Note: Every Sunday, DrydenWire.com publishes a submitted article in a weekly series from Pastor Brian Cole. If you would have a question for Brian or would like to learn more about him, visit his website or his official Facebook page.
Read part one by clicking HERE.
Genesis 4:1-5 – Worshiping God on His Terms – Part 2
The worship of the two brothers (4:2b-5). In 4:2b, we read, “Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.” Abel is a shepherd and Cain is a farmer. Both of these vocations are noble; one is not better than the other. This leads into an exercise in worship in 4:3-5a: “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering - fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor.” Both brothers bring offerings to the Lord suitable to their vocations. Yet, God regarded Abel and his offering and not Cain and his offering. Some insist that the reason for this is Abel offered a blood sacrifice while Cain did not. However, there does not appear to be anything wrong with Cain offering fruit as opposed to animal sacrifice.
Later in Israel’s history, grain offerings and harvest offerings are legitimate expressions of worship that God accepts and even commands. So, if it is not a failure to bring a blood sacrifice, why does God reject Cain and his offering? The New Testament authors inform us that God regarded Abel because he had faith (Heb 11:4) while Cain did not (Jude 11-13 and 1 John 3:11-12).
Heb. 11:4 - “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings.”
Jude 11-13 - “Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea,foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”
1 John 3:11-12 - “ For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”
Between these texts it seems clear that Abel was in relationship with God and Cain was separated from God. A very important principle is this saying from Walter Kaiser: “God always inspects the giver and the worshipper before He inspects the gift, service, or worship.” This means that it’s critical that we are in relationship with God before we seek to worship or serve Him. Otherwise, our worship is unacceptable.
There is also another interesting clue in the Genesis account that tells us about Cain and Abel and their offerings. In 4:4, it is recorded that Abel offers “the firstlings of his flock” (cf. Exod. 34:19; Deut. 12:6; 14:23) and the “fat portions” (Num. 18:17) for his offering (see also: Exod. 23:19, 32:26; Lev. 2:12, 23:10).
The word that is translated “fat portions” means “choicest, best part, or abundance.” Abel gave what cost him most—the firstborn!
On the other hand, Cain merely offers “the fruit,” not the first fruit, of the ground. Abel brought the best parts of his flocks and Cain was not so particular. Abel went out of his way to worship God by giving his best. Cain merely did it out of a duty.
Now, let’s apply this to our lives and our worship. How many of us Worship out of DUTY? How many of us go to Church, read scripture, do good things, help others, go to Bible studies, and much more, simply out of an attitude of Duty and obligation, or even the thought of: “It’s the right thing to do,” and not with the attitude of an outpouring of what is within, an attitude of love, faith and adoration of Jesus Christ!
How many of us, even if we do tithe, do so out of obligation, and even then only give when we feel we can after our needs are met? How many pray before they tithe to ask God what He wants? Are we a “Cheerful giver,” or a grumbling giver?
One of the key themes throughout Scripture is God seeks worship that is perfect and costly (Lev 22:20-22; 2 Sam 24:24). He will not be satisfied with second best (Mal 1:6-14; Rom 12:1). How many of us have maybe had an old ham or turkey which has been in our freezer for a LONG time, and not sure if it might even be any good anymore? So, we donate it to the Church or to a family for a special occasion?
Sin first shows itself in what you give God. He expects our first and our best! (Firstfruits!) Motives matter to God. God is not impressed with those who do the right thing for the wrong reason. This truth is taught throughout the Bible. In Matt. 15:8, Jesus looks at the Pharisees and quotes Isaiah, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (see also Micah 6:7-8). Sometimes people can have very bad motives for doing good things. What are our motives for serving the Lord? Every so often we need to do a motive checkup and ask ourselves: Why am I nice to other people? Why do I put money in the offering plate? Why do I serve on the worship team?
Worship HAS TO HAVE PRIORITY in our church! We are not meeting together for what we can get out of the music or the preaching - we are to meet together so that we might worship God through the music and preaching. We are to focus on HIM! The qualifications given by Jesus Himself in John 4:24 is that our worship is to be offered in “spirit and truth.”
In Amos 5:21-25, the prophet proclaims a word from God regarding the acceptability of worship. “I HATE, I DESPISE your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps! But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings 40 years in the wilderness, people of Israel?” Have we ever stopped to ask if the worship we offer is acceptable to God?
He does not want us to simply go through the motions. That is NOT worship. In Amos 5 God says that He wants Justice and Righteousness. He desires worship given in spirit and truth. They defiled worship by offering God what they wanted, or what they thought He wanted, instead of what He demanded! They did things their way instead of His! Can you imagine? God HATED their worship! It was self-centered and self-serving. Oh, they tried to keep proper form - the feast days, singing, sacred assemblies - but had an improper motive!
They approached God with unclean hands and an impure heart, and, as a result, God rejected their worship! This same scene is played out in Isaiah 58 with true and false fasting!
We must come before God on HIS terms, and if we come any other way - rushed, obligated, mind on other things, with little thought or preparation or prayer - then He will likewise reject what we have to offer.
Here are some other characteristics of worship that displease God: Exod. 20:1-11
- Worship of anyone or anything other than or together with God - Ex. 20:3; Psalm 86:10, Rom. 1:18-25.
- Worship that involves disobedience - Ex. 20:4-6; Ex. 32.
- Worship that takes God’s name in vain - Ex. 20:7; Mal. 1:6-14; Matt. 15:9.
- Worship that in not holy - Ex. 20:8-11. Worship void of faith - Heb. 11:6; Rom. 14:23.
- Full of hypocrisy (lips vs. heart) - Isaiah 29:13; Jer. 12:2; Matt. 15:8.
- Based on lies (False Doctrine) - John 4:24; Psalm 17:1.
- Worship that is not separated from the world - Rom. 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17.
- Worship that profanes - Ez. 22:23-31.
Next week we will look at the type of worship that is acceptable to God and end this section.