Cain and Abel: The Offering of Blood

In the Book of Genesis, Moses tells the story of Cain and Abel who were brothers born to Adam and Eve after sin entered the world. One day Cain and Abel brought an offering of sacrifice before the Lord. Cain offered fruit from the field while Abel sacrificed one of the sheep from his flock. God approved of Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s offering.

Many have speculated about why God accepted the sacrifice of Abel’s sheep and rejected Cain’s offering of fruit. Paul gives the most obvious answer to us in the book of Romans: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23, NASB). Human achievement is not enough to atone for sin. Death is the only acceptable punishment.

Notice the difference between the two offerings brought to the Lord. Cain brought the best fruit he had to offer from his labors as a field worker. Able was a shepherd and brought the best of his flock. The difference was that Able sacrificed the life of an animal in keeping with God’s instructions. Moses does not tell us specifically that God instructed them how to bring sacrifices, but it is clear that God informed Cain of His disobedience:

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:6-7).

Apparently, Cain was enraged that God would demand a blood sacrifice. I can imagine him saying, “If God wants blood then I will give him blood! How about the blood of my brother Abel!” Instead of sacrificing a lamb from Abel’s flock, he sacrificed his brother in a deliberate act of rebellion. Cain would suffer the consequence of murdering Abel for the rest of his life.

The blood sacrifice would be the primary element of worship to God throughout the entire Old Testament scriptures. The author of the book of Hebrews describes the need for the shedding of blood for the atonement of sin: “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

This is why John the Baptist introduced Jesus by shouting out “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus would become God’s final sacrifice for sin.

~Stephen Beagles

The Jesus Code

There is a book sold in book stores around the world called, “The Bible Code” where the author claims that there are secret messages encoded in the Hebrew Torah. Unlocking the “Bible Code” requires computer software that scans for keywords found in specific mathematical skip patterns. This is a case of people going to extremes in regards to finding secret messages encoded in the Holy Scriptures. However, there is a valid method of Biblical interpretation that finds Jesus in the characters and stories of divine revelation—The Jesus Code.

Jesus taught this method of Biblical interpretation on many occasions during his ministry. The Jewish leaders had traditionally applied many prophecies of the Old Testament to the concept of a Messiah. Jesus applied these Old Testament prophecies to himself.

The Gospel of Luke tells a story of Jesus reading scripture during Sabbath worship in the Jewish synagogue. The verse he read was from the scroll of Isaiah:

“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANNOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD” (Luke 4: 18-19, NASB).

Luke says that after Jesus finished reading this verse he sat down and made the following statement: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (vs. 21)

The apostle John recorded the words of Jesus to those who were plotting to kill him for claiming to be equal with God: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46). The name of Jesus never appears in the books of Moses. But Jesus was saying that Moses wrote about him. Was Jesus claiming to be the one who spoke to Moses in the burning bush? Were the sacrifices performed in the sanctuary a prophecy of the final sacrifice of Jesus for our sins on the cross? Every part of divine revelation points us to Jesus.

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared and gave two of the disciples a Bible study while they were on the road to Emmaus: “Then beginning with Moses and with all of the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24: 27). Jesus gave them key to interpreting the Old Testament scriptures—Himself.

Next time you sit down to read a portion of the Old Testament scriptures ask yourself about how what you are reading reveals the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. This is the only proper way to interpret the full meaning of ancient scripture. Divine revelation might seem to be written in ancient code to the untrained observer, but the Jesus code is the key to unlocking its hidden secrets.

~Stephen Beagles

The Treasure of Heaven

Have you ever wondered why the disciples of Jesus were enthusiastic about quitting their jobs to follow Jesus? Honestly, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into at first. They thought that they had been called upon to start a political campaign for world domination. This is exactly why they closed down their businesses and started campaigning for Jesus.

We might have a similar reaction if we received a phone call from the president asking us to become Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, or Secretary of Defense. I know this is a stretch, but this is how they felt about following Jesus.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he tried many times to turn their attention to the spiritual realities of what they were doing. I am sure that Peter felt like mutiny after Jesus called him Satan after Peter’s short outburst:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16: 21-23)

Peter didn’t want to hear that Jesus was going to suffer and die–this wasn’t part of the plan. This is not what Peter signed up for, but Jesus had bigger plans for Peter and the disciples. It wasn’t until after the death and resurrection that things started making sense–the disciples honestly thought Jesus would be an earthly king and they were his royal subjects.

Looking back–we see how blessed the disciples were to be able to eat, sleep, and learn from the creator of the Universe. But they were blind to who Jesus was until after He was raised from the dead.

Being a Christian in the 21st Century might not put us in the Billionaire club, in fact it may cost us everything that we own. The day might come when we are called to give our lives for our faith. This might not be what many people want to hear, but the fact is that we are called to suffer with Christ.

However, this physical world is only temporary. One day the pain of this life will end. Those who have suffered the most for Jesus in this life will have eternal rewards in heaven that will never be taken away. Where is your heart? Where are your treasures?

Listen to the words of Jesus:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

~Stephen Beagles

Genesis 1:1~In the Beginning

The first verse of the Bible reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, NIV). If God did not create the universe then there is no point to reading the rest of the Bible. However, if God created everything that exists then human beings have a responsibility to read the Bible and to hear the words of God.

How did the universe get here? Intelligent people have been attempting to answer this question for thousands of years. Matthew Henry says “the Bible gives us a surer and better, a more satisfying and useful, knowledge of the origin of the universe, than all the volumes of the philosophers. The lively faith of humble Christians understands this matter better than the elevated fancy of the greatest wits…”

There are only two answers to the question about the origin of the universe: (1) A supernatural force created everything, or (2) the universe created itself. There are a few scientific theories that attempt to explain how the universe created itself in a cosmic explosion. But these theories do not explain the complexity of natural organisms. Frankly, it would be easier to believe that the Webster’s dictionary fell out of the sky after an explosion in a print factory than to believe that the universe designed itself out of nothing.

It makes the most sense to believe that the design in the universe is the creation of a cosmic designer. When we see a book at the library then we logically reason that the book has an author. Why is it hard to believe that the huge amounts of information contained inside of a microscopic strand of DNA was put there by an intelligent force?

Many people claim to have felt God’s presence. Many people have reported hearing the voice of God. Many more have been eyewitnesses to supernatural events. When we put together all of the evidence for the existence of a spiritual world then it is easy to understand why a majority of the people on the planet believe in a spiritual force that governs the natural world.

Moses spoke with God on numerous occasions and witnessed God’s own handwriting on tablets of stone. Moses wrote the first five books of the Holy Scriptures. Moses was an eyewitness to the reality of God. He wrote, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The rest of the scripture depends on this sentence being the truth.

~ Stephen Beagles