Our study of the tabernacle/temple last month and our look at the old covenant sacrificial system this month have in common the theme of worship, for it was primarily through animal sacrifices offered in the house of God that old covenant Israel worshiped the Almighty. But there were other elements of old covenant worship, and we can learn much from them about the kind of worship that pleases our Lord today. For the next week, we will examine the topic of God-honoring prayer and praise more carefully using Worship, a teaching series by Dr. R.C. Sproul.
In worship, we ascribe majesty and honor to God, and since He is deserving of all these and more, worship is our most important calling. Not all the world presently glorifies the Lord as He deserves, which is why the church’s missionary enterprise exists in the first place. As John Piper writes, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t” (Let the Nations Be Glad, p. 11). Many lands are presently lacking in Godcentered worship (even when the church is present), and thus the Lord uses missions to call new worshipers to Himself when the gospel is preached.
Fundamentally, worship must be done according to the pattern God has given us. Those who approach the Father unworthily put their lives at risk, so we must always take worship seriously (Lev. 10:1–3). The remaining presence of sin makes us all too willing to worship idols or worship God in ways not pleasing to Him (Rom. 1:18–32), so biblical teaching must always define how we praise His holy name.
Scripture addresses both the outward form of worship and our inner motivations when we praise the Lord. Today’s passage shows how our worship displeases God if we keep its outward rules without our hearts being in the right place. When Cain and Abel worshiped the Lord, He was pleased with Abel’s offering alone (Gen. 4:3–5a).
God ordained grain offerings, the type Cain gave (Lev. 2), so His displeasure was not due to Cain’s failure to give a blood sacrifice. Instead, Abel’s faith in offering His lamb rendered His worship pleasing to the Lord (Heb. 11:4). Abel offered the best or “firstborn of his flock” (Gen. 4:4), but the same is not said of Cain. Apparently, he lacked faith and gave the second best of his harvest, maybe even the leftovers. Unless we give the Lord our first and best, He will likewise have no regard for our worship.