It’s part of sibling life. Often the older child tries to push the buttons of their younger sibling in order to get a reaction. Several years ago, our son was afflicting his sister with his adolescent annoyance. She almost vented her frustration at him, but instead, she looked to the ones who could intercede on her behalf—Mom and Dad. Our advice to her, “Just ignore him. He’s trying to get a reaction, so if you don’t give it to him, then he’ll probably stop.” Without missing a beat, she turned to her brother and with the enunciation of a two or three-year-old she cried out, “IGNORE!” It was not what we had in mind, but it has been a humorous memory ever since.
In Genesis 4, a keyword surfaces as two brothers approach God with their offerings. Abel brought the firstfruits of his flock. This means his offering was the first blessing from God. It was the fattest which was a sign of tremendous honor. His brother, Cain also brings an offering, however, without the same level of distinction as his brother’s. God’s recognition of those offerings tells the complete story. “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect” (Genesis 4:4-5).
Focus on the word respect. It is actually a relatively rare word in the Old Testament. It simply means “to gaze upon; pay attention.” The inverse of this word would be simply “to ignore.” Think of a time you were ignored while waiting for some customer service. Or maybe a friend or a family member ignored you in public because of a recent tiff. What was your reaction? More than likely you were…well, look at Cain: “And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Analyze that emotion for a moment. Why would you be “wroth” when you’ve been ignored? You feel it’s unjust. “Don’t they know who I am!” You feel the other person is to blame. You feel your perspective wasn’t given a fair hearing. It’s one thing to have that feeling when you’re waiting for customer service, but it’s entirely something else when we have this feeling opposite of God.
God knows how it feels to be ignored. Look ahead in Isaiah’s prophecy where God scolds his people, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; And…look not unto the Holy One of Israel, Neither seek the Lord” (Isaiah 31:1)! For every time people have not “respected” God, He has faithfully extended the hand of hope.
Who are we to judge God? “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted” (Genesis 4:7)? It is our responsibility to align with God’s expectations. Have you ignored God? More than likely, you have felt He has “hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” What’s the cause? “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2). Once you have “respect” unto God, He will have respect unto the offerings of your life.