SLOW TO SPEAK
Lord, help me to be still before you as I read your word.
Read Ecclesiastes 4:13 – 5:7
Advancement Is Meaningless
13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. 16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Fulfill Your Vow to God
5 [a]Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
3 A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
a Ecclesiastes 5:1 In Hebrew texts 5:1 is numbered 4:17, and 5:2-20 is numbered 5:1-19.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). Be still.
The Teacher here considers how much wiser it is to be open to listening and learning (4:13; 5:1) than to rush to make our own thoughts heard. Whatever the subject matter, the best attitude we can have is that of a learner. Even if we have passed the highest-level exam in a subject, there is always more to learn.
As we are told in James 1:19, we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak.” Our words are not going to impress God. God does want to hear our prayers, but we must come respectfully, not demanding that our dreams be fulfilled nor making rash promises in return. We cannot bargain with God.
In our day, I think one of the most common ways we “make a vow to God” (5:4,5) is when we promise that we will pray for someone or for a situation. We see a Facebook post or receive a WhatsApp or text message, and there’s nothing easier than to respond with “praying for you.” But how often do we then carry on with our busy lives and forget to pray? The Teacher warns us not to rush to speak, but rather to fear God (5:2,7). If we make promises before God, then we must take them seriously (5:4).
If you have offered to pray for a situation but not actually done so, take the time now to pray.
Lord, help me to know when I should speak and when my words should be few.