In our Foundations in Worship class at Southern Seminary we were discussing worship practice in the Old Testament. Because there is so much to learn about Old Testament worship practice, there could easily be a whole course dedicated to the topic. One of the obvious themes that came out of last week’s lesson was the importance of the worshiper’s heart condition - not his physical heart condition but his attitude and lifestyle of obedience before the Lord.
We studied instances of Old Testament worship where the Lord was not pleased with the worshiper. One of those in particular was the Genesis 4 account of Cain and Abel. The brothers both brought offerings before the Lord in an act of worship. The Lord had regard for Abel’s offering but did not regard Cain’s offering. It is often explained that Cain’s offering was not received because it was an offering of the produce of the field while Abel’s offering was a animal sacrifice.
Hebrews 11:4 states that Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain and attests to his righteousness. In I John 3:11-12 we see a desciption of Cain that says he was of the evil one and his deeds were evil. The Scripture commentary on the Cain and Abel offerings tells us that Cain’s relationship to the Lord and attitude in worship was not acceptable to the Lord. His offering was not regarded because of the condition of his heart. In Genesis 4, the Lord later instructs Cain to do well, to change his attitude. Instead Cain’s sinful attitude leads him to murder his brother Abel.
In his book “A Taste of Heaven” R.C. Sproul comments on whether Abel’s offering was better because it was an animal sacrifice. Sproul states:
“The difference had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the variance of God’s response to the two sacrifices. Margin Luther remarked that Abel could have sacrificed the shell of a nut and it would have been more pleasing to God than the sacrifice offered by Cain. That was because it wasn’t what Abel offered to God, but how he offered it that made the difference. The all encompassing-criterion for acceptable sacrifice in the Old Testament was the posture and attitude of the person making the sacrifice.” (R.C.Sproul in his book on worship, A Taste of Heaven, p. 28).
This challenges me as a worship leader to always be mindful of my heart condition before the Lord as I attempt to lead others in worship. What is the posture and attitude of my heart before I step up in front of others to proclaim the greatness of our God? God rejected Old Testament worship practice that was performed in excellence but offered by people who were not walking in humility and obedience before Him.
This side of the cross I am grateful for Jesus Christ, my Great High Priest before the Throne. He is able to cleanse me from my sins and help my worship leadership to be acceptable to God.
“Lord help me to confess the sinful attitudes of my heart and disobedience to your commands, and wash me clean before I lead others in worship. Give me clean hands and a pure heart. Hide me behind the Cross of Jesus Christ. Let me be a worship leader who is spiritually prepared to lead.”