The First Worship

Genesis 4

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
November 2014

We will be looking at Genesis 4 for the next two weeks.  It is a rather depressing chapter.  It shows the depravity of man which existed from the very beginning of the race but it begins and ends on a good note.  The chapter begins with the very first pregnancy and birth (4:1). It ends with the very first revival, as people began to call on the name of the Lord (4:26). Before we look at Genesis 4, I want to do a little review.

Last we looked at the Fall of Adam and Eve.  The chapter ended with them being kicked out of paradise.  They were driven out by God.  Today, we will see what life was like OUTSIDE of Eden.  It was very different from the life Adam and Eve lived inside Eden but there are many similarities between this chapter and the last one.

1) In both chapters, there is a crime

The one in Genesis 4 seems a lot more serious.  What Adam and Eve did seems like a misdemeanor compared to this.  They pulled some fruit off of a tree.  What Cain did was a felony.  It was murder.  In Genesis 3, we saw the first sin.  Here we see the first crime.

2) In both chapters, God sought sinners

He went to Adam and said, “Where are you?” He didn’t wait until they came looking for God.  We see God reaching out to Cain in this chapter as well.  Cain was angry that God did not accept his offering.  God told him that all he had to do was to bring the right offering and it would be accepted.

There was no favoritism on God’s part.  Instead of bring the right offering, he just murdered Abel.  Abel did absolutely nothing to harm Cain.  He just made him look bad, so Cain killed him. That was his solution to the problem but God reached out to him. In fact, God reached out to Him BEFORE he even sinned.  As one person stated, “The Devil talked Eve into sin but God couldn’t talk Cain out of it.” [1]

3) In both chapters, there is Divine Interrogation

God asked some questions, as he confronted sinners.  He asked Adam and Eve four questions.  God confronted Cain about what he did as well.  He asked him some questions.  He asked Cain two questions: Where is your brother Abel?”  What have you done?  He asked Adam, “Where are you?”  He didn’t ask Cain, “Where are you?”  He asked him, “Where’s your brother?”  It shows God’s concern for His people.  As F.B. Meyer says, He takes an inventory of his saints.

4) In both chapters, there is denial or blame-shifting on man’s part

Adam admitted sinned.  He blamed his wife but he admitted he sinned.  He said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (3:12)  In fact, Cain’s response was even worse than Adam’s response. Adam confessed.  Cain NEVER even confessed to the crime.  He never admitted to God what he had done.  Human nature has not changed much.  People commit the worst types of murder but will deny under oath that they had anything to do with it, even when all of the evidence stares them in the face.

Cain went beyond denial to sarcasm.   He said “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  He answered God’s question with another question.  It was a sarcastic question.  To whom is the sarcasm directed?  God.  What he said was not even an appropriate question. In essence, he said, “It is not my job to keep up with him.  You should not be asking me this question.  He is not my responsibility.”

5) In both chapters, there is judgment for sin

There is a curse in both chapters.  In the last chapter, the ground is cursed (3:19).  In this chapter, Cain is cursed (4:12).  The ground is cursed specifically for Cain.  Because of what he did, he will not be able to farm again.  His farming days were over.  He had to choose a new profession.  Keep in mind that people did not live 60 or 70 years in the beginning.  Adam lived over nine hundred years. No matter how much he tried, the ground would not produce fruit for Cain, like it did before.  Cain also became a wanderer.

6) In both chapters, there is a forced expulsion

There is an expulsion in both chapters.  Both were driven from the land.  Adam and Eve were driven out of paradise and Cain was driven from the presence of the Lord (4:14, 16; 3:24).  Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden.  Cain was kicked out of the whole area of Eden.  He was kicked out of the whole state.

7) In both chapters God demonstrates grace to sinners

He gave Adam and Eve some clothes to wear.  God became a tailor and made some clothes for them.  He didn’t throw them out of the garden naked.  They would have been both homeless and naked.  God also showed grace to Cain.  He was worried someone would kill him, so God put a mark on him to prevent that from happening.  That was grace.  He deserved to be killed but God showed grace.

The story of Cain and Abel is very well known.  We all know it well.  That creates a challenge for the teacher or preacher.  What could I possibly say about this section that you have not heard before?  As we go through this section, we will see how well you really know this story.  This is not just a Bible story for kids.

This chapter would have an R rating.  There is a lot of violence and sex in it.  The chapter begins and ends with sex.  It begins with the words “Adam made love to his wife Eve” (4:1).  It mentions Cain having sex with his wife (4:17).  It ends with, “Adam made love to his wife again” (4:25).  Each time it results in a pregnancy and a birth.  What we have in the first verse of the chapter is the first human pregnancy and the first human birth in history.

If you think about it, this might have been a little scary for Eve.  You can picture Eve with a big belly walking around, waiting to deliver her first child.  She did not know exactly what to expect.  Adam and Eve may have seen some animals give birth but they had never seen a human baby being born.  God said it was painful and she does this without any anesthesia.  She does not give birth in a hospital with the help of a doctor.  She just had Adam.  He became her helper.  She gave God the credit.  She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.”

Eve delivers the first baby in history and we get the news “It’s a boy”.  It was exciting to see the first baby born on the planet.  We have the first mother, the first father and the first children.  There are many firsts in this chapter.  Their first children were boys.  Eve had two sons.  Genesis might have read a little different if the first two kids were daughters.  They were sons.

Cain and Abel were the first two brothers in history, although the focus of the chapter is really on Cain, not Abel.  Abel does not say anything in the whole chapter but his blood speaks.  It cries out from the ground.  It cried out for judgment.  Genesis 4:1-2 says, “Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.” (NIV)

This week, I want to focus on two men – Cain and Abel. I want to look at the two different offerings they brought God and try to discover why one of the offerings was accepted and one was rejected.   There are some important lessons we can learn in the first four verses.  There is lesson on parenting and a lesson on worship that I would like to explore.  What lessons do we learn about parenting from this section?

Lessons on Parenting

1. Our kids are very different from one another.

Kids are very different.  Brothers and sisters can be complete opposites.  Anyone who has had kids knows that.  Some are more like the mother.  Some are more like the father and some are not like either.  You wonder how they got into the family.  Our kids have very different talents and abilities.  My kids have some skills that I do not have at all.

Cain and Abel were biological brothers but were complete opposites.  They were a study in contrasts. They came from the same parents and lived in the same environment but they were very different from each other. They were different in age.  One was older and one was younger.  They were different in occupation.  Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd.  Both occupations were important.  Farming was important for food and shepherding was important for clothing and sacrifice.  They were probably different in temperament.

One may have been more active, energetic, muscular and aggressive.  The other may have been more quiet, refined and intellectual.  We are not told this but they were different physically.  They looked different.  They were also different morally and spiritually.  One was a murderer and one was a martyr.  One was righteous and one was wicked.  One is called in the NT a child of God and the other is called a child of the devil (I John 3:12).  One was a seed of the woman.  The other was a seed of the serpent.  They even brought different offerings to God.  They worshiped God differently.

2. We often evaluate our kids incorrectly

Adam and Eve were ecstatic when Cain was born.  Most people believe that he would be the Messiah that God promised in chapter 3.  They expected him to the one who would defeat the serpent.  They had all their hopes in Cain.  His name means “possession.” They had great expectation for him.  He was their prize possession.  They overemphasized his importance.   They may have even thought he would be the Messiah in fulfillment of God’s promise in Genesis 3:15. God promised out of the seed of the woman the Messiah would come and here was her seed.

Instead, she found out what it was like to raise Cain. Adam and Eve also under-emphasized the importance of their second child Abel.  They had him but did not think that he was important or would amount to much.  They named him “vanity,” “worthless” or “empty”.

Abel’s birth did not draw as much attention as Cain’s birth.  That was a huge miscalculation on their part.  Some of us may think some of our kids may not amount to much and be very wrong.  Parents sometimes think their worst child is a rare jewel and their best child is completely useless and worthless.  Eve was deceived before and now she is deceived again about Cain.

3. We need to give our kids some type of spiritual training

Adam did give them some training.  He trained him to do their jobs.  He gave them some vocational training.  Adam was a farmer.  He knew how to farm.  He also knew a lot about animals, because he studied them when he was in the garden.  Those were his two jobs and that was what his two sons did.  Did he train them spiritually?  We don’t know.

What could Adam and Eve taught them?  They did not have a Bible to give them.  There were no books written yet.  Everyone who hates to read probably thinks that this was the golden age.  Let me point out a few things that Adam and Eve could have taught them and should have taught them.  There is a lot that they could have and should have taught them from their own experience.

They should have taught them what God was like and how to worship Him.  They knew God.  They walked and talked with him in the garden.  They had first-hand experience with God.  They should have taught them what life was like in the garden before sin entered the world.  They should have taught them never to question God and to always take Him at His Word.  They should have taught them to beware of the serpent.  The serpent ruined their life and would ruin Cain and Abel’s if he gets a chance.

They should have explained some of the mistakes they made so that their kids do not make the same ones.  They should have taught them that there are serious consequences for sin.  We reap what we sow.  They could have taught them about the judgment of God. God hold people accountable for their actions.  They should have taught them to admit when they are wrong and not to blame other people for their own mistakes.  Cain never learned that lesson.  When God confronted him, he never confessed to what he did and he never repented for killing his brother.

Lessons on Worship

Cain and Abel worshiped God very differently.  They brought two different kinds of offerings.  One brought an animal sacrifice and one brought God some food.  One brought a bloody sacrifice and the other brought God a fruit basket.  Cain brought God some zucchini and some squash.  Abel brought God a lamb.  God accepted one and rejected the other.

“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” (4:2-5).

Why was one accepted and another rejected?  Why would God accept the animal sacrifice and reject the fruit cake Cain brought.  Apparently, God established animal sacrifices as the way to worship Him.  Cain ignored what God had said.  He didn’t want to go to his brother’s flock and get a lamb.  He wanted to worship God in his own way.  Cain started the first false religion.  God rejected both Cain and his offering.  His offering was wrong and he brought it with the wrong attitude.

Abel not only did what God told him to do, he selected the best animals out of his flock.  His offering involved some sacrifice.  He did not bring God the worst animals that he had that he did not want anyway.  That is what the Jews did in the Book of Malachi.  He brought God the best that he had.  He brought fat animals, not skinny, sick animals.  He brought the firstborn animals (4:4).  Cain did not do that.  He did not bring God the first fruits.

There was no blood in his offering and no heart in it either.  God always looks at the heart.  He doesn’t just look at the sacrifice or the worship.  He does not just listen to the words we sing him in church.  He looks at our heart.  He gave God the best he had.  Do we give God our best?  This story is SHOCKING for a number of reasons.  I want you to think about this.

What Cain & Abel had in Common

a) Both men believed in God.

Neither one of them were atheists.  They believed in God.  The believed in the true God.

b) Both men worshiped God.

They did not just believe in God; they brought God something. It is not as if one brought God an offering and the other didn’t.  Both men brought an   offering. They both worshiped God. They just did it in two different ways. One sacrifice involved blood and other did not.

c) Both men worshiped the SAME God.

They not only believed in God, they both worshiped the true God.  One did not worship the Lord, while the other worshiped Zeus.  Both brought an offering to THE LORD.  Cain was NOT an atheist.  He believed in   God.  He worshiped God.  He was religious.

What lessons can we learn from this about worship?  There are two lessons.

1) God REJECTS some worship

This chapter teaches something that is completely counter-cultural.  This contradicts a common doctrine in the world today.  It is the doctrine of religious pluralism.  Religious pluralism says that all forms of religious expression are valid and acceptable.  People worship God in all kinds of different ways.

There are thousands of religions.  There are all kinds of different paths to God.  In fact, there are all kinds of different gods that can be worshiped. The world teaches that you can worship God any way you want in any religion you want, as long as you are sincere and lead a moral life.  God accepts all religions.

Genesis 4 teaches something very different.  We learn here that God does NOT accept all worship.  That is the first lesson on worship.  Does he accept your worship?  God not only has to be worshiped, He has to be worshiped in the correct way.  We can’t just worship God any way we want.  He has revealed to us how to worship Him. It is all revealed in the Bible.  Jesus said that if we want to worship God, we have to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

2) God HATES some worship

There are many passages in Scripture in which God says that He does not just reject some worship, He hates it.  He can’t stand it.  He hates their music.  He hates their services.  He hates their prayers.  He hates their worship.

“I HATE, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” (Amos 5:21-23 NIV)

 “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I HATE with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! 16 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:13-17 NIV)

What is the type of worship that God hates?  He hates insincere, hypocritical formalistic worship.  He hates people who are religious but not righteous.  They do not live a godly life throughout the week but they come to church on Sunday.  Their hands are full of blood but they lift up those hands in prayer and worship.


[1] Derek Kidner, Genesis (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary), p. 74

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