Whenever I’ve encouraged worship leaders to find a Bible passage to accompany their worship set, most turn to the book of Psalms. Some turn to the New Testament. But few, if any, consider Genesis as a resource for worship reading. Yet I have found that there are many golden principles in the book of Genesis.
In the beginning, when God created the world, He designed
Adam to be its first worship leader. On the sixth day,
God created Adam and gave him dominion (Gen. 1:28). Then
God rested and sanctified the seventh day for all of Earth’s
worship and praise (Gen. 2:2). From the beginning, God intended
leadership and worship to be partnered. Adam and
Eve walked together in the Garden of Eden in the freedom of
Now I know that the Bible never mentions Adam playing
the harp or bursting into song. But worship leadership is more
than mere music. Worship leadership is the purposeful and
grateful response of someone who has encountered the magnificence
of God and desires to lead others into His presence.
Adam’s duty was to obey God’s command not to eat from the
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:17). When Eve
was tempted and sinned, Adam also fell. Now Adam had to
offer an animal sacrifice to engage in open praise.
After the fall, Adam again had to follow God’s instructions.
I imagine he taught his sons, Cain and Abel, how to
build an altar to offer God a sacrifice of praise. But there was
trouble in paradise. Cain and Abel had different opinions on
how to offer true worship. Although their father had taught
them the same way to worship, the brothers brought two very
different offerings; Abel brought an animal sacrifice and Cain
brought fruit. God rejected Cain’s offering, which resulted in
a fatal fight between the brothers over which kind of worship
was most appropriate.
Many of us believe that Cain’s offering of fruit was unacceptable
to God solely because it didn’t include a blood sacrifice.
But the book of Genesis lets us know that God made
a deeper distinction. The Bible describes Abel as a keeper of
sheep and Cain as a tiller of the ground (Gen. 4:2). A keeper
is “a person charged with the responsibility for the preservation
and conservation of something valuable.”1
Abel was a
steward. Abel lived his life understanding that everything he
managed belonged first to God.
But the Bible describes Cain differently. Cain was a tiller.
The word “tiller” is the Hebrew term abad, which means “to
work, to serve, keep in bondage, worshiper.”2
worshiped the ground given to him by God for his care. Cain
was so captivated by his ability to create that he began to
worship the fruits of his labor. Cain offered his worship preference
instead of seeking God’s holy presence. His ability to
produce fresh fruits clouded his judgment and his desire to
offer God praise.
If someone asked if you were a steward or a worshiper,
you would probably choose worshiper. But in true worship,
only God is the audience. God is the focus of our praise;
therefore, He determines what is acceptable. Sadly, it was
Cain’s angry, unrepentant mind and heart that convinced him
to offer God what he thought was best instead of what God
required of him in worship.
In many churches today, the contention between Cain and
Abel rages on. We sacrifice an atmosphere of sacredness as
we endlessly bicker about music. Some of us have become
so engrossed in our talents that we are easily angered or offended
when others share opposing beliefs. Worship is not
music. If we are not careful, the fight that ended Abel’s life will
fuel our worship wars and become fatal to church growth.
It is time for us to ask ourselves daily, “Am I a steward like
Abel or a worshiper like Cain?” When God’s Word guides us,
bickering and worship wars will end. We will offer praise as a
preview of paradise that reflects our heavenly home.
1 Random House Dictionary Unabridged, Dictionary.com s.v. “Keeper” (accessed December 7, 2007).
2 The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon, (accessed December 5, 2007).
This article first appeared in Best Practice, June 29, 2014. It has
been lightly edited for Elder’s Digest.
Cheryl Wilson-Bridges is a pastor for worship in the Sligo Church
in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.