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Lesson 1: Worship in Genesis: Two Classes of Worshipers *

Introduction: I've noticed a shift in culture as I've grown older. When I was growing up in rural Christian America, people were either Christians or rebels, and the rebels generally acknowledged it. The rebels did not claim to be good, they were what they were. These days all sorts of people claim to be "spiritual." People, who in the old days were simply rebels, now claim that they have a personal moral code that is superior to that set out in the Bible. Our lesson this week is about claiming a spirituality outside that sanctioned by God. Since we find this starting in Genesis, perhaps the "shift in culture" I previously mentioned, is merely a shift in my understanding. Let's jump into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Parents' Regret

    1. Read Genesis 4:1. Imagine the joy and wonder at the first birth in the history of humanity! To whom did Eve give credit? (God.)

      1. You know the story of the fall of humans into sin (Genesis 3), how do you think Adam and Eve explained that to Cain?

        1. Do you think they were still blaming someone else for the fall? (See Genesis 3:12-13.)

      2. If you were Adam or Eve, what would you emphasize in Cain's religious education? (Obedience to God?)

      3. What do you think Adam and Eve told Cain was the worst effect of their sin? (Not living in the presence of God?)

  2. Two Sons, Two Sacrifices

    1. Read Genesis 4:2-5. If I am correct that Cain was raised with the notion that he should obey, how do you explain his sacrifice? If you were Cain, how would you justify your choice of offering? (Diversity! Everyone has different talents, gifts and abilities. I will give God what is meaningful to me - what reflects my talents and labors. There are many roads to sacrifice, and I will take the road that is consistent with who I am.)

      1. Read Leviticus 17:11. What about the blood sacrifice makes it the only adequate sacrifice? (We do not see a clear instruction to Adam and Eve and their children about how to sacrifice. However, the report of being naked as a result of sin (Genesis 3:6-7) and God's provision of leather clothes (the death of the animal to cover the sin of the humans - Genesis 3:21) reveal God's plan. No doubt God gave instructions, it was just not recorded in the Bible.)

    2. Let's revisit Genesis 4:5. If Cain is not obeying God, why is he upset? (He must have some reason for believing he is right. That suggests that he truly believed the "diversity of gifts" was an appropriate response to God's specific (and contrary) instructions.)

    3. Read Genesis 4:6-7. What does this tell us about the nature of God's instructions about worship to Cain? (God's statements reveal that Cain knew better. He knew what to do. God says the matter is simple: obey! No doubt this sounded just like his parents.)

      1. What is the alternative to obedience for Cain? (Cain will be mastered by sin.)

      2. Why does God describe sin as if it is a living creature? A predator of some type? (The prior chapter describes Satan as an animal seeking to deceive Eve. Genesis 3:1-5. Sin is not passive, it is a predator.)

      3. The provision of leather clothing and the Leviticus 17:11 explanation of blood atonement show us that righteousness by faith, and not personal works, is already in place as God's plan. If that is true, why is God so particular about Cain's sacrifice? (Salvation is not a "multiple path" plan. Either you offer a blood sacrifice, or you have no acceptable sacrifice.)

    4. Look again at Genesis 4:7. How is this consistent with grace - righteousness by faith? How can God tell humans to "master" sin? (Grace is a choice. We can either live a life in which we accept God's word and attempt to live in accord with it, or we can make up our own rules that conform to our own sense of right and wrong, and ignore God's rules. Grace involves a choice.)

  3. The Results of The Wrong Sacrifice

    1. Read Genesis 4:8-9. How do you explain this? How did Cain logically get from God's reproof to premeditated murder? (This gives us a clear vision of those who accept righteousness by faith and those who do not. If Cain had simply said, "Okay God, I sinned, I'll follow your direction" he would have been fine. Instead, he not only continued to rebel against God, he was angry with his brother who did obey. The obedience of Abel was a rebuke to Cain. (And you wonder why the national media is hostile to those who seek to obey the Bible!) The two attitudes represented by the two sons are radically different.)

    2. Read Genesis 4:10-12. What do you think about the judgment imposed by God?

      1. Would you have been more severe?

      2. What, exactly, is Cain's punishment? (He can no longer be a farmer. He will be a "hunter-gatherer" who roams around.)

        1. Does this accord with any punishment imposed by God in these days? (We see humans who, as the result of the disgrace of sin, are driven from careers that they love.)

    3. Read Genesis 4:13-14. Has Cain repented? (He never says that he is sorry for the murder. He argues that his punishment is excessive. He worries that someone other than God will execute judgment on him.)

      1. Notice his other complaint: that he will be outside the presence of God. Does this show he is genuinely repentant? (I believe that Adam and Eve's greatest regret was their separation from God. No doubt they shared this regret with Cain when he was growing up. Suddenly, Cain remembers this, and it dawns on him that he has fallen into the same hole - only deeper.)

    4. Read Genesis 4:15-16. How do you explain God's justice? Should He not have killed Cain right then? (This shows God's love and grace even to someone who does not seem to repent.)

    5. Read Genesis 4:14 and Genesis 4:17. Those who resist worshiping God as the Creator point to these two verses to indicate that the Bible does not contain a literal account of creation. Where did we get all of these other people? They say, "Adam and Eve are just symbolic of many other people God created (or let evolve)." How would you explain this? (Read Genesis 4:2-3. Notice "later she gave birth" (which allows for the birth of daughters before Abel) and "in the course of time," which informs us that an unstated period of time passed with no description of the events taking place. There is no reason why this period of time could not have been 200 years - enough for a population to arise.)

    6. After reading this story, how would you describe God's view on the diverse paths to salvation? (We are shown a loving and merciful God, but a God who has rules and who enforces them.)

  4. Abraham

    1. Read Genesis 12:1-3. Would you leave if you were Abram? (These are some wonderful incentives to move!)

      1. Why do you think God wanted Abram to relocate? (This introduces the idea of separation. Those who worship God need to have some space from those who are hostile to the worship of God.)

      2. Read Matthew 9:10-13. How do we reconcile these two pictures? (God calls us to evangelize the world, not attack it. But, He desires for us to have some separation from the world.)

    2. Read Genesis 22:1-2 and Leviticus 20:1-3. What argument would you make against obedience if you were Abraham? (God promised me many descendants! God asked me to be separate, yet this is exactly the kind of thing done by the world.)

    3. Read Genesis 22:3-5. Is Abraham lying to his servants about Isaac returning?

    4. Read Genesis 22:6-8. Is Abraham lying to Isaac?

    5. Read Genesis 22:9-14. Did God provide the sacrifice as Abraham promised Isaac? (Yes!)

    6. How does this story have any parallel to the Cain story? (Both involve obedience. Cain was called to obey over his personal preferences. Abraham was called to obey even when it made no theological sense.)

      1. What do we learn from Abraham? (Abraham did not believe God would have him kill his son. Yet he continued to walk in obedience.)

    7. As you consider the gospel story, what other lesson do we find in the Abraham and Isaac story? (God gave up His Son. Our God has two attributes, incredible love for us, and the expectation of our obedience.)

    8. Friend, are you tempted to ignore one of God's rules because it is out of step with the current culture or the practical aspects of your life? Will you today ask the Holy Spirit to give you the attitude of Abraham, that you will obey God regardless of whether it is popular or convenient?

  5. Next week: Worship and the Exodus: Understanding Who God Is.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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