“The Priority of Worship” – Part 3

Genesis 4:4-5  4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering;  5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.

This is the third essay on worship.  Worship is the primary reason we assemble together on Sundays – to ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name (1 Chron 16:29).  Living life the six days in between, should also be worshipful (Rom. 12:1-2).  Paul summarizes, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

There are many assumptions that we can make about the essential nature of worship.  As a young Christian, I assumed worship was just congregational singing.  But, of course, it is broader than that.  Then, there was a time when I assumed that good worship was based on the intensity of emotion I experience while singing.  Worship should certainly not be emotionless…but that is not the central issue.  Worship is, in essence, an offering to God of something He delights in.  This truth was a game-changer for me.  It means that I’m not the center of defining what worship is, or what qualifies as good worship.  Rather – God is the determiner of those things. 

This truth was solidified in my mind, when I discovered that this is the very first principle about worship revealed in the Bible.  Simply put, “And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.”  It is possible that Abel’s offering was received because he brought a sacrifice, and this foreshadows Jesus, the Lamb of God.  But Moses, the inspired writer, makes no suggestion of this in the text.  Rather, what is explicit, are two key phrases describing Abel’s offering, “firstlings of his flock,” and “their fat portions,” better translated  “ – even the fattest of them.” (see NET Translation).  Simply put, he brings to God the very best of what he has to offer.  Cain’s offering, in contrast, wasn’t bad but it wasn’t his best either.  It was just vegetables.  Nothing select from among them, nor the “first-fruits” from the harvest.  Likewise, Abel’s offering included an element of faith (Heb. 11:4), Cain’s did not.

The very first truth of God’s attributes is His aseity – that He is self-existent, and therefore free to exercise His will according to His delight.  This does not mean He is capricious – for He is not like us, but holy, righteous, loving, good, all-wise, etc.  But it does mean that God is not obligated to accept our worship.  He’s not obligated to do so because: we’re very talented, or because we’re trying really hard, or because lots of us are worshiping a certain way, or because we like what we’re doing, or because we’ve worshiped this way for generations…and the list could go on.  We should first seek to know what God desires and delights in and then we offer to Him accordingly.  He will be pleased to accept the glory due His name.  A lack of Cain’s best is not what is due to God.  It is unworthy of His majesty, and He is not obliged to accept it. 

It is the same for us.  What kind of worship delights the heart of God?  The answer in the NT is clear, John 4:23  23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  And, Hebrews 13:15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

 As we come together with hearts full of love for God, giving thanks to Him – He will be pleased.  May this be our upper-most priority as a worshiping church.

 Thanks! See you Sunday,

 Pastor Dave

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