GENESIS 4:1-5: “The man was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the Lord’s help.” She also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of flocks, but Cain worked the ground. In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented an offering — some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent.” CSB
OBSERVATION: What is the worship God accepts? How am I approaching the Lord through my worship? When I go to church, what is the sacrifice that I am presenting to Him? Is it an offering of the works of my hands, or is it an offering of faith?
When you read the first five verses of Genesis chapter 4 it appears that both Cain and Abel were bringing a sacrifice of the works of their hands. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. With just a cursory reading one might wonder – “What did Cain do that was of bad that the Lord did not have regard for his offering?”
The text does not give us the background to fully answer this question. A little assumption needs to be made. They both brought their offering “…in the course of time.” This can refer to a period of time, or an appointed time. We must assume that Adam and Eve had already passed down to them the importance of a blood sacrifice in approaching God in worship. The Lord had cut His covenant with Adam and Eve through the blood of the animals He offered when He provided them with clothes. Adam and Eve must have taught the importance of the sacrifice to their sons.
Yet, the question still remains. What was so wrong with Cain’s sacrifice? It probably was the first fruits of his crops. It probably was the best of his crops. And still the Lord did not receive it. This is because Cain presented himself to the Lord with a sacrifice that was based on his works, the produce that he had planted and produced. Abel presented himself to the Lord through faith by offering a blood sacrifice as a reminder of his covenant with God.
- “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.” Hebrews 11:4 CSB
From the beginning of time mankind was taught that they could only approach the Lord on the basis of faith. Faith was shown in Abel’s sacrifice, but not in Cain’s. Cain thought he could approach the Lord on his own terms, and that his own works were good enough to present to the Lord. Abel, cognizant of his sinfulness, approached the Lord with a blood sacrifice to atone for his sins. This sacrifice was not a result of the work of Abel’s hands. It was the gift of God to Abel being presented back to God in faith.
When I approach the Lord in worship, am I bringing an offering of works or of faith? If I think that my accomplishments are what is pleasing to the Lord, I am offering up a sacrifice like Cain’s. However, if I understand that even my greatest works and accomplishments are but refuse, and I come to Him based on the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I am offering up the sacrifice of Abel, the sacrifice of faith. My access to the Lord in worship is never based on what I have done, or will do. It is solely based on what Jesus Christ has done for me.
I can only approach the Lord through the blood of Jesus Christ!
- “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus — he has inaugurated for us a new and living way through the curtain (that is, through his flesh ) — and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:19-25 CSB
The call to worship, both individually and corporately, is a call to enter into the Lord’s presence through a new and living way. This new and living way is to come before Him through the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus shed His blood once and for all so that we could eternally have access to the Father in worship by faith. We no longer have to bring an offering of an animal as a temporary sacrifice. We come to the Lord through the completed work of the Cross. We enter in through the open veil (His sacrifice), through the blood of Jesus Christ!
So then, what is our sacrifice? What do we bring to the Lord? We bring ourselves as a living sacrifice, surrendered, and presented to the Lord in worship. We do not bring our accomplishments, our righteousness, or our works. We bring our bodies, heart, soul, and mind, as a living sacrifice. This is the worship that is acceptable to the Lord. This is the offering of Abel.
- “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 CSB
As I meditate upon this truth and this call, I am humbled by the realization that so many times I approach the Lord with an offering like Cain. Somehow I get the idea that I must impress the Lord with my works. The truth is that my works can never impress Him. It is faith that touches the heart of God. It is my surrender that He wants. It is complete trust in the final and all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When I come to the Lord in humility and faith – He joyfully accepts my worship.
Lord, forgive me for the times that I have tried to approach You based on my own works. I don’t want to approach You with the works of my hands. I want to come to You through the completed work of Jesus Christ. I want to give You my life as a living sacrifice, wholly surrendered to Your will. Lord – teach me how to worship You through faith!
In Jesus Name!