God created everything on earth and while His Sovereign control over that He gave the dominion and authority to rule over that. And mankind was then required to bring offerings of gratitude to God to thank Him for providing everything. After the fall man would bring his sacrificial offerings to God at regular intervals to seek forgiveness for offences committed against God and His commands. The surprising aspect of this is that a woman had to bring an offering for her supposed uncleanness caused by her natural body functions related to fertility.
Why did God reject Cain’s offering? – God created everything and He is therefore the owner of all that exists for there is nothing that can subsist without Him. It is His love for us that He has provided everything for us for a comfortable life and while ‘The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth He has given to man’ (Psalm 115:16). With this God entered into a partnership with man, where God provides land, seed, capital and man’s part is to use all this for best results while God creates the best conditions for that. In return God does not take the major share but is content with whatever is given with a sense of gratitude. This partnership is further strengthened when God as per our prayers ‘deals bountifully’ with us to enable us to live and ‘keep His word’ by living a life of obedience (Psalm 119:17).
David was called a man after God’s own heart despite his various sins for which he and others also suffered. David did not go into battle without seeking God’s help and he attributed all his victories to the LORD. Finally when his efforts to get the Ark of the LORD into his city were bearing fruit ‘David danced before the LORD with all his might’ (2 Samuel 6:14). God is a loving Father and He is ever ready to delight in and bless those who fear (revere) Him, ‘in those who hope in His mercy’ (Psalm 147:11). A father gives his child a pencil box and a sketch book to draw whatever he wants. The child after a few hours of work wants to show his father whatever he has drawn but brings forward what he perceives as the best to the father. The father takes pride in whatever the child has drawn, commends him for his effort and plans to give him something else as a blessing to encourage the child. The father desires the child to bring the best result of his efforts to him but does not want to keep that for himself and leaves it with the child. In a similar manner God as a Father desires His children to bring the best of the result of their efforts to Him to make Him delight in that.
Cain, a tiller of the soil, in his prophetic vision realized the need to carry an offering to the LORD and accordingly took ‘something of the fruit of the earth to the LORD’ (Genesis 4:2-4). His offering was not the best but he brought ‘whatever came to his hand, not the best and not the choicest’. His brother, Abel, ‘also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat’, showing due diligence to select the best and bring that to the LORD. God ‘turned to Abel and to his offering’, meaning God appreciatively turned to Abel to commend him and ‘turned to his offering’ meaning fire descended from heaven and consumed his offering’. Kayin or Cain, the Hebrew word, means ‘acquired from God’ and since he was the first child and a male, Maimonides, the great Jewish Rebbe feels, Eve probably made the connection with Genesis 3:15 that he will ‘deal with the serpent Satan’ and crush its head. Hevel, Abel in Hebrew, means ‘breath or vapor’ meaning of a transitory nature.
In the initial stages of man’s existence, Man was supposed to eat only herbs and fruits ‘that yield seed’ and sheep rearing was not for meat but for offering to God and clothing. The innocent blood of the animal was for man’s spiritual nakedness and its skin to provide covering or clothing for man’s physical nakedness.
Why did God reject Cain’s offering? – God rejected Cain and his offering for there was nothing to appreciate in that and it is said that the offering was flaxseed and not even the best produce of the ground. Also the produce of the earth was for the priests and not for God; second, the offerings to God were for sin, only animal having life could have been offered, third, Abel brought firstborn, a male animal, and the best while Cain brought something and not the best or first fruits of the produce, four, It was probably the haughty attitude of Cain more than the offering itself for he showed no honor to God by his ordinary offering. God did not show any partiality towards either of the two brothers but rather cautioned Cain about his sinful attitude and that ‘its desire is for you, but you should rule over it’ and not let it overpower you (Genesis 3:7). God wanted him to bring the best of what his efforts had produced so that what was started in the Garden of Eden during evening visits, guidance and encouragement, could be provided to Cain to enable him to improve and get better results.
God’s desire for mankind is to see them excel in every way while all efforts of the devil are to cause downfall of mankind and keep control over them. An offering to God is not for His well being or comfort but for our growth for it is about expressing thanks for His grace to give us the produce of the earth or offspring of animals. Cain was cursed by God for his brother’s murder that the earth shall no longer yield its strength to him when he tried to cultivate it, though he was a farmer (Genesis 4:11-12). How many believers can claim to be better than Cain in their dealings with God?
What is the best offering we can take to God? – In the Old Testament many types of offerings and sacrifices are mentioned, that people were required to offer to God on a regular basis. All of these offerings pointed to Lord Jesus and what He accomplished for us on the cross. God desires that whatever we do ‘do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31); we are to ‘do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Colossians 3:17) and all our actions should be to receive the ‘imperishable crown’ and ‘not like someone running aimlessly’ (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Abram was commanded by God to leave his family and his place of birth and go to ‘a land that I will show you’ (Genesis 12:1). Abraham was again told by God to take his son, ‘your only son Isaac whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains’ that was to be revealed to him later (Genesis 22:2). In both instances, Abraham was asked to sacrifice, first, all his relationships on which he could fall back upon when in need and second, his son to be sacrificed, a son who was born in his old age in fulfillment of God’s promise.
God permitted Satan to afflict Job and he lost all that he had but he remained steadfast in faith. Satan then told God, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life’ (Job 2:4). The most precious thing that I have and over which I have some form of control is my own self. That is the best offering that I can present to God for use for His kingdom on earth and all else is of lesser value. Abraham’s offering of Isaac was the most difficult offering because of the son being heir to all that he had.
God searches the heart and tests the mind to reward each person according to his ways and ‘fruit of his doings’ (Jeremiah 17:10). Lord Jesus has taught, ‘out of the heart proceed evil thoughts … that defile’ (Matthew 15:19). Offering self is not about killing myself but to kill my desires and surrender to His will like Lord Jesus, who despite being God did that. Lord Jesus’ answer to the Scribe about the way to inherit eternal life was, ‘love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’ (Luke 10:25-27). The Scribe erred in presuming that he could fulfill this commandment on his own, for once we understand the full essence of the command we fully realize the difficulty. In this the sacrifice is of foregoing all desires and personal will (heart), all thoughts and beliefs (mind), all feelings (soul) and all that one has (strength), body, wealth and other resources and personal goals. Only God Himself can help us in this, for Adam and Eve’s sin was violation of this essential thing in their relationship with God who had provided them with everything.
We honor God through offering our self recognizing that He is worthy and Sovereign having total control over us. Apostle Paul had lived a life of complete dedication to God and being zealous for God he persecuted the believers as an honorable service to God till he met Lord Jesus and was converted (Acts 22:3-4). When the time for his execution by the Roman empire was near his last epistle was to Timothy, ‘a beloved son’ in faith – He had given his best to God and was now ‘ready to be poured out like a drink offering’ to honor God and with his life he presented himself as a ‘good fighter’ who has ‘finished the race, I have kept the faith’. Apostle Paul could claim this for he had fulfilled what the Lord had pre decided for him, to be the Lord’s ‘chosen vessel’ to bear His name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel’ (Acts 9:15-16). Lord Jesus was to show him ‘how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake’ and his total ministry is of suffering for reaching out to others with the message.
Every believer is required to give his best to God, the best of my entire being, ready to go and do what He desires; the best of my resources, time and efforts, like the Israelites gave their first fruits and not leftovers, best of my time when nothing can distract or disturb and finally giving the most superior effort for we are to do all for the glory of God.
Tithing and the New Covenant in Lord Jesus – It is necessary to understand the purpose behind the offerings in the Old Testament which was to free the Levites from the daily effort of working, for their living and support for their families to enable them to devote themselves fully to the LORD. Only one part of the offerings was placed on the Altar while the rest was given over to the Priests. Not bringing offerings and tithes amounts to robbing God of what must be given and the offerings are for ‘food’ in God’s house’ (Malachi 3:8-12). In this there are two things, food and God’s house. Lord Jesus comes knocking at every believer’s door to be welcomed in and to eat with him (Revelation 3:20). Is the Messiah looking for normal food to eat? During Lord Jesus’ visit, Martha was busy preparing the best meal for the Lord while Mary sat at His feet hearing ‘His word’, receiving, eating and retaining that. In addition to meeting the material needs, the spiritual needs also must be met of those who come to His house.
Is God’s house the Church building? –All believers are part of God’s family and their needs must be met and a congregation is responsible for the needs of the Pastor, the poor and widows within as also to support those who reach out to others with the Gospel message, the Levites of the group (John 1:12). God dares a believer to test Him by offering tithes and He promises to bless in multiple ways (Malachi 3:10-12). Pouring out so much blessings from heaven through opened windows that there will be lack of space to receive. Second, the devil cannot destroy your produce in any way; third, the seed you sow will not fail to bear fruit; four, nations will call you blessed.
Joseph was a slave in Potiphar’s house but the LORD made him successful ‘and made all that he did to prosper in his hand’ (Genesis 39:2-3). The offerings that we bring before God are not to make God rich in some way, for all the silver and gold belong to God (Haggai 2:8). Our offerings develop in us an attitude of gratitude for what we have received. For the past more than a year gathering together in the Church has not been possible, in this how many believers have thought about God’s house and all those that are fed from there? The tithe that we are supposed to offer, has it been kept separate to be given in His house? How can we, then, complain like the Israelites that God has forsaken us? What is due to God must be given for protection without which the devil will take much more.
It is presumed by some that Lord Jesus has fulfilled the Law of Moses and tithing and sacrifices are not required to be given now. Lord Jesus while chastened the Scribes and Pharisees about tithing of small things while neglecting weightier matters of the law, ‘justice and mercy and faith’ (Matthew 23:23). He commanded to do these as well as others including tithing as mentioned before. Apostle Paul likened the offerings as seed and ‘he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully’ (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). We are not to give grudgingly but cheerfully, so that ‘you always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work’. Lord Jesus told the parable of the vineyard owner and the wicked husbandmen who refused to give of the share of the yield to the owner and then even killed his son. We think that the right that we have on the earth and all that is in it is ours in our own strength and not the Creator’s and we do not want to give Him anything out of the yield. Once we change this attitude, we automatically become thankful, pay all dues to God and even take care to ensure proper usage of that for feeding God’s family with both material and spiritual food.
King David has recognized thankfulness as the best offering that we can present to God but many want to do only that and nothing more. God is love and like us, His eyes are on our less privileged brothers and sisters in the Church. He does not desire any sacrifice for Himself but for the well being of others. But are we as believers willing to play our role to support those in need for God uses His own chosen people to be channels for His grace.