A single sparkler on the Fourth of July may be good enough, but a Bonfire Deluxe box of fireworks or a City Spectacular is even better. A single scoop of vanilla ice cream on a sugar cone may be good enough, but an ice cream creation from Cold Stone is even better.
If that is the approach we take with our preferences, why do we often settle for “good enough” when it comes to worshipping God? Why do we think that attending church once or twice a month is good enough for God? Why will we buy new furniture or a new TV for our house and give our old couch or TV to the church because it’s good enough for God? Why do we settle for worshipping God halfheartedly?
Worship that honors God and earns his approval is determined not by the nature of the gift, but by the attitude of the giver. That is the lesson we learn from the life of Abel (Hebrews 11:4; Genesis 4:1-10). He demonstrates what it means to worship God by faith.
Abel didn’t offer a sacrifice that was good enough. Abel offered a better sacrifice (11:4a). The question is, what made Abel’s sacrifice better than his brother Cain’s offering? Scripture indicates that Abel’s sacrifice was better because of his obedience and his attitude.
Romans 10:17 states, “So faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Thus, it is logical and reasonable to conclude that God had given the first family—Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel—instructions about worship, even though they are not recorded in Scripture.
Genesis 4:3-7 indicates there was a time to worship. “in the course of time” (4:3) literally means, at the end of days, or at the end of the appointed time. Since Cain and Abel brought their offerings to the Lord, it appears that there was a place to worship, possibly an altar that Adam had erected previously. Since God tells Cain, “if you do well, will you not be accepted?” we can conclude that he knew the way to worship.
While Cain brought “an offering” (4:3), Abel “brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions” (4:4). Abel brought the first and the best. Cain responded in anger (4:5) when God did not accept his efforts to worship God in his own way.
Abel received God’s approval (11:4b). Abel offered his gift in faith and God commended him as righteous by accepting it.
In comparing Cain and Abel, Cain operated out of a sense of duty while Abel showed delight in his worship. Cain was arrogant while Abel was humble. Cain did it “my way” while Abel did it God’s way. One tried D-I-Y (Do it yourself) worship while the other demonstrated dependence. Cain worshipped by good works while Abel worshipped by faith. Cain was considered religious while Abel was commended as righteous.
Abel still speaks to us today (11:4c). Though his words are not recorded in the book of Genesis, Abel’s example still speaks to us today about how to approach God in worship.
What sacrifice are you offering to God today? Give God your best.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 1, 2019. It is part of an ongoing series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.