The fall of mankind is detailed in chapter three of the book of Genesis. There we see Adam and Eve be tempted by Satan, in the form of a serpent, to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In chapter two God had already told Adam that if he ate of the fruit of that tree, he would surely die. But the serpent refuted God’s claim and told Eve that the fruit would not kill them but would rather make them like God in terms of intellect and ability. The thought of being equal to God, and thus not being beholden to God, made the fruit attractive; and so they ate.
The eating of the fruit was the ultimate disrespect, the ultimate act of spitting in God’s face. God had given them everything they needed to live and enjoy life in paradise with him. And the one harmful thing that God allowed into their orbit—the tree of knowledge—was strictly and specifically prohibited. Adam and Eve broke God’s one rule and squandered perfection with absolutely nothing of value to gain from it. What could prompt such folly? Not having proper reverence for God! The failure to properly revere God led Adam and Eve to eat the fruit.
Reverence can be defined as the combination of fear, love, and appreciation. We have a respectful fear of God because he is all powerful. We love God because he has established a loving relationship with us. And we appreciate God for all that he has given to us. Adam and Eve fell short in this regard. Instead of revering God, Eve was tempted by her desire to be equal with God, and Adam was led astray because he gave Eve the authority over him that should have only belonged to God. So contrary to the multitude of right choices they could have made, they made the wrong choice and ate of the forbidden fruit.
Following their sin Adam and Eve were escorted out of the garden and sent forth in the world with the curse of labor and toil, and the command to be fruitful and multiply.
Chapter four opens by telling us that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. As they grew, Cain toiled as a farmer, and Abel toiled as a shepherd. Verses three and four tell us, “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.”
The Hebrew word for offering here is Minchah. It’s used throughout the Old Testament to either signify a special gift that one person gives to another, a tribute that one nation pays to another nation for aid and protection, or a sacrifice made by man to a deity. Cain and Abel are giving sacrificial gifts to God in an act of reverence. The offerings are to be made out of respect for God, love for God, and appreciation toward God.
The act of giving an offering as shown in our text is the precursor to what we know today as tithing. However, the spirit behind the act is more closely related to what we would call praise and worship. Praise is showing appreciation for God and the blessings that he has showered down upon us, and worship is the admiration and love for God, simply because he is God. In fact, that term Minchah—offering—is used in Psalm 141:2 in relation to praise and worship: “May my prayer be counted as incense before you: the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” God desires an offering from the fruit of our lips. The raising of hands. The bowing of our backs. The movement of our feet.
The reverence that God demands is laid out for us in Psalms 100: “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”
This tells us that God wants a loud and joyful praise. God wants to hear us, wherever we are, proclaiming his goodness and singing his praises. Because he is our God and our creator.
And when we have the opportunity to enter the house of worship, we need to come in celebrating. We need come in shouting. We need come in praising. We need enter with thanksgiving already on our lips. That’s why David said in Psalm 122 “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Moreover, the reverence that God desires requires that we learn of him. Proverbs 1: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (v. 7)...Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge. And did not choose the fear of the Lord (vs. 27&28).”
Indeed, we show reverence for God by learning about him.
What’s more, the reverence that God desires is a continual thing. That’s why Psalm 34:1 says “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
The reverence that God desires should be found in everything we do—1Corinthians 10:31, “whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”
Everything we do should glorify him. Our actions should honor him. They should show his worthiness.
In other words, what we do is a reflection on who he is. So, we should revere God by making him look good in front of the world.
What we understand then, is that revering God is a 24/7 activity. It’s a lifestyle. A mind frame. A state of existence. We should always be praising God with our words. We should always be worshipping God with our actions. To the best of our ability we should bless people with the things we say and show the goodness of God with the things we do. Revering God means we speak the truth. We deal honestly, even brutally honest if need be, though with a desire to save. We don’t practice manipulation and deception because these things don’t display the goodness of God. But we think and speak and work with a desire to please God and show the world why it should revere God.
And revering God means that when we are in a position to have direct communication and interaction with him, that we give him all of us. All of our energy. All of our strength should go into giving him all the praise. All the honor. All the glory.
Which runs contrary to a popular phrase that some of us like to use: “It don’t take all that.”
The reality is it does take all of that. And we should give all of that. Revering God in the way that he desires requires loud, active, uncouth, undignified, unashamed praise. It requires a zeal for God, being on fire for Jesus. It requires a yearning for him. A longing to be in his presence. A passion for learning about him and doing his will. It requires giving God our very best and giving him all of us.
As our story unfolds in Genesis 4, we see that God has a response to Cain’s and Abel’s offerings. Verses four and five read, “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.”
Why did God favor Abel’s offering over Cain’s?
While it doesn’t jump out at us, the answer is right there in the text. It says “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from the firstborn of his flock.”
Abel brought the choicest portions of the first of his slaughtered sheep. Not only did he give God the first portion, which is to say before he ate any of it himself, but Abel gave God the best of the first portion. Abel gave God the best of the best. He gave God what Abel most certainly would have desired for himself, to show God how important God was to him. If we compare Abel’s offering of the best of the best to other acts of worship in the bible, it would be like David dancing before the Lord until his clothes fell off in 2 Samuel 6:14. Or the poor widow putting two mites, which was all she had, into the collection plate in Mark 12:42. With his offering, Able gave reverence to God. Respect. Love. Appreciation.
But Cain, on the contrary, just gave some fruit. There is no description of the quality of the fruit. We don’t know if it’s the first fruits that Cain plucked. We don’t know that is the juiciest or most perfectly ripe. All we know is that it was some fruit. One might imagine that when Cain saw Able’s offering, he said like some of us, “It don’t take all that.” But when God saw Cain’s offering, he determined that it was subpar and unacceptable.
As the story proceeds, we see that God’s favoring of Abel’s offering over Cain’s makes Cain angry. The New International Version reads, starting with verse six, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; and it desires to have you.” God is saying, don’t be angry. Just do the right thing.
The “right” thing that God speaks of is not in reference to sin. That’s not the issue yet. The “right” thing is referring to Cain’s offering. God sees Cain’s lackluster gift and he determines that this dull offering is just not right. Which helps us to see that failing to revere God in the way that he desires is just not right. It’s wrong. Not just slack, not just lazy, but wrong. Not making a joyful noise unto the Lord is wrong. Not meditating on his word day and night is wrong. Not engaging in a personal relationship with God through consistent prayer is wrong. Not giving of our time, skills, and resources to the upbuilding of his kingdom is wrong. Being of sound body and mind, yet only going to church every now and then is wrong. Getting to church late every Sunday is wrong. Not going to Sunday School or Bible Study to learn more about God is wrong. Sitting like a bump on a log while in the house of worship is wrong.
Keep in mind, Cain’s problem was not that he didn’t worship at all. It wasn’t that he didn’t give God an offering at all. The issue was that his offering was not satisfactory to God. God did not feel enthroned by Cain’s praise or exalted by Cain’s worship. And that is a question we have to ask ourselves. Do we enthrone God with our praise? Do we make him feel like the King that he is? Do we exalt him with our worship? Does our worship make him feel like he is the most-high God?
Certainly, God doesn’t need us in order to be who he is. But we need him to be all that he is. So, do we acknowledge him to be all that he is? Do we seek to understand all that he is? Do we strive to know him better? Do we seek to glorify him in what we do? Or are we half-hearted and wrong in how we revere God.
If we can recognize that we have been wrong, then we must also understand that there is a price to pay for not doing the right thing. God says to Cain in verse 7b, “But if you don’t do what is right, sin crouches at the door, and its desire is to have you.”
The Hebrew for crouches here is Rabats. The word is primarily used to refer to the posture of a wild beast. Thus, its usage here suggests that sin crouches at the door like a wild beast waiting to attack, and its appetite for Cain—and us—is ravenous.
In fact, some translations use the word demon in place of sin, to assert that there is an active and intelligent force that is lying in wait for us. Isn’t this what Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
And he gains access to us through our mentality toward God. If we do what is right in terms of revering God, then Satan cannot devour us. Sin cannot have us. Because our desire is for the Lord and for the things of God. And the more time we spend with God in worship, the more like God we become.
However, if we do not revere God, if we do not have the proper level of respect and love and appreciation for him, then we are prey to Satan and sin in the same way that Adam, Eve, and Cain were.
There is a direct correlation between half-hearted worship and living like hell. The reason many of us have so much energy to fuss and fight is because we don’t use any energy to give God praise. The reason some of us have a hard time putting down our substances and addictions is because they get more of our time than God does. It’s easy for something explicit to be on our devices when we are not using those devices to study the word of God. And as we see with Cain in verse eight, it’s much easier to take life, when you don’t value the God who gives life.
The consequence for not doing the right thing—not revering God—is to fall prey to sin.
Now if this is you, then you should be alarmed. You should feel convicted. But you should also know that God always has a redemptive word for you. God always gives us a redemptive word when has to chastise us.
When he punished the Israelites and had them carted off to Babylon, he still gave them a redemptive word in Isaiah 43: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
When David had enemies all around him and even when he made enemies in his own family, there was still a redemptive word on his lips in Psalm 23: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
When Peter had denied Christ three times, the risen Lord still had a redemptive word for him. He said Peter do you love me more than these. Then go on and feed my sheep.
And there is a redemptive word for us even though we may not have revered him in the way that he desires. God told Cain at the beginning of verse seven, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted.”
The Voice Bible translates it: “Don’t you know that as long as you do what is right, then I accept you.”
And so, what we need to grab from that is, there is still a chance to do the right thing. There is still a chance to revere God the way he desires. If you have breath in your body, then you have the opportunity to give God an acceptable offering. So give it to him right now. Let him know that you love him now. Let him know that you appreciate him now. Honor him with the words of your mouth now.
Make the commitment right now to turn your religion into a relationship with God, and to turn your relationship into consistent fellowship with God. Make the commitment to give him more of yourself. More of your time. More of your talents. More of your energy. More of your passion.
Make the commitment while you have the chance to be in Bible Study, to be in Sunday school, to do missionary work, to sing in the choir. Make the commitment to help finance ministry work. To bring others to Christ. To serve our community.
Do the right thing and give yourself completely to God. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. Acknowledge him in all your ways. Glorify him in that you do. Enthrone him in your praise. Crown him Lord of all. Do the right thing.