Focal Passage: Gen. 4:1-16
I am not sure I remember the first time I heard the word “countenance.”
I am positive I had never heard it used such that I knew what it meant with certainty until I attended the funeral of my great uncle a couple of years back.
The preacher described Uncle Ruben as having a “constant countenance” and added that Rube could “laugh and cry at the same time without counterfeit.” Most of my family cried at the insightful description. There was nothing counterfeit about my uncle Ruben, and his countenance gave witness.
The American Heritage dictionary defines countenance as “appearance, especially the expression of the face.”
In both the original and “new” King James versions of the Bible, Gen. 4:5 tells us that Cain’s countenance fell. That is, Cain’s facial expression, we might say, dropped. In picturing those words I clearly see a smile “dropping into” a frown signifying sadness. In the case of the biblical text here though, we are told Cain was angry. The particular emotion which “fell” onto Cain’s face however isn’t the important thing. It is the fact that whichever it was, it was not the one God was looking for.
When we worship, God has some expectations for us. The prospect of worshipping our God should have us so happy that we smile coming. The act of having worshipped our God should have us leave with a big grin as well. Worship, for us, has to be an act of “lifted countenance” both coming and going. It isn’t quite “If you’re happy and you know it, say amen” as the old song goes, but it isn’t far from that either.
Acceptable worship is worship that makes us happy to come and do it. Acceptable worship is worship that makes us glad we did. Worship can’t be just another item on our list of things to do, something we check off and move on. Our worship of God, like the description of my uncle’s life has to be one without counterfeit; our worship has to be genuine, and it has to change us.
Worship is something that we must do with a lifted countenance.