Online Bible Commentary
God is Trustworthy
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe, was formed at God's command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. (NIV)
This chapter, Hebrews eleven, is known as the faith chapter. The writer runs chronologically through history and identifies those who are included in God’s “Hall of Faith”. The writer begins this chapter by giving us the result of faith. The result of faith is that we are “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (v. 1).
The literal Greek for verse one begins with: “Now faith is the substance of things being hoped…” The word “substance” is omitted by the NIV translation, but included in other translations, such as the KJV. The word “substance” forms the basis for the word “faith” in the verse. That substance is trust. So, the definition of faith is trust in God, to be confident in the fact that God is trustworthy. When we are confident that we can trust God, the result is that we are sure of our hopes and things which we cannot see.
Some of those who trusted God were “commended” (v. 2) for it, and were included in God’s Hall of Faith. They understood that all of creation “was formed at God's command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (v. 3). God spoke creation into being. Nothing was visible before God. If we trust God, we will have faith in things unseen.
God begins His Hall of faith at the very beginning of His creation. It did not take long for people to accept or deny God. Notice that Adam and Eve are left out of God’s Hall of Faith. Adam and Eve did not originally trust God. They chose to believe Satan over God. Eve did not originally have faith, and Adam willingly followed her in disobedience.
So Abel is the first member of God’s Hall of Faith. His card for entering the Hall was not his character or his good works. His card was for his faith, his trust in God’s instructions for sacrifice. His sacrifice was greater than his brother’s, Cain. His sacrifice pleased God because it was given in faith. When God gave His instructions on sacrifice to Moses on Mount Sinai His instruction was to bring the “first fruits”, the best of the best.
Although the Genesis account does not specifically state that God gave the same instructions on sacrifice as He later gave to Moses, we know that he did, because God never changes. We also know this by a careful reading of the Genesis account. Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil” (Gen 4:3). Abel brought “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (Gen. 4:4). Cain’s sacrifice was not identified as the best fruits, but Abel’s sacrifice was from “the firstborn”, the “best fruits”. God gave further evidence that Cain’s sacrifice was not in obedience to Him when He told Cain “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” (Gen 4:7).
So, Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted by God because it was not done in obedience to God’s instructions, but Abel’s was accepted. “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain” (v.4a). “By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings” (v. 4b). Also Abel’s faith is still heard of to this day, “he still speaks, even though he is dead” (v. 4c). Through his trust, his faith, Abel is included in God’s Hall of Faith. Through distrust, the rest of his family, Adam, Eve, and Cain, are not included.
Abel trusted God. He trusted that if he obeyed God he would be rewarded. The rewards were not yet visible. But he trusted in things unseen. He was confident in the trustworthiness of God. He lived the definition of “faith”. He showed his trust in God through his sacrifice.
On the other hand, Cain tried to compromise on his sacrifice. He likely felt that he needed to be realistic. God would understand if he saved back the best parts for his own needs. Cain was guilty of calling God a liar, just as his parents did. He was not trusting God to provide all his needs, even though God said he would.
Like Abel, we should desire to be members of God’s Hall of Faith. We enter through trust. We may be judged on our sacrifice, as were Cain and Abel. When it comes to sacrifice, Cain discovered the hard way that God does not want our leftovers.
The Bible is very clear on giving. Our tithe belongs to God. Our tithe should be a tenth of our “first fruits”. If we do not return it to God, we are stealing from Him (Mal. 3:8). We will be cursed (Mal. 3:9), like Cain. Abel was rewarded by God, but Cain was cursed.
So, we should be Abels, not Cains, when it comes to our sacrifice. It should be a tenth of our first fruits. That means ten percent off the top of our check is to be given to the work of God, before anything else is paid. Once we tithe, we are then free to give anything over and above our tithe, cheerfully. “For God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). We can trust God to provide our needs. God is trustworthy.