Abel was a keeper of sheep.
As a shepherd Abel sanctified his work to the glory of God and offered a sacrifice of blood upon his altar, and the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering. This early type, a foreshadowing of our Lord, is exceedingly clear and distinct. Like the first streak of light that tinges the east at sunrise, it does not reveal everything, but it clearly manifests the great fact that the sun is coming. As we see Abel, a shepherd and yet a priest, offering a sacrifice of sweet fragrance unto God, we discern our Lord, who brings before His Father a sacrifice to which Jehovah ever has respect.
Abel was hated by his brother--hated without a cause; and even so was the Savior. The natural and carnal man hated the accepted man in whom the Spirit of grace was found, and did not rest until his blood had been shed. Abel fell and sprinkled his altar and sacrifice with his own blood, and therein sets forth the Lord Jesus slain by the enmity of man while serving as a priest before the Lord. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."1
Let us weep over Him as we view Him slain by the hatred of mankind, staining the horns of His altar with His own blood. Abel's blood speaks. "And the LORD said, What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.'"2
The blood of Jesus has a mighty tongue, and the import of its prevailing cry is not vengeance but mercy. It is precious beyond all preciousness to stand at the altar of our Good Shepherd--to see Him bleeding there as the slaughtered priest, and then to hear His blood speaking peace to all His flock--peace in our conscience, peace between Jew and Gentile, peace between man and his offended Maker, peace all down the ages of eternity for blood-washed men. Abel is the first shepherd in order of time, but our hearts shall ever place Jesus first in order of excellence.
Great Keeper of the sheep, we, the people of Your pasture, bless You with our whole hearts when we see You slain for us.
1) John 10:11
2) Genesis 4:10
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From Morning & Evening revised and edited by Alistair Begg copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.