The following mighty message is again, one with a poignant focus on where the heart of man can be exceedingly deceived.
The days that we are living in will be filled with what appear to be "small" losses of freedoms and purity in living, culminating into many persecutions and also in fair judgements from the Lord.
As you read the message from a lovely man of deep faith, may your heart be challenged to quickly repent of envy, the hiding of secret sins, and cowardly attempts at explaining murderous words and behaviors towards others.
We are in a serious season as believers. May Mercy become a constant companion for all of us in the days ahead.
In His Shadow,
Abel – Did he know?
Allow the question to remain in your mind for a moment.
The two brothers, Cain and Abel, had been seeking the Lord in the presenting of sacrifice. The sacrifice of Abel had found favour and respect before the Lord, but for Cain and his offering God had no regard. And the countenance of Cain fell, reflecting dangerous envy and anger.
Did Abel understand what was coming to him when he chose to accompany Cain across the fields for a conversation? Had Abel taken time to prepare for the heavy blows and strikes which already were pounding in the fists of Cain? How did he manage to master his heart and to stay at the side of Cain while heading for the windless hills, while heading for an inexorable death?
The altar which Abel built, the sacrifice which he brought forth was a properly defined expression of his understanding of the fundamentals of life and living, of the intercourse between man and God, an understanding of and insight into the essence and substance of life. His altar stood as a probing marker for man’s worship before a holy God, for the appropriateness and right standing in worship formulated in a manner pleasing to God. Abel’s altar speaks volumes regarding the understanding of life as a gift given to man, all men, to be generously given back to God in a perennial act of sacrifice – even unto death.
This man, indeed a proto-man, a type and a model, had already in those first days of history been targeted for an impressive imprint by the Spirit of self-sacrifice – the Spirit of God’s eternity, which was to permeate the sacrifice of the Son of God; Hebr 9:14. Abel had already handed his life into the hands of God to be spent for purposes set by God, to rest in quietness in the hand of God as a sacrifice, to be ended by God in a manner appropriate to righteousness. The sacrifice declared in solid speaking that the man behind it already had given his life away.
The way of Cain appears plainly already in his name. Acquire, procure, secure are words which describes his nature and which is perfectly covered by his short name. Cain carries already within his name an intense craving for the possessing of things not belonging to him, he lusts for his brother’s position before the Lord. He sets his mind to acquisition and self-aggrandizement.
He trusts in his own sufficiency and capacity. The quietness and beauty of holiness at the altar of the shepherd annoys and provokes every man who has chosen to follow the ways of Cain. His agenda and approach is defined in terms of productivity, activity and prosperity. A man like Cain is at every point of progress asserting and claiming his own rights according to his own understanding.
If a man like Cain approaches the realm of God’s covenant and promises, he does so in order to save his own skin, to secure advantages – even to procure pre-eminence. Righteousness, the kind of righteousness which meets his approval is a righteousness which avails itself to be easily bent and thoroughly adaptable to serve his cause – the righteousness of Abel is costly, the righteousness of Abel points out the eternal welfare of others as a primary priority in life.
The righteousness of Abel is a righteousness which is available and ready for sacrifice. It is a righteousness which declares that life is given to man to be delivered to the altar for the benefit of someone else at any proper, of God chosen moment. Man taking this position, the standpoint of the altar, will be heard and will find grace before God’s throne.
I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service, your spiritual worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove and discern what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.
Rom 12:1-2. (MKJV and Holman combined.)
Abel had gathered insight into the reasonable service, the spiritual worship which manages to stay right in the center of the will and pleasure of God. No thing added, no thing produced, no thing expressed by any kind of effort or act mobilised by Abel was of any value at all in the service at this altar. He gave his life, he placed his life on the altar – it stood there in the early morning of history as a disclaimer. His declared God to have the right to use his life in whatever manner, for whatever purpose he found suitable in the furtherance of his cause – herein, he knew, man finds purpose, ultimate purpose for life rightly lived.
The altar stands as the nexus, the pivotal point of the temple; it is central to Christian fellowship; it carries the full purpose of any house of prayer; its demands penetrate life in all its aspects. The altar speaks about life and its purpose, its speaking regarding the giving up and the giving away aims at and includes every level of living. The days which are ours, the days which we share should be given to the altar, all of them should be given to the altar in order that all these days, every part of them, including all content, should shine by the light of the Spirit of self-sacrifice and be directed by the law of the Spirit of Life.
Man, living godly and righteously, learns to give, give every part of his life to the altar. The praying man has learnt his lessons when he brings his prayers to and presents his prayer targets at the altar to let them undergo the crisis and purification of the altar, which gives God an opportunity to answer according to heavenly purposes. The altar affirms the necessity of a dying in order to become a part of God’s cause. The altar holds its position at the nexus of all and every issue to show us the thoroughness and seriousness by which our giving of ourselves has to be conducted. The altar exhorts us to bring every issue in under its authority because there is a Lamb to be found there, a lamb slaughtered, as a precious and valuable sacrifice which holds complete capacity to cover even the most difficult passages of life and of death.
The altar directs our reading of the Word of God to a probing, to a looking into the interior of the texts where Christ, given to the altar and the glory beaming in this mystery of redemption, is hidden to be revealed. Each and every line and sentence has something to say regarding the self-sacrifice of God, something of the Spirit of sacrifice to communicate and impart, something of this Spirit which is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. These three, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit reveals themselves in all parts of the Scriptures in glory, in a light which can not be seen anywhere else – the glory which emanates from the sacrificial love in the shadow of the cross of Christ. A reading of this kind, this reading alone produces an opportunity to grasp and apprehend grace from God in order to begin to give as God himself gives.
The altar orders a journey in togetherness, it gathers a people of God who has dared to do away with its self-absorption and self-assuredness in order to walk in stillness along the ways of Zion. The mandate given to this small nation of God consists in a speaking in harmony and concord according to the mind of Christ, in a willingness to grow unto maturity which is constituted by a priestly mentality. When Heaven sings, sings with crystal clarity, it celebrates the Lamb. When Heaven presents its most precious object for all to behold, to extol and to worship, it brings forth the Lamb to stand in the midst of the throne, and of the four living beings, and in the midst of the elders – Rev 5:6. When all things are to be brought for probing and for final judgment, this Lamb, who was slain from before the beginning of the world, Jesus Christ, holds the position as judge. When Heaven gathers a people from every nation and tribe, its sole reason for existence is to testify to the altar, the Lamb and the mystery of self-sacrifice – the wisdom of God which wise men of this world are incapacitated to understand and incompetent to handle.
God acknowledges us when we relate properly to the altar. To what measure does our Christian fellowship carry the reconciliatory capacity of the altar? The altar, rightly positioned, allows the situation in which it is raised to recognize its presence and to know its power. The Spirit, which is the Spirit of Truth, works and penetrates according to the inherent veracity of the cross in order to convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment. The altar opens the mind to careful consideration, it awakens the conscience and arouses courage and strength unto repentance. The altar, the blood, a life marked by self-sacrifice speaks with clarity and intensity. God causes the blood of Christ to speak “better things than that of Abel”. God causes the sacrifice of Christ to speak into any situation where its value is honoured.
The righteousness which is of God recognizes the altar, the cross and the sacrifice.
Therefore, let us pray for the reality of the altar to be restored among the people of God.
Therefore, let us pray forth a thorough establishing of the concord of the altar.
Therefore, let us pray for a strengthening of the display of the sacrificial Spirit.
Therefore, let us pray for the fullness of Christ to be expressed fully among the people of God.
Therefore, let us pray for a sensitivity and an obedience like Abel’s.