An Honorable Offering
“In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering, he had no regard” (Gen. 4:3–5a).- Genesis 4:1–16
Throughout Genesis we find the patriarchs pausing to worship the Lord, whether or not they do so in the manner Jacob did in the passage we studied yesterday (35:14–15). We will now take a temporary break from our study of Genesis to look at how we are to praise God rightly using the teaching series Worship by Dr. R.C. Sproul.
Worship is the act of ascribing honor and majesty to our Creator. It is central to the life of God’s creation, and thus it is our most important activity. John Piper stresses its importance by insisting that “missions exist because worship doesn’t” (Let the Nations Be Glad, p. 11). In other words, we send missionaries abroad because worship of the one, true God is lacking in many lands, and it is through the preaching of the Gospel that the Lord calls new worshipers to Himself.
Note first of all that we are not to worship the Lord in a way that is contrary to Scripture. Our Father takes worship so seriously that approaching Him unworthily puts one’s very life at risk (Lev. 10:1–3). Moreover, as fallen creatures we are inclined to serve idols or introduce idolatrous practices into our praise of the Lord (Rom. 1:18–32). Explicit biblical teaching must therefore define our worship, as well as the good and necessary consequences we derive from Scripture.
However, even if our praise conforms to God’s regulations outwardly, it is still possible for our worship to be displeasing to Him. This one point of today’s passage, the first recorded liturgy (form of public worship) found in Scripture. We read in Genesis 4 of the two different offerings given by Cain and his brother Abel. The Lord was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice and not with Cain’s (Gen. 4:3–5a).
Why is this the case? The answer cannot be that Abel’s offering was better because it was an offering of blood, since God ordains grain offerings, the type Cain gave (Lev. 2). Rather, Abel’s faith pleased the Lord (Heb. 11:4). Moses says Abel offered his best, “the firstborn of his flock” (Gen. 4:4), while no such thing is said of Cain, who lacked Abel’s love for God and probably gave only the second-best of his harvest. If we do not give the Lord our first and best, we can be sure that He will not be pleased with us as well.
Though we cannot truly separate internal attitudes from external actions, we must note that what the Lord desires most of all is a heart devoted to Him. Our outward actions generally reveal the intent of our hearts, but it is possible just to go through the motions without being truly passionate for the things of God. Consider your attitude in worship this day. Is the praise of God your highest joy? Endeavor, by the Spirit, to devote your heart totally to the Lord.
Passages for Further Study
1 Sam. 16:7
1 Tim. 6:13–16