What can the worship of Cain and Abel teach us about “relevant worship” in the end times?
After they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. The brothers were raised in accordance with the principles by which God would have man live. Each son also chose professions that taught them of their need to rely on God and of the work of their Savior to come.
Jesus taught the people of His time about the things of heaven and earth through the work they did in their daily lives. Like Abel, they learned of Jesus as the Shepherd of His people and as the Sacrifice for their sins. As the seed must die for the plant to grow, Jesus taught the people that He must die so that His people may grow in godly character. Cain learned this lesson repeatedly as he tended to his fields and gathered the harvest thereof. Both professions required watchful care over their charge and would yield abundantly if they diligently cared for them.
In addition to teaching them their professions, Adam also taught his sons how to worship the Lord. They learned, through their father, of the necessity of sacrificing to the Lord in the fashion He appointed. The sacrifices they would offer upon the altar would point towards He who would sacrifice His life to atone for their sins. As such, the sons of Adam paid careful attention to their father’s instructions.
It was because of Adam and Eve’s sin that the plan of salvation went into effect and they sought to ensure that their mistakes would not be repeated in their children. Such a lesson must not be lost upon our generation. The parents of God’s children must never forget what brought them to believe in Jesus and how He wanted them to serve Him: in spirit and in truth.
As such, we, who are called by His name, must fashion our lives and the lives of our children according to the divine pattern through cooperating with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Such a work is necessary for countering the influence of the generation in the last days, a generation that knoweth not the Lord.
When the time came for the sons of Adam to worship their God, they each built their altars as their father taught them. But from here, their worship was distinct from the other. Abel, who cherished the lessons his father taught him, offered the “firstborn of his flock and the fat thereof.” As a sacrifice was offered after Adam and Eve’s rebellion, Abel offered a sacrifice in like manner. The Lord’s acceptance of his sacrifice affirmed his faith in the Sacrifice that was provided for all mankind.
Moreover, Abel gave the Lord the best he had. He regarded nothing too precious to give to Him, not even the firstborn of his flock. What was the best of Abel’s flock to him in comparison to the world’s greatest Gift, the Son of God?
In contrast to the sacrifice of Abel, Cain’s offering reflected just how much regard he gave to the Sacrifice of the God of heaven: none. Not only did he not offer the sacrifice God required of him, he refused to offer the best of that which he had. The Scriptures tell us that Cain offered only “the fruit of the ground” (Gen. 4:3). Not the best of it or even the first of its fruits, but a mere pittance of that which he had, that which he thought was “good enough.”
Were God to accept Cain’s sacrifice that day, the consequences would have been disastrous. It would imply that obedience to God is not required by His creation, but optional. The very universe exists because it obeys the laws of God. How quickly would it cease to do this if obedience to His laws were optional!
The acceptance of Cain’s “sacrifice” would also mean that God’s law is changeable, fallible. Were this true, then Satan and his angels would not have been expelled from heaven. For example, if God changed His law to allow Adam and Eve to remain in the garden, Satan would have had grounds to challenge God.
Satan: “They rebelled against Your law, as we have. Why do You change it for them? Why are we not shown the same favor? If Your law can be changed, then You must acknowledge that it cannot be kept as is.”
Such a notion would eventually lead all Creation to challenge God Himself, for if His laws are not absolute, He Himself is not absolute. He would be fallible and by implication, able to be removed from His throne.Whether by death or usurpation, His rulership over all existence could be overcome.
Moreover, it would also have made the plan of salvation null and void. If the works of men’s hands could deliver him from sin, then we wouldn’t need a Sacrifice and a Savior. Our salvation would depend our works alone. Even worse, no one would bear the consequences of their sins if they were simply allowed to “work them off.”As such, Cain’s offering was rejected.
The deed of Cain, worshipping the Lord in his own way, has been multiplied a million fold in the last days. Many render the Lord worship in ways that He commanded them not and they do not know it. There are those who do this because they seek a newer, more “relevant” way to worship God. They believe it acceptable so long as God is the focus of the worship.
But what is the hidden aim, the unseen implication, of this misguided zeal? The ultimate goal of this kind of worship is the incorporation of the worship of men into the worship of God, the corruption of that which is holy by that which is common. This is exactly the kind of worship that Cain rendered God on that fateful day, worship that melded the way of the Lord with his own.
But what was the ultimate result of this “relevant worship”? Was not the offering of Cain rejected? Did the Lord have respect for an offering Cain thought to be “good enough”? No. God’s people must understand that one who is zealous for the Lord must first cultivate obedience to the Lord. We must first, in all our ways, worship Him how He wants us to. No worship to God will be accepted if it is not done in His way.
Jesus, in teaching His disciples, summed it up best. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). Our obedience to His ways of worship is not meant to be a burden. It is the means by which we express our love for Him. “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8).
Abel did not regard serving the Lord in this manner as many among us do today. He did not long to be “free from the law of God.” He hid it in his heart so that he would not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11). It will be the obedience of God’s people to His law that will set them apart in the coming time of trouble (Dan. 12:1; Rev. 12:17, 14:12). As such, obedience to God’s law must be cultivated within us now, so that when the deceiving antichristian power demands our worship, we will be ready to obey the One who calls us to serve Him in spirit and in truth.
Now mark the response of Cain when His offering was not respected by the Lord, the offering he thought was “good enough.” He was angry “…and his countenance fell.” (Gen. 4:5). He did not lament as one would when he displeased the Lord. A zealous spirit to right his wrong did not manifest itself that day. He was angry. He became the first human ever recorded to be angry at God.
In this, we learn much more about Cain. Cain didn’t get angry at God over this one instance. Hisanger was there before this fateful moment. He blamed God for the fall of his family and for their life of toiling outside the Garden. He held a grudge against God and it was reflected in his blatantly incomplete offering to Him.
Looking further, we can see that his worship of God had nothing to do with zeal so much as it had to do with taking Him out of his life. By offering the work of his hands alone, Cain was showing that he was worshipping himself, not God, as his provider. Moreover, he combined this false worship with the true worship of God that his father taught him. This was blatant apostasy.
If one were to apply this understanding to the many styles of worship today, the implications are horrifying to those who worship as such in ignorance. The Scriptures tell us that the “gods” men worship today are the work of men’s hands (Ps. 115:4-7; Isa. 37:19). When God’s people combine the worship of the heathen with the worship of the Lord, they are repeating the error of Cain. They are unknowingly worshipping the work of men’s hands. They are unintetionally worshipping man as God! This is apostasy!
When God rejected this offering, He was rejecting the same claim that Satan tried to make in heaven, that the created being’s ways (his) were as good as His Creator’s. When such a claim was rejected, it was met with the same anger that Satan harbored towards God in heaven. (See Epic Star Wars, Episode I: The Real Phantom Menace.)
But God did not instantly destroy Cain for his misguided worship. Rather, He reached out to Him as He reaches out to all His people today. He gave Cain a faithful warning of what would happen if he continued down his current path. God told Cain that he, too, would be accepted if he did well. That is, worship God in His way. But if he failed to do this, his sinful desires would overtake him. God exhorted Cain to rule over this desire, the urging to serve our desires over God. This could only be done by “doing well.”
But when given the chance to repent or continue in rebellion, Cain chose the latter by seeking to recruit Abel to join his war against God. He allowed his sinful desires to take hold of his mind and they pushed him to try to corrupt his brother. He chose to fight against God for the right to worship Him as he, not God, saw fit.
To Be Continued…