Thursday, December 1

Worship Fiasco #1: Cain

I've been writing some devotionals over at > here's the first. . .

Worship Fiasco #1: Cain

Today’s lesson comes from Genesis 4, starting in verse 3:

Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 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, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."

Big picture time: Two brothers come to offer to the Lord an offering. The Lord accepts one of the offerings, and not the other. What is the difference?

First of all, the difference is NOT fruits verses meat. The Lord had not commanded either of these two brothers as to what sort of offering to give, so He is not holding Cain responsible for bringing veggies.

Secondly, the difference is not (like I was taught by a well-meaning Sunday School teacher) in the word "firstborn." It’s not that Abel gave his BEST, and Cain just gave some LAME fruit. The difference is far deeper than that and it teaches us a lot about what God is looking for in worship.

God is looking at our hearts. He is not like mankind, who see the outside, but just as he told Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7, he looks at the heart. He sees, in a way that we cannot, how our outward deeds reflect the truth in our hearts. This is why He says in Proverbs 15:8 "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him." Sacrifices and prayers are either acceptable or abominations depending on the heart of the "offerer" being wicked or upright.

John Piper said this so well in a sermon from March 22, 1987: "Whether our acts are immoral, like stealing and adultery, or whether our acts are moral like church attendance and community service, both will be abominable in God's eyes if the heart is not right."

Our worship is seen by God as an overflow of our hearts. In order to please God, it must be an overflow of faith. Hebrews 11:4 says "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts." And since "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23), Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted.

Now, what does it look like to offer a sacrifice from faith? Hebrews 11:6 says "whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." It’s time for some application.

Questions //

- Do I believe that God really exists?
- What have I done today that would be totally foolish if He did not?
- In what ways do I believe God rewards me?
- What have I left behind, demonstrating that seeking God is of greatest value?

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