I’m currently working out a talk on Genesis 4. Specifically I’ve been wrestling with how to make sense of the “reguard” that God shows to Abel and his offering, but not to Cain and his offering. To many people, God appears to be playing favorites… it seems completely arbitrary as to why God accepts one and not the other sacrifice.
Upon reflection, I’m convinced that there is no hint in the text that God’s response has anything to do with the actual content of the offerings themselves.
The text says nothing about how GOD FEELS about the offerings, and instead focusses on how CAIN FEELS about the lack of recognition God gives his offering [note: God doesn’t actually condemn the content of Cain’s offering as he does in the case of other unacceptable offerings in the OT].
I think that the God wants us to ponder why Cain is so furious – it can only be that Cain believed his offering was of greater worth than God gave him credit for! God, Cain somehow reasoned, was in his debt. This is the seed from which Cain’s fury (and ultimately Abel’s murder) grew. Perhaps this gives us an insight into where our own anger (or downheartedness) comes from: the lack of what we consider appropriate recognition.
I’m sure that some of what I consider my greatest acts of service, will turn out to be of little or no consequence to God. Some of my most impressive public actions, even those things for which others have praised me, will leave God utterly unmoved.
And yet I also have a hunch that some of what I consider my least impressive or significant moments will be the things that God most honours [if he sees fit to honour anything of mine at all!].
Could it be that God will pay no reguard to what I’ve honored most highly, and honour that which I’ve despised. Such is the majesty of the God who exalts the humble and brings the proud down low!
You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, you do not despise a broken and humbled heart.