Sometimes we refer to “worship” as the thirty-minute warm-up before the preacher starts his sermon. And sometimes we call certain songs “worship” music, as if anything written before the Gaithers couldn’t possibly be worshipful.
What does the Bible say about worship? Let’s see...
The Bible first mentions an altar when Noah came out of the ark (Genesis 8:20). The Bible’s first song is recorded after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15). The first mention of the Sabbath day comes when God sent manna to the wilderness-wandering Hebrews (Exodus 16:23). The English Bible’s first mention of worship occurs when Abraham and Isaac went up Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22), though the Hebrew word is found in Genesis 18:2. Abraham “bowed down” ... he worshipped before the Lord. Before Moses, there wasn’t any written Scripture. So, how did our earliest ancestors worship?
Adam and Eve didn’t go to church. They didn’t construct a place to worship, neither a temple nor a tabernacle. The short record of their lives doesn’t include a reference to an altar or an offering, a hymn book, a preacher, or a Sunday service.
Adam and Eve learned about offerings and sacrifices immediately after defying God’s commands concerning the forbidden fruit hanging on the tree in the middle of the garden. They tried unsuccessfully to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, but God sacrificed an animal, certainly a lamb, to atone for their sin and cover their shame.
Cain and Abel, the two oldest sons of Adam and Eve, were taught that they should bring a free-will offering acknowledging God’s gracious protection and provision. First, Cain brought grains or vegetables (maybe over-ripe zucchini that Mrs. Cain refused to cook). Later, Abel, imitating God’s earlier sacrifice, brought “some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions” (Genesis 4:4, CSB).
Why did God reject Cain’s gift? Maybe God had given specific instructions concerning the sacrifice, but we don’t have a record of those commands. Maybe, Cain’s sacrifice was judged as unworthy because God had cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17). That doesn’t seem likely because later God directed Moses to bring grain offerings (Exodus 29:41).
Most likely God’s rejection of the offering had nothing to do with the gift and everything to do with the giver. Cain’s heart wasn’t right. Maybe Cain came to the altar out of duty or tradition. As the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that Cain’s heart is hard and filled with hatred.
It’s ironic that the first offering recorded in the Bible is also the first offering rejected by God. “The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering” (Genesis 4:4-5, CSB).
And it’s instructive that the first acceptable offering is offered by one who is then martyred. Truly, Abel presented himself to God as a “sacrifice, holy and acceptable” (Romans 12:1-2). It was “by faith” that “Abel offered to God” an “acceptable sacrifice” (Hebrews 11:4). He approached God acknowledging His abundant grace and mercy. He worshipped obediently and thankfully.
Yep! Cain and Abel both taught us something about worship...
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor