just be my servant, and I will give you everything you want.”

The young man had looked him in the face
Unwilling to surrender that charge which he had carried thus far:
A lightning rod in his hand connected to his darkened home.
He told him, “The power is not yours to give.”
“I go to seek the One who is ruler over you.”

With permission, he had broken forth into the rain like hail.
His charge in hand, his clothes drenched with Heaven’s tears
Now at the top, he stretches himself upwards
And blazing from the sky above the connection is made
Power without limit surges through his brittle frame.

The prayers of the people are answered with self-sustaining light
All the house is enlightened by the revelation of Heaven’s power
The young man knew what this would cost him,
And now charred and scorched like a rag in the ashes
He crumples to the roof and rolls off to the ground far below.

When the Ruler looks out the window, he sees something good:
A power above that could not be rivaled
And one young man who gave his all.
So that others might live in the light of life
He closed the curtains and made a call.

Fire and Stone

Is the earth rock solid?
Scientists know
There is fluid flame
In deep places below.

The rock is so good
It does not move
The world stands fast
Until rock breaks

The fire is so good
It only moves
The World expands
And shatters the rock

But lo the mystery:
Fire takes good stone
And forges it anew
As one solid piece

And from that solid piece
New life grows
And foundations are laid
For the time it is given

What is stone does not last
Unless fire melt it
What is fire cannot settle
What ignites if fire touches it

God is good: true and living
His word settles the future.
His word is ever breathing
Right now in your hearing.

The Secret to Slowing Time

Now that I am exiting another stage of life, Time has locked into high gear for me. Days are an afterthought. Weeks gone in a blink. In a flash the months are past. I anticipate time will only continue to accelerate.

I know time hasn’t budged. It continues to grind at the same pace it has with a few variations of years being seconds longer or shorter. I know the change is within me. What has caused me to feel time has sped up?

I believe I have found the brake pedal and the gas pedal for time. Why do children feel like every day is an eternity, and most adults feel like it is a blur? This equation helped me find the answer:

Requirements speed up time
Retirements slow it down

Ask any retired person, their days crawl by just like a child’s does. When in the working world however, our time is being poured out into the mold of those who require things of us. Our present is thinned to a narrow strip between what just happened and what is needing to happen in the next minutes.

Present time is the greatest gift we have: and the celebration of that present gift is rest. Responsibly rejecting the requirements of a person for a time, and enjoying the gift of doing nothing of required consequence allows a person to be real with themselves, and most importantly with God. This is what makes rest an act of worship which just happens to be prescribed in the Ten Commandments.

Think about it: Why do you work? Why do you do anything? Is it not a reflection of your belief about the God who you worship? If you believe God is always working, then you will never give yourself a break. If however, your design is patterned after a God who rests occasionally, should that not inform your decisions concerning your own rest?

Genesis 2:2–“On the seventh day God rested.”

The Lord has made us after the pattern of His likeness with eternity in our hearts. It is Eternity that we step into whenever we rest from our labor. The silence, the stillness, the sweet release of tension– These are the gift of God to a body worn down by time’s millstone march.

This Christmas season, take time to rest. Enjoy the gift of eternity that God has given you, and see what your heart is just waiting to release as part of the tension you have built up over time.

This post was a result of resting.

The Joy of Persecution

I saw joy’s fire burning white
In a heart of flesh hidden from sight
Cruel thorns slashed gashes gaping wide
And there spilled out a glorious light

What mystery is brought to bear
When crushed plants’ perfume fills the air
The sweet aroma soft and fair
Arousing those fellow-crushed to care

I heard a spirit blowing past
Being split upon the metal cast
To rend the air with full-lunged blast
That screamed the music breathed at last.

What other ways, has He made known
The joy of new life, despite death grown?
To the humble of heart, proof He has shown
That the joy of the cross can be my own.

“For the joy that was set before him…”~Hebrews 12:2a

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 3–The World

Such a special discussion of intimacy with God must acknowledge its effect on the world. Much more is at stake in a relationship of this type than a person’s spiritual satisfaction.

Babylon (Genesis 1-11)

The “real world” as many adults posit it to many young people is one messed up pile of diarrhea. It’s been that way since Adam’s sin manifested in the Tower of Babel. All of humanity gathered together for one purpose: 

“Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

The world has historically been united before, and “world peace” once meant something godless long ago. And God scattered every nation across the world with different languages. Humanity had risen up as the spawn of Adam’s fallen humanity, and they were determined that they did not need God. No intimacy, no seeking to know God, only a seeking to be known by a name they themselves made. This is the way of the world, so I don’t pray for world peace anymore, at least not without God.

They wanted a great name for themselves, but God showed one man the path to making his name great: intimacy with God. Friendship with God.

Abraham: Genesis 12-25

What was the promise? part of it Genesis 12:2– “I will make you a great you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing.” The Principle here is this: Trustworthiness with God is the path to one’s name being great for the purpose of blessing the world. Without this friendship, it is not going to happen. But if it does happen, there is no telling how amazing the promises of God will unfold in a person’s life.

The best part of this relationship of intimacy with God is God himself. And with such a closeness with Him, the world will be touched by the blessing of this relationship leading to salvation for all who will accept it.

Isaac and IsraelGenesis 24-35, Old Testament

One of the benefits of Abraham’s journey with God, is that his son carried the spiritual heritage even further! The last act of Abraham was finding a bride for Isaac, and Isaac’s death came only after his son Jacob had wrestled with God and been given his new name Israel, after beholding a face of God.

The pattern was set by his father, and the family became Israel, the nation which would be priests to God. They would show the world the way back to a relationship with the Father, but they did a poor job of it until Jesus came, as the glory of Israel.

The Church: Romans 1:5, and 16:26

And one such son of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin shared the goal of his ministry in the beginning and the end of his letter to the Romans. 

“Through Jesus we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the [Nations] for His name’s sake.” ~Romans 1:5 

This is God’s design: to let the blessing of a relationship with Him come forth in all that the church does to bless the world. This is the only way there will be any blessing from the church. Without the aroma, the presence, the facial expressions, the words, the actions, the character of God himself evident in all our actions, the world will not be able to see Him. Such a reflection of God is not born in academia, or in the realm of moralism, or political maneuvers, or even social programs. The glory of God is seen face to face with Him, and face to face with each other.

And so I close with Jesus’ own question in Luke 18:8  “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?”

Inside the Drum

Pum, Pum, Pum
Came the beat of the drum
Thick, full echoes shaken, quaken

Bum, Bum, Bum
All through the enclosed room
The air reverberated and faded

True, True, True
All is in clear view
Nothing is hidden, naught is forbidden

Bole, Bole, Bole
Hear His thunder roll
There is only sound all around

Thwack, Thwack, Thwack
The wall inside, I stifled the whack
Now two partitions split the transmissions

Pap, Pap, Pap,
The stick went slap
The words were broken, a dream half-woken

Still, Still, Still
Eerie restlessnesses fill
The empty recesses of my newfound trusses

“Pum,” “Pum,” “Pum”
My noises sound dumb
The echoes malformed are not warmed

“Bole! Bole! Bole!”
My voice is droll
The echoes die; it is I

Lies, Lies, Lies
My mimicking cries
The room I split, a dark pit

“No! No! No!”
With all my might I throw
The walls collapse with a crash

“Bum, Bum, Bum”
I shout in the drum,
It rings soundness, and profoundness

Ring, Ring, Ring,
I listen for something
Anything to be known, and blown again

Bow, Bow, Bow
The sound returns now
Tear wells are open at new words spoken

Boom, Boom, Boom
The presence in the room
All fullness no dullness

Broll, Broll, Broll,
Welcome thunders roll
The instrument is His

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 2–The Man

So then what will it take to have this kind of intimacy with God? Abraham will be our subject of study, as he was for the Apostle Paul in Romans 4. I will examine them in my favorite fashion of Levels of Intimacy with God.

  1. Genesis 12: the Answering the Calling of God: God calls an individual to leave his home and his family behind so that he can become something else, something more than he could have been on his own. If there is obedience to this calling then “You’re off!” The reward for his obedience was the first level of Intimacy with God: God appeared to him. (vs. 7)
  2. Genesis 13: is the Casting off of Compromises: God called Abraham to leave everything behind, but still Lot went with him. It got to the point where they had to separate. If Abraham had stayed allied with Lot, he would not have been able to enjoy the blessing of God to the fullest. In our lives, compromises look like any decision we have made that falls short of God’s character of design for our lives. The reward for Abraham after he proved himself trustworthy in this was God said, “After Lot was separated from him, ‘Now lift your eyes in every direction . . . this land I will give to you and your descendants.’ The borders and the full extent of the promise was shown to him
    Recently, I thought it appropriate to mention another dimension of this idea of God trusting us. I recently read in Proverbs 3:32 about the upright, “He takes the upright into His confidence.” If any are unconvinced of God’s trust, the wisest of men shows us that it is available.
  3. Genesis 14-15: is the Denial of Worldly Reward. Abraham rescued the King of Sodom, and gave a Tithe to Melchizedek, and denied any compensation from the King of Sodom. The reward: God said he’d protect and provide for him. Furthermore, He reveals something about his character.  This is where God’s blessing and personal revelation REALLY gets special. God promises to carry his own word through to completion to His own detriment. Abraham who cut the animals in two pieces, could not keep the birds away, but God moved between the two pieces of the animals showing He would bear the weight of the breach of the Covenant. This God is so trustworthy, but he only entrusts such revelation to those who will prove this level of trustworthiness for this intimacy.
  4. Genesis 16-21: the Casting out of the Bondwoman, the easy, less-than-perfect life we have created for ourselves. Abram needed to send away Hagar because her son was to have no inheritance with the child of the promise. In our lives, this looks like getting rid of every fruitless and meaningless pursuit to which we have devoted ourselves and invested our lives, so that God can know that it is Him we want. By this point in the story, God gives Abraham a new name, and a son.
             Also, at this point, it is worth noting that Abraham was given personal insight into his plans and even giving him a voice in affecting them. When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18, he said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do?”
  5. Genesis 22 Fifth, the Sacrifice of the Promise. The final test of any believer (Trust-er) It was faith in God that enabled Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, not because he didn’t love Isaac, but because he did, and it says in Hebrews that he “trusted” that God could raise the dead. This faith is truly saving faith, but it did not presume on God, but waited for His call to give it up. His reward: insight into His secret plan to redeem the whole world, and a secure place in making it happen. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56)

I have written of these things in brief, but they are worth deep seeking out in His Word. Abraham is the prototype for saving faith, and the more he trusted God, the more God entrusted Himself to him. This level of trust isn’t merely a calculating judgment for means-to-ends purposes. This is a personal revealing of one’s self and a bringing alongside of his friend. This is genuine friendship with God in the truest sense. This is how all nations can be blessed. More on that in the next article.

Encouragement: Pursue this intimacy with God. Abram messed up at the beginning and end of his walk with God and in the middle, but what remained was his trust in God. If you want insight on how to grow in Trust with God, I believe it is largely cultivated in the Fourth Stage of a believer’s life: Wilderness, so you can see my writings on the subject for more thought-food.

Here, I have provided spiritual guiding principles, but let the evil one evoke no condemnation in you. If it’s fear that makes you run from God, it is a lie of Satan. Still, this type of pursuit of God is not for everyone. Jesus knew this when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8