IN THE BEGINNING....REDEMPTION
The story begins in Genesis where the Scripture says that, "Adam knew Chavah (Eve) his wife, and she conceived and bore Kayin (kah'-yin;) (Cain) and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD" Then she bore again, this time his brother Havel (heh'-bel) (Abel). Now, Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground" (Genesis 4:1-2).
First of all, let us establish what these two names, Cain and Abel, mean. Cain means "to get." Chavah (khav-vaw') (Eve) "got" a man because the LORD "gave" her one. But Cain attempted to "get" by taking his brother's life.
Abel means "nothingness" but not in the sense of having no value. Its meaning is similar to reaching into the air with your fist and closing it around nothingness. Thus, Abel has also been interpreted as "vapor" or "breath," the essence of life.
Genesis 4:3 "And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD."
Cain was a tiller of the ground and it was of the fruit of that ground that Cain offered to the LORD an offering, or in Hebrew, a minchah (min-khaw').
The minchah offering is often interpreted as the "meat offering." However, the "meat" referred to is not flesh. The minchah is a bloodless offering - the fruit of the ground.
So, when Cain presented the fruit of the ground as an offering (minchah), he was offering something that had a curse upon it. How do we know that? Because the LORD told Adam, "Cursed is the ground for your sake" (Genesis 3:17). It stands to reason that if the ground was cursed then the fruit of the ground was cursed as well.
Genesis 4:4-5 "Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. and the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell."
Why did the LORD respect Abel's offering? It seems clear that, if Cain's offering was cursed fruit, then the reason for accepting Abel's offering was because he brought of the firstlings of his flock, Well, that is true, but there is a very important detail that escapes the reader's eye.
First of all, notice that the text says that "ABEL ALSO brought" not, "ABEL INSTEAD brought." That is a very important word in the text. Now, you should know that the Hebrew text says that the LORD "did not respect Cain and his offering" but He did "respect Abel and his OFFERING!"
Remember what the minchah offering is? It is the bloodless offering. Obviously, Abel's offering of a lamb would produce blood, so why does it say that the LORD had respect for Abel's offering? It is because Abel brought more than one offering. He brought a offering - the fruit of the cursed ground - and ALSO brought a firstling of the flock!
Hebrew 11:4 "By faith Abel offered to God a greater sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his GIFTS; and through it he being dead still speaks."
Please notice first of all, that Abel offered a "greater sacrifice." Actually the word used here simply means that he offered "more" - more than one perhaps. Then notice that the text plainly says that God testified of his "gifts," not "gift." It seems clear that Abel brought the minchah offering, but in addition to that he ALSO brought from the flock to be sacrificed. Why?
I believe it is because Abel understood that to approach God meant that one did so in humility and with a pure heart. Abel understood that the fruit of the ground was cursed because, through his father, the curse of sin had entered the world. Consequently, Abel understood that he was in need of a Redeemer.
Yes, he too offered from the fruit of the earth, but he brought a blood sacrifice so that the curse upon that fruit could be covered. By his actions, he was acknowledging that, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sin (Heb 9:22). This is how Abel "being dead, yet speaks."
The basis of his righteousness is, not that he DID Torah, but that it was in his HEART to do Torah the right way. He understood that, at best, all we have to offer in our flesh - our deeds, our words, etc. - is under the curse of sin and death. Yet, because of his faith in REDEMPTION and a REDEEMER, Abel knew that blood was required to cover that which was cursed. Because of this, God respected the temporal, earthly offering, the minchah.
Where did Abel learn of this need for redemption, seeing there was no Torah to read? I believe he learned it from his father, who learned it directly from the Heavenly Father.
When Adam and Eve hid from the presence of the LORD, they attempted to conceal their nakedness with fig leaves. That would not do. The Scriptures says that God clothed them with coats of skin (Genesis 3:21).
This is incredible when you consider that their actions warranted death. True, they were expelled from the garden and, yes, they bore consequences for their actions. Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the fact that God displayed compassion on them and "clothed them".
The Hebrew phrase is vayalbishem. The root of this phrase l'vush is connected to lo bushah, which is "without shame." The purpose of clothing them was to hide their shame. Obviously, this was an act of compassion and a promise of redemption.
This also means that an animal had to die in order for there to be skins with which to clothe them. Interestingly enough, the burnt offering or olah (o-law';) was for the atonement of sin (Leveticus 1:4) and is the only offering where the entire carcass is consumed with the exception of the skins (7:8).
In short, Adam and Eve and presumably their sons understood that blood was required in order for the curse of sin to be covered. It is then obvious why the LORD did not respect Cain's minchah offering - he failed to acknowledge the need for a redeemer.
Even after the LORD intervened to arrest his evil thoughts, warning him of the sin which was ready to pounce upon him, he failed to do that which is right. His failure turned him into a murderer. He was cursed, doomed to wander all the rest of his days.
So, what does all this mean? It means, first of all, that the Scripture should not be reduced to a collection of dos and don'ts. This applies both to those in traditional Christianity and to those in the Messianic movement. If we had complete understanding of Torah and walked it out to the letter, we have not attained righteousness, but self-righteousness. We need a redeemer!
If one can not comprehend that fundamental truth of Torah and hold onto it for dear life then, at best, our efforts to observe the statutes of Torah remain under the curse of sin and death. We are simply repeating Cain's error and sin crouches at the door ready to pounce.
On the other hand, when we attempt to follow the ordinances of the LORD with the full acknowledgment that we aren't able to redeem ourselves; when we consider ourselves as "nothingness" like Abel; when our faith is in the Lamb whose blood has redeemed us from the curse, then God has respect unto our obedience.
That is why, I believe, the Messiah said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill - make perfect" (Mt 5:17). In other words, the ONLY way we can relate to Torah in the way our Father intended is to accept the fact that Messiah is our Redeemer and His blood ALONE atones for sins.
Therefore, it is not the contents of my mind that matters most, but that which is in my heart. This is the altar that God looks upon. So, our zeal must be tempered with the knowledge that it was not knowledge or zeal or even faith that saved us - it was love.