Why did God reject Cain’s sacrifice? We don’t know for sure. Hebrews says Abel gave a better sacrifice “by faith”, hinting at Cain’s internal posture as at least part of the problem. We aren’t given many details of the sacrifice, but we see Cain’s response to God’s correction, and that tells us a lot about his character. He is angry and resentful towards God for not accepting his sacrifice. God challenges Cain’s attitude: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
Rather than listen to God’s counsel, Cain lures his brother into the field and kills him. Abel’s blood “cries out” to God from the ground. Cain is cursed by the source of his living, the good creation soiled with the first blood spilled in violence. Cain is alienated from God, his human family, and the earth.
We can get too psychological about sin and think of it just as bad habits, engrained neural pathways, addictions. This is true in one sense; there’s much scientific research around the difficulties of breaking negative patterns of behaviour. But we may forget that sin is also a personal force, that is, with personality behind it. Satan desires to have us and knows what works on us. He carries his Mary Poppins bag of tricks and sets up camp outside our door, sliding pamphlets under the crack and whispering through the keyhole. We sidle closer and listen, saying, “It’ll be safe; I won’t actually open the door.”
But Satan is no Mary Poppins. I think of the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings. In the Mines of Moria, this ancient evil surfaced. It desired to have and destroy the Fellowship of the Ring. They didn’t wait around to see what it had to say. Even Gandalf knew he didn’t want to sit down for a chat. They ran right out the other door.
We’ve opened the door to sin over and over again. Our sin, like Cain’s, leads to alienation from God, from others, and from creation. Our deeds don’t disappear but cry out against us. But God offers us a way out.
The ground became a curse to Cain when it received Abel’s blood. But when Jesus’ blood soaked into the earth at the foot of the cross, it brought us restoration and healing. Jesus, willingly murdered, bearing the ancient curse on Himself, reversed our alienation and brought us close to God. The Lamb who was slain, like Abel’s sacrifice, is acceptable to God.
In Revelation Jesus speaks to the church in Philadelphia:
“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
God promised King David a descendant who would reign forever. Jesus, the foretold Messiah, is David’s key and has “opened wide our heavenly home,” in the words of the Advent hymn. He is the door we can walk through free of sin. We can’t open the door on sin and expect to defeat it ourselves. We have little strength, and God knows this. He doesn’t ask us to fight alone but has defeated sin on our behalf. If we have faith in Jesus, we can choose to walk across the room to the door He has opened, and go free.
I know many of you are up for this challenge. I’ve updated the reading plan to include dates as I was starting to get confused!! You can download a PDF version here.
I do recommend
1) Watching the recommended Bible Project videos on YouTube that are referred to in the guide.
2) Finding others who are doing the plan as well and having conversations about what you’re reading.
I’ll be checking in from time to time and posting some reflections and things that come up in the reading. happy reading!
I started the Bible in 3 Years reading plan yesterday. 2 chapters - Easy!
I want to post here from time to time reflections, insights, questions and ideas about what we’re reading. Hopefully some others will post here too. Would be great to be encouraged in our reading by being reminded that we’re doing this in community and others are on the journey with us.
I found myself focusing on Psalm 1 - one of my favourite chapters in the whole Bible.
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
I spent some extra time in reflection, doing a mini Lectio Divina, and jotted down a few reflections:
1) All of life is represented in the first verse by Walk, Stand, Sit.
2) The path to being blessed isn’t what you MIGHT expect - walk in the way of the righteous, stand in the path of the good, sit in the seat of the benevolent. Instead its DELIGHT & MEDITATE on God’s LAW (Bible Shorthand for God’s Story, God’s Character, God’s Desire for creation and us). Maybe….read the Bible in 3 years…and really soak it in, enjoy it, keep thinking about it.
3) The word for meditate brings the image of chewing on, rolling it over, considering it over and over again while laying on your bed, waiting in line at the post office, driving to work.
4) And now, what seems to me the GOSPEL part of this Psalm, instead of us trying to change our behaviour as we WALK, STAND, SIT, God is the one who, when we lose ourselves in His Story, PLANTS us as a blessing and to be a blessing. He does the transforming work in us!
5) The focus on fruit and leaves in verse 3 I think hints at our blessing to others. That God will, through us and our lives, sustain and heal others. While fruit brings the image of sustenance, leaves are a common image of healing as they were often used for that purpose and the Bible ends on this image as well (Rev. 22:2).
6) Finally, those who appear successful but are acting in their own self interest will not be able to STAND at the END.
Those were some very quick thoughts. Happy Reading!
If you’r interested in contributing every so often to our Bible in 3 Years blog please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The bible is an ancient text written thousands of years ago containing three ancient languages. It is the most widely read collection of books in history promoting the most controversial figure to ever walk the earth. It makes astonishing truth claims that answer fundamental questions any good philosophical system attempts to answer: Why are we here? Why is there evil and suffering? What is the best way to live? Where are we going when we die? The bible, however, is very different from a philosophical system because it focuses on a person instead of a set of ideas. In order to see this and read it properly you will be required to take off your 21st century glasses; not an easy task. These videos are short primers explaining what the bible is, how it was put together, and how it is supposed to be read. Considering the magnitude of this book it is well worth your time to read it… whether you identify as a Christian or not.