There are three noteworthy instances in the Bible where God rejected the worship offered to Him – one prior to the old covenant, one during the old covenant and one in the new covenant. It would do well to study these instances and glean lessons from them as to how we should not or we should worship our God and what kind of worship God would accept or reject and why.
The first instance is recorded in Genesis 4. It is the first worship offered to God by Cain and Abel. God accepted Abel’s worship but rejected Cain’s. I always wondered why God rejected Cain’s worship! I was not satisfied with the reasons given by various preachers like Cain didn’t offer to God the first or the best and so on. In fact, I felt that God was not fair in rejecting Cain’s worship since the intentions of Cain as well as Abel were the same – worship God with an offering brought from whatever profession they were doing – Cain from his farming and Abel from his sheep rearing. Then one day, as I was reading the epistle of 1st John, God spoke to me from chapter 3 on this subject and cleared my doubt in this matter.
The Apostle John wrote the epistle of 1st John almost at the end of the 1st century. This epistle is a revision of several subjects which were losing their real meaning due to the wrong teachings taught by many anti-Christs, false prophets, and false teachers who were already present then (2:18, 2 Peter 2:1). In chapter 3, John was dealing with the subject of sin and righteousness and explaining their meaning in plain terms. In verse 4, he defined sin as ‘the transgression of the Law’. The opposite of sin is righteousness – obedience to the Law. In verse 7, John hinted that people were already being deceived by wrong teachings regarding the true meaning of righteousness – teaching that obeying the Law and the commandments of God was not righteousness – and cautioned his readers not to be deceived in this matter. Then in verse 8, he made it still more clear by saying that the one who transgresses the Law –the one who sins – is of the devil, because only the devil wants to disobey and break every commandment of God and make everyone do the same. In verse 10, he talks about the children of God and the children of the devil – those who keep the Law and those who break the Law. Next, as if to make this point more clear, he takes the example of Cain in verse 12. Verse 12 reads, ‘Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.’
A careful reading of verse 12 of I John 3 reveals certain startling truths. First: Cain was the son of the wicked one – the devil. Second: Like his father, Cain’s works were evil, sinful – transgressing God’s Law. Third: Abel’s works were righteous – keeping and obeying God’s Law.
God, being a Just and Righteous God, would have certainly instructed Adam and Eve, before they sinned, His Way of life – His Law – keeping of which would ensure His kingdom benefits and blessings. When they listened to the devil, they broke the 10th commandment of God’s Law and became sinners. From that point onwards until Jesus, the Lamb of God, would shed His blood on the cross and take away the sin of the world, human beings were to approach the righteous God with the blood of a lamb or a goat – a type and shadow of the blood of the Lamb of God – covering their sins whenever they come to worship Him and offer sacrifices to Him. Without blood, no worship or sacrifice would be accepted because, man in his fallen sinful condition, without the covering of blood upon his sin, could never approach a holy and righteous God and worship Him. That is God’s Law and God would have explained this to Adam and Eve as He demonstrated it by the first animal sacrifice, made in the Garden of Eden, to make them coats of skins. And the first parents would have certainly instructed Cain and Abel about this Law and how God should be worshipped. But yet, Cain chose to transgress the Law and adopt his own method to worship and sacrifice to God – come in his own self righteousness and not with the blood as God commanded. Cain’s worship was not in truth, not according to truth – God’s Word – and as a result, God rejected Cain’s worship. That’s it. God was certainly fair! Cain was wrong – though his intentions were good, his method was bad – in violation of God’s Word!
Lesson: However good our intentions may be, if our worship to God is not according to His Word, it is out rightly rejected. No more arguments with a Just and Righteous God who had already spelled out His Law, His way and His truth. Transgress His truth, you are rejected. Obey His truth, you are accepted. Choice is yours!
The second instance is recorded in Leviticus chapter 10. Verse 1 and 2 read, “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” (Emphasis added). The passage is self-explanatory! Nadab and Abihu were anointed priests of God. They received clear cut instructions from God as to how He should be worshipped – with what kind of incense, oil, bread and so on. The scripture is silent about their intentions here. No hint of whether they did it purposely or presumptuously, carelessly or arrogantly! However, the Merciful God was not willing to condone their error, whatever the intention be, when the matter was relating to worshipping Him. The fire from God killed them in an instant, but strangely did not burn their bodies. (vs.4&5)
Bible scholar Hall commenting on this passage says, “It is a dangerous thing, in the service of God, to decline from his institutions; we have to do with a God, who is wise to prescribe his own worship – just to require what he has prescribed – and powerful to avenge what he has not prescribed.”
Lesson: If you worship the Lord according to your wishes, your understanding, or according to the traditions that have come down from your elders or according to the teachings of the religious leaders of your day, and not according to God’s Word, you would be doing so to the peril of your own soul!