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Empty Worship


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Cain and Abel teach us some important lessons on proper worship.

Cain and Abel teach us some important lessons on proper worship.

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  • 1. Genesis 4:1-7
  • 2.  The narrative of Cain and Abel follows essentially the same pattern as that of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:  Cain sins (vv 1-8);  Cain strives to evade the responsibility for his sin (vv 9-10);  God pronounces punitive curses on Cain (vv 11-16);  God puts mankind in a new situation in which he can begin again (vv 17-26).
  • 3.  “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the LORD’” (Gen 4:1).  There is a pun in Hebrew between the words “Cain” and “I have acquired/gotten.”  In naming her son, Eve recognized that her son was a gift from the LORD.  Biblically speaking, human reproduction is not enough for the birth of children.  God Himself is greatly involved in the forming/shaping and birth of children.
  • 4.  God can close a womb.  When God closes a woman’s womb, the couple will not have children.  Gen 20:18.  1 Sam 1:5-6.  Only when God choses to “open” a womb will a woman bear children.  Gen 29:31.  Gen 30:22.
  • 5.  God fashions a person in his mother’s womb.  Job 31:15.  Ps 139:13.  Jer 1:5.  Therefore, children are God’s gift to man.  Gen 33:5.  Gen 48:9.  Ps 127:3.
  • 6.  Why do you think Eve recognized Cain as a gift from God?  What are some ways that society falls to recognize children as a gift of God?  What are some ways that we can recognize our children as God’s gracious gift?
  • 7.  “Then [Eve] bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.”  There is no mention of conception here.  Therefore, some scholars think that Cain and Abel were twins.  That’s far from conclusive.  Moses wishes to emphasize that Cain and Abel are brothers & that Cain was so murderous that he killed his own brother.  In verses 2-10, Abel is called Cain’s brother seven times.
  • 8.  There is also no mention as to why the second child was called Abel.  “Abel” means “breath” or “vapor.”  Some believe that the name represents the fact that Abel died at a relatively young age.  Others believe the reference is to the brevity of life.  Both of those ideas, while attractive, are not at all certain.  Names in Scripture often meant a great deal.  God would change names as he saw fit (e.g., Abraham); Saul began using Paul (the Greek equivalent) after he became the apostle to the Gentiles.  So, Abel’s name likely meant something to Adam & Eve; we just don’t know what.
  • 9.  Cain & Abel are both farmers.  Obviously, that isn’t surprising (What else is there for man to do?).  However, they are involved in different forms of agriculture.  Cain “was a tiller of the ground”; Abel “was a keeper of sheep.”  Obviously, their different roles is going to figure prominently in the narrative.
  • 10.  “In the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”  Why do you think that Cain’s sacrifice was not acceptable to God?
  • 11.  Some have felt that God had told Cain & Abel how to prepare their sacrifices.  The Greek version of the Old Testament (about 280 BC) says that Cain did not cut his sacrifice “in pieces rightly.”  The original doesn’t mention such a thing.  Many believe that only animal sacrifices were acceptable.  However, long after this episode, God commanded the Israelites to offer the fruit of the ground as well as animal sacrifices.  Lev 2; Deut 26:1-11.
  • 12. The biblical text seems to indicate three reasons Cain’s sacrifice was not acceptable.
  • 13.  One: Cain does not to appear to have brought anything special.  “Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground [nothing special] to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn [something special--the firstborn] of his flock and of their fat” (Gen 4:3-4).  Cain appears to have kept back the best for himself.  Are we ever guilty of keeping back the best for ourselves?  What are some ways that we might do so?  How can we be a people who give the best of what we have?
  • 14.  Two: Abel first yielded himself to God, and then he brought his sacrifice; Cain simply brought his sacrifice.  “The LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering” (Gen 4:4-5).  Notice that the LORD first respect Abel and then his offering, but he had no respect first for Cain and then for his offering.  Why do we need to give ourselves to the Lord?  How do we go about doing so?
  • 15.  Three: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Heb 11:4).  Cain trusted in his own goodness.  Abel had faith in God.  He knew that God would provide if he offered generously.  He knew that God would bless him for acceptable worship.  How can our worship show faith in God?  How might God bless us for acceptable worship?
  • 16.  The Lord asked Cain why he was angry.  Why do you think Cain was so angry?  Should Cain have been angry?  How should Cain have dealt with his anger?  Do we sometimes get angry over our sins?  Do we ever get angry at God over our sins?  How might we get angry at God over our sins?  Do we ever get angry at others because of our sins?
  • 17.  If Cain would do well, he would be accepted.  What does it mean to be accepted by God?  How do we today become accepted by God?  Does worship have anything to do with being accepted by God?  How do we make worship acceptable to God?
  • 18.  If Cain did not do well, sin lies at the door.  This is the first time the word “sin” is mentioned in the Scriptures.  Surprisingly, the word does not occur at all in Genesis 3.  Obviously, Adam and Eve sin, but the word itself does not occur in the text.
  • 19.  Sin lies at the door, and its desire was for Cain, but he should rule over it.  The picture here is of sin as a type of monster waiting outside the door, just ready to pounce.  How is sin always ready to pounce?  Sin’s desire was for Cain.  This is the same word used at 3:16 for Eve’s desire for her husband.  Why would sin want Cain?  Does sin want us?  Cain was to rule over sin.  How can we do so?
  • 20.