WARNINGS ABOUT WORSHIP
Lord, help me to maintain my awareness of who You really are.
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.
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“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth” (Psa. 96:9).
References to “house of God,” “sacriﬁce” and “vow” place Ecclesiastes 5:1–7 in the context of worship. At the threshold of the temple we meet the Teacher holding up a warning sign: “Guard your steps” (1a)—literally, “Watch your step!” In considering what constitutes acceptable worship, several red flags are raised: too little listening (1b), too much talking (2,3,7a) and careless commitments (4–6).
Listening is contrasted with offering “the sacriﬁce of fools” (1b). Biblically speaking, “fools” are not the intellectually deﬁcient but the morally perverse; to “listen” calls for both a teachable spirit and an obedient heart. Outward conformity to rituals devoid of a corresponding inner righteousness can never please God (1 Sam. 15:22). A multitude of words, if mindless, prove to be worthless. Even in our worship, haste makes waste because hurried or distracted worship reflects a casual approach and a careless attitude that dishonor God. When approaching God, we are to be mindful, rather than mind-full—that is, preoccupied with our own plans, dreams and cares.
The reason underlying these warnings is that “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (2b). Although Jesus bridged the gap between heaven and earth, thereby gaining for us access to a loving Father, this does not lessen the otherness of God. He is “our Father,” but he is also “in heaven” and his name is to be “hallowed” (The Lord’s Prayer, Matt. 6:9). Acceptable worship keeps in tension the twin truths that God is both transcendent and immanent. High and lifted up, while also intimately involved in our most mundane activities: our Sovereign King and equally our Abba Father. In true wisdom format, the Teacher brings us back to the heart of worship: “fear God” (7b).
The privilege of access to God and the precious gift of intimacy with God combined do not remove our responsibility to render reverent, awe-ﬁlled worship.
Lord, our prayer to You today is that our worship be acceptable, even pleasing, to You and that we always remember our proper place before You.