What Cain and Abel Teach Us About Worship

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

heart in hands
As I read the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 recently something jumped out at me that I had never seen before. I have read this many times and have always read it as a story about a man who hated his brother. This is really a story about a man caught up in a desperate attempt to find God's approval and sucked into the demonic trap of thinking that the act of worship is the way to gain that approval.

In verse 2 it says that Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil. Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord while Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock. Both brought offerings to the Lord, but there was a huge difference between the two. Abel's offering came solely from God's hand of provision. As a shepherd he kept flocks. He didn't create them; he simply took care of them. On the other hand, Cain's offering came solely from his own hand of provision. His offering was from what he could offer. God's response to these offerings had nothing to do with the offerings themselves but the motivation behind them. The Lord makes a profound statement to Cain in verse 7 when He says, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" This is the key to understanding the story. Take a moment to prayerfully think about this and what it tells us about the act of worship
plant in hands
Cain was a man who struggled with acceptance, self-worth and his identity. He thought that if he could somehow worship God just right, God would then approve of him. He worked hard in the fields so that he could show God what a great job he did. That was his offering. The reason God approved of Abel's offering and not Cain's is simple - Abel's was from the heart, not his hands. It was an act of worship that declared his total dependence upon God and that without him he would have nothing. Cain's offering was from his own hands, not from his heart. His was an act of worship to his accomplishments. He didn't need God. He could take care of himself. That is what led to his anger because the more he tried to gain God's approval and attention, the more he felt unaccepted by him. It also bred intense jealousy toward his brother that eventually drove him to murder.
heart in hands
The challenge for us as we live a lifestyle of worship is that we must be careful to approach God simply out of a heart that is totally and completely dependent upon him for everything. He already accepts us so we don't have to worry about that. Worship doesn't make him accept us more, but rather it reminds us that if it were not for Him, we would be nothing. God does not want the work of your hands. He just wants your heart. That is why lifting up your hands in worship is so powerful and important. When we lift our hands up to heaven we have to let go of whatever we are holding on to so that we have nothing to bring to the Lord but our hearts. That is acceptable worship.
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