March 12, the Fourth Day of Lent

March 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

-Hebrews 11.4-

After setting the stage by stating that God is creator, the author of Hebrews begins to tell stories of the patriarchs of Israel. He begins with Abel, son of Adam and Eve. The original audience would have understood the reference to Abel and would have recalled his story; if you would like to read it yourself, it can be found in Genesis 4.1-8.

Much ink has been spilled regarding the sacrifices of Cain and Abel and why God accepted one instead of the other. However, the author of Hebrews points out the significant difference: not the offering itself, but the heart of the one offering. Abel’s offering was an outworking of his righteousness and God approved his offering for this reason. Take a look at Genesis 4.6, 7: when God addresses Cain, God does not speak of technical details that deal with how one can offer a better sacrifice. Rather, God addresses matters of the heart. Cain and Abel both sacrificed what they had; however, God accepted only Abel’s because: “…Abel’s sacrifice was the worshipful expression of his life of faith…It represented a wholehearted devotion to the Lord, not simply a religious ritual” (J. Wesley Adams).

During this season, perhaps the most common way to participate is to “give up” something. The story of Cain and Abel provides a strong reminder that God desires true relationship and not empty ritual. If I am sacrificing something for Lent, why am I? Can I live my sacrifice before God, knowing that it is “a worshipful expression of my life of faith?” Or did I give something up simply because it’s “the thing to do?” If I choose to observe in a different way, how is this observance coming from a heart of faith?

There are  many ways to engage this season; some may give something up, others may take something on, and still others may simply renew their commitment to follow Christ. However we celebrate the season, we remember that God looks at our observance and sees our heart.

As we journey through Lent together, may we offer our hearts as well as our actions.

“Dear Lord, thank you for this season which unites your church. As I celebrate Lent, please remind me that worship comes from my heart. However I’m celebrating, help me to give you my heart; let my actions come from a heart that loves and wants to know you more. Amen.”

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