The anonymous author of the Epistle to the Hebrews challenged the Jewish Christians to “draw near... hold on... and consider one another” (Hebrews 10:22-24). But how is that possible in these turbulent times? The next chapter answers that question!
Hebrews Eleven has been called the Great Hall of Faith, a forty-verse summary of the Old Testament’s great men and women; folks who lived by faith in a living and loving God. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and others lived exhibiting their faith as an illustration and example for later generations. Early Jewish believers read the canonized epistle and found a pattern for living by faith. Twenty-one centuries later, we can “draw near... hold on... and consider one another” by faith!
So, let’s take a quick look at these Old Testament greats.
Abel was the son of our earliest ancestors, Adam and Eve. “The man was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain... She also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of flocks, but Cain worked the ground” (Genesis 4:1–2). Two brothers, two sons born to the first parents; Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd.
There is little doubt in my mind that the two young boys sat at their daddy’s feet and listened as he recounted their epic adventures in the Garden of Eden. Surely Adam told his boys how he and their mom had lived in the Garden in perfect harmony with their Creator, that God had been visibly present as He walked with them and talked with them. Adam also told his sons about the Serpent, the Tempter who had introduced doubt. With sadness and shame in his voice, Adam told Cain and Abel about the initial sin and its dramatic ramifications, and the boys listened carefully as their daddy told them about God’s gracious act that clothed their nakedness and shame by the sacrificial death of the innocent lamb.
Though Scriptures don’t record it, I am confident that God gave to Adam and Eve a complete guide to proper worship and that Adam passed those instruction on to his sons. I’d guess that when God clothed the first couple, that He explained that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
So when “Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord,” God “did not have regard for Cain and his offering” (Genesis 4:3-5). At the same time, “Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering” (Genesis 4:4).
“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel’s faith-filled sacrificial worship is a testimony that lives on. Abel, in an act of pure faithfulness, obeyed God’s direction and example and thus became an example for us.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.