Summary: Worship God accepts.
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It was the days after the fall. Sin had entered God’s perfect world and Adam and Eve were driven out of the paradise of God. As part of their punishment, man had to do painful toil and eat food and the woman had to undergo painful labour for childbirth.
Adam and Eve left the garden but they didn’t lose hope. God in His grace allows them to be fruitful and replenish the earth. They have a baby, a little boy. Eve is excited and names him Cain, a word which meant acquired or possession. Then a second son is born. Eve no longer voices that same hope. She names him Abel which means vanity or vapor meaning temporary.
Soon the story moves forward a couple of decades. The boys grow up and choose different careers. Abel becomes a shepherd, while Cain becomes a farmer, both having noble vocations.
The day comes when the two sons “go to church.” Worship is hard wired into the human spirit. The need to meet God started in the garden. Sin twisted it, but didn’t eliminate it. Men and women are still driven to worship God. Genesis 4:3-4a 3In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.
Cain and Abel knew that worship is void without giving. So they each brought offerings. Cain, the farmer brought the fruit of his harvest. Abel, the herdsman killed and slaughtered the first born of his flocks. Adam and Eve were probably proud of their sons. Both were doing their religious duty. Genesis 4:4b-5 4The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
There is a great lesson for us here. As much as God seeks our worship, God is not pleased with everyone’s sacrifice and worship. God accepts some peoples’ worship but rejects the other.
Many folks ask, “Why did God like Abel’s sacrifice and reject Cain’s?” Over the years, people have told that God expected a blood sacrifice. However, there does not appear to be anything wrong offering fruits as opposed to animal sacrifice. Later, in the OT we find that grain offerings are very appropriate. As a farmer, it seems Cain should have brought the first fruit of his crop as an offering to the Lord. So what was the problem?
1. What is the worship that God accepts?
What does God look at when we worship Him?
a. A worship offered in faith.
Hebrews 11:4a 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. What pleased God about Abel’s offering was not so much that it was a blood sacrifice, but that it was an offering given in faith.
Hebrews 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God.
Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
Hebrews 11:19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.
b. worship offered in right relationship with God.
When we read the mention of Cain elsewhere in the Bible, we find he was not a godly man. The Book of Jude speaks about Cain: Jude 11 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.
1 John 3:12 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.
I think the big difference between Cain and Abel is in their relationship with God. We have all come here to worship God. God always inspects the giver and the worshipper before he inspects the gift, service, or worship. It means that it is important that you are in a right relationship with God before you worship or serve him. Otherwise the worship is unacceptable.
c. A worship offered as a man’s best. God always deserves the best.
The book of Genesis gives us the clue about their values.
Genesis 4:3-4a 3In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. (Cain offered just the fruit of the land, not the best, not the first fruit. Cain was not so particular, he just discharged his duty.) 4And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Abel gave the fat portions from some of his firstborn. In the process he cut many cattle. Abel went out of his way to worship God with the best. One of the keys themes in the Bible is that God seeks worship that is perfect and costly, the best.