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What Is God Looking For In Our Worship?
"It is fit that He Who is the first and best should have the first and best of our time, strength, and service." - Matthew Henry
What constitutes "the first and best of our time, strength, and service" to God? How do we gain His "respect" for our offerings? What did it mean when Moses "said unto the LORD, Respect not Thou their offering..."(Numbers 16:15)?
We can look into the "offerings" of two men in the Bible and gather much information about worship from them. In fact, every true worshipper or worship leader should study and examine the following references in order to learn the proper approach that we must always have before God in order to win His approval.
Genesis 4:3-5 tells us - "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."
Hebrews 11:4 says - "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts..."
As we can see, both men brought an offering unto the Lord. This was commendable. At least both men saw their need to acknowledge the Lord in their work and life by coming to Him with an "offering" of thanksgiving.
And that is exactly what they brought - a thanksgiving offering - a minchah - a meat or bread offering. Their gifts were products of their own occupation.
However, the question arises - why didn't God "respect" Cain's offering yet He "respected" Abel's? Was He against the fruit of the ground"? Did He prefer lambs to fruit?
The answer lies in the state of mind or disposition of the worshipper which in turn is manifested in the selection of gifts.
God did not approve of Cain's offering because He did not approve of Cain. Cain happened to be a wicked man who led an evil life. He lived under the reigning power of the world and the flesh. Proverbs 15:8 says - "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is His delight." All Cain could offer God in a religious way was a sacrifice acknowledging Him as the Creator of the universe. He simply recognized the existence, power, and bounty of God.
Shouldn't this be enough? After all, Cain did come before God in worship, and by doing so, was he not recognizing God as God?
In order to receive God's acceptance on our worship, we must not only acknowledge Him as Creator but as Savior and Redeemer of our souls.
This is something that many - even today - do not want to do - simply because they would have to admit that they are a sinner and in need of a Savior. They would have to admit that they are dependent on God for the salvation of their souls. In their independence, they find this hard to do.
Abel was a righteous and holy man whose heart was upright and his life pious. But wherein laid his righteousness? The answer to this question is evident by his "offering."
Abel brought forth an animal for a sacrifice. But it wasn't so much the type of offering that he brought as much as what he did with his offering. He brought forth "the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof" because this was what God commanded of the worshippers. There had to be a sacrifice. What God was looking for from them was the acknowledgement of sin...the acceptance of His required wrath on sin...and the imploring of His mercy because of it.
Like Cain's, Abel's offering was a minchah or gratitude offering. But then he added to it. He brought forth a victim that was to be slain in his place because of sin. By doing so, he admitted to all that he was indeed a sinner in need of a Savior. He paid a proper regard to the will of God - which was to come before Him with a blood sacrifice - representing the Living Son of God dying on the cross for the sins of mankind.
The minchah or thanksgiving offering was not enough. There had to be a sin-offering as well in order to win God's acceptance - which was fire falling from heaven on the sacrifice.
Cain's was a "barren faith;" whereas, Abel's was a "living faith."
Cain was unconscious of his own sinfulness. He drew nigh unto God in an unhumbled, unbelieving, and self-righteous manner. His was a formal and hypocritical manner of worship - having no regard to the Messiah and His sacrifice and no view to the glory of God. He felt no need of atonement nor of the necessity of a vicarious sacrifice to turn away God's wrath and judgment from his life.
Abel was conscious of his sinfulness. He drew nigh to God in an humble manner. He offered his sacrifice with a view to God's will as his rule... His glory as his end...and the promise of the Great Redeemer as his only hope.
Cain offered to God from his own ideas; whereas, Abel offered what God demanded - the sacrifice of an animal in token of forfeiture of man's life by sin.
In Numbers 16:15, we read - "And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD, Respect not thou their offering..." Korah and his Levitical associates were attempting to set up a priesthood and a sacrificial system of their own. But as we all know - God cannot bless any scheme of salvation but His own.
"Salvation is of the Lord," and it comes through the Lord Jesus Christ - the Living Son of God. Anything - pertaining to it - that stems from man is rejected as unfit or unacceptable and will always meet with God's disapproval.
After having studied all of the facts, what can we say of our present-day worship? Why does it lack the "fire of God" or His approbation?
Simply because there are many who are coming before God as Cain and not as Abel. They think that their thanksgiving offering of "the tithe" or some sort of monetary offering will turn God's countenance towards them. Never mind the fact that they are living unholy and wicked lives... entertaining impure thoughts...or harboring ungodly feelings in their soul towards their neighbor. Never mind the fact that they are not saved... are backslidden...or are as worldly or carnal as they come.
Where is the acknowledgment of sin in our worship? Where is the looking to the Cross as the place where all matters are settled? Or - for those who are saved and living for God - where is the looking back to the Cross in absolute awe and amazement at how the Lord God wrought "so great salvation"(Hebrews 2:3) for us?
The Blood of Jesus to atone for sin or as the power to keep from sin is missing in our worship today. Man just wants to be seen and heard - just like Cain. Oh! Yes! He will go so far as to admit that there is a Creator out there, but that is as afar as he will go. He doesn't want to approach God humbly and in total weakness and dependence. And He doesn't want to think about the Mighty Savior because he just might have to give up his "pet sins" or change his lifestyle.
Who among us has "a living faith" like Abel rather than "a barren faith" like Cain?
God will send His fire on the "offerings" that remind Him of His Son Jesus on Calvary.
Just how much do you want "the fire" of God's approval to consume your worship? How desperate are you for the glory of God to be manifested in your home, ministry, or church?
Always remember - God's true worshippers will bring forth a sacrifice - which includes a confession of sin...an awareness of the deserving of punishment for sin...a plea for mercy...a profession of faith in the Mighty Redeemer...and a gracious offering of thanksgiving for His undeserved mercies.
When this happens, fire from heaven will fall on your sacrifice.
It will happen every time. You can count on it!
May God Bless His Word.