Fear Him, Revere Him | Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ecclesiastes 5:1–7
Christopher Rich – November 8, 2015
The Pursuit | Week #8 | Fear Him, Revere Him| Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
Introduction | Rewind
Good morning! This week we are continuing our series of Ecclesiastes called The Pursuit: Chasing Meaning Under the Sun. Where do we go to find wisdom, meaning, and purpose? What is the point of all our accomplishments? Where is our hope when we life is met with failure or even simple toil and boredom? Is this all there is to life? In life under the sun all seems to be vanity as we struggle to find our purpose and meaning apart from God. The message of this sermon of Ecclesiastes isn’t all of life is meaningless and nothing matters; it’s because of God as the source of all meaning, and goodness, as we live the life we are given EVERYTHING matters! Through the first four chapters; the vanity of Life “under the sun” apart from God has been explored and then reconsidered in light of God as the giver of all life. He has been held up as the sovereign King over a world that is still broken, plagued with injustice, and isolation. We saw God’s design for our flourishing is being in community with one another. It’s a specific type of community centered on and held together by God himself. We are typically centered on ourselves at worse or others at best but here the preacher wants our attention hyper focused on our relationship with God the creator. Specifically warning us how we approach God matters because He is creator, ruler and judge of all things.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words. 4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.
Verse 1 | Listen Up!
This section begins with “Guard your steps” and ends with “Fear God” so this might not be 5 tips to better parenting. While much of the beginning of Ecclesiastes has been about the vanity (meaninglessness) of life apart from God; Chapter 5 begins a transition from the vanity of life in the world to reverence for the God who made it. While not mentioned in previous section, here God is mentioned 6 times in 7 verses. It is clear our “under the sun” lives are in drastic need of recalibration to how we approach God. The preacher of Ecclesiastes has given much attention to the nature of the world how we live and what we pursue in it. He has shown light on pursuing meaning through, work, pleasure, accomplishment, now he is showing how inadequate religion is; not only to provide real meaning in our lives, but to draw us closer to God Himself.
The preacher is talking about religion in the context of corporate worship, rituals, and sacrifices, as the means to draw close to God. In this case, he refers to the “house of God” this is quite literally the temple in Jerusalem Solomon built nearly 1,000 years before the time of Jesus. It was the center of the religious world for everyone who would have read Ecclesiastes because the temple had the “holy of holies” where the presence of God dwelled on earth. Priests would bring forth regular sacrifices to pay for the sins of the people, sermons would be preached, offerings and prayers we give by people hoping to be close to God. This was the only way people were able to engage with God. Solomon, who built this temple on instructions from his father David, had a unique vantage point to see all the practices done (many given by God Himself in the law) in the temple; and then engage with people politically and practically the rest of their lives. He saw their worship in temple compared to their daily lives didn’t reflect true devotion to God. They thought their regular participation in temple rituals was all God required, ignoring their hearts. For them the “House of God” was the temple. We’re not people made FOR the temple we’re people made INTO the temple. This means God is more present than we like to admit and we are always in his presence.
1 Cor 3:16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
God’s not impressed with sacrifices, rituals, and liturgy. You can have the most solemn, serious, sacred worship services around and have a religion that is followed to a T and God says it can actually be more evil than profitable. The rituals are supposed to draw us close to God but in fact they do the opposite. They actually separate us from Him more by us reducing God’s influence and impact in the world to specific compartments as if it is in the form or ritual alone that God exists and the rest of the world is our domain. God’s just in these forms of worship that I regularly engage with He’s not the mighty creator I should revere. He’s not impressed with your regular attendance, your faithful service (though he’s not honored by neglecting either of those.) When the rituals and routines of corporate worship don’t inspire greater sense of awe and devotion to God they can actually lead to a more casual approach to God.
Why are you here? What is your attitude or disposition towards God? What are we doing here today?
Is there deep desire to draw close to the God you made you? Or is it in an effort to put a “good person” stamp on your life you hope will cover the rest of what you do? The answer to the problems in the world is not to simply try to make them right by worship, but to rightly worship the one who created the world. I’ll explain what I mean, right worship of God seeks not merely appease God so we can be left alone the rest of our lives, but right worship of God seeks to bring us nearer to where God is because we recognize He is the source of all life. It is born out of a desire to be close to Him and assumes an inherent approachability to God and a good purpose in “drawing near” to Him. The purpose of closeness with God is greater understanding of His commands, more reliance on His blessings, and deeper rest in His promises. This means we don’t approach God ready with a performance, but instead we come with a posture ready to listen.
This is difficult for us because we don’t like to listen, we like to be heard. God says knowing His word, listening to His word is better than having segmented systems where I’ve done all of my religious observances so now the rest of my life doesn’t matter. “Listen” in this sense is a stronger word because it marries both “pay attention” and “obey” it’s a hearing that leads to doing. This is what God desires.
1 Samuel 15:22-23 22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Religion is dumb. It’s foolish to think some sacrifice you bring or some observance you preform will cancel out your sin and that you don’t need repentance. Where are you still and ready to listen to God?
Verses 2-3 | Watch your mouth and know who you’re talking too!
Why should be careful with what you say “before God”? We’ll see this later in chapter 7, but Ecc is clear being quick to speak (essentially not well considered) is folly. It usually comes from places of pain (anguish) or sin (resentment) When we’re careless with our words we’re being careless with our hearts. Words matter to God because hearts matter to God. We’re told not be rash or hasty because the opposite is often true.
Jas 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
This is a general disposition we are to have which guides our conduct before everyone; but the need is even greater in how we approach and engage with God. God is in heaven and you are on earth. This doesn’t mean God is absent from this earth or that He is disengaged with what happens in our world. Deut 4:39 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Saying “God is in heaven” is a reminder of His gloriousness. It reminds while God is approachable there is an infinite distinction between us and God. There is a great separation between us and God where His greatness is contrasted with our smallness. Additionally, there is God’s perfection contrasted with our sin and imperfection. It is sin which requires our separation from God, if He is to remain perfect. We desire closeness with God, because we are made for it. Before sin God was regularly with Adam and Eve in the garden. When we see God’s word point to a time of restoration of relationship where the gulf that exists between us and God has been closed it says he will be with us.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
We have to get our theological geography correct, we are not as close to God as we think. This verse puts us right where we belong, and that is a good thing. John Calvin said “knowing God and knowing ourselves is the sum of all wisdom.” This is how we talk about God’s Holiness, His set-apart-ness. This distinction is foundational to how we understand the gospel (our need to have our sin accounted for) and how we relate to God. God being set apart and the one who holds us accountable for every word we say and all we do. We are not equal to God. Some religions teach adherence to their structure will lead to man being made into a god. God is approachable but he is not attainable. We need to respect the fact that there is a distance between us and God. That requires a weighty reverence; not silly babble but awe inspired silence recognizing the distinction between us (creation) and Him (Creator). “Be Still and Know I am God”
Isaiah 55:8-9 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. The question is, do we actually believe this in how we interact with God? Or do we think more highly of our own ways and thoughts? Do we bring that attitude before God and are quick to speak how we think things should be. We are not hasty before God because of the Holiness of God. When we have a greater understanding of God’s holiness, knowing His grace will lead us to greater gratitude. True gratitude inspires zeal and by nature cannot be casual. “oh, uh thanks…”is different than “WOW! Thanks!”
Verses 4-6 | God is Awesome, no excuses, don’t be lame.
What’s happening here? This is where “worship” of God gets practical. When we get a taste of God’s glory and greatness compared to our smallness we can be stirred to make great proclamations or vows of how we will now live in response to this revelation. Vows were voluntary promises to God, sometimes as a means of requesting blessings from God, pledge allegiance to Him, or out of gratitude for what He has done or what you hope He will do. “God I am in a major bind here if you can see fit to see us through this rough patch I’ll go to church every week for a whole…..week.” God says it is foolish for you to think you can somehow trick God into blessing you or that if you make a promise to God is doesn’t matter if you fulfill it. God cares about what you say and promise because when He speaks and promise it is always fulfilled. If you tell God you’re going to do something, do it! Do not delay your response to God, failing to follow through what you know God has called you to do. Don’t fool yourself, saying you’ll obey God later is disobeying Him now. James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
This is a warning to not over commit and make a promise to God or others you have no intention or ability to carry out. God’s not the pledge drive operator on PBS who is just excited that you said for that brief moment “I’m all in!” but doesn’t care if you never follow through. Actually follow through. Good intentions without any action are meaningless. God takes broken vows seriously; it is why He hates divorce, regularly reminds Israel of their unfaithfulness, and reminds His people of the vows He has made to them.
Warning: do not misapply verse 5 as an excuse to never commit to anything. We’re not to be negotiators when it comes to our worship of God. “Let’s under promise and over deliver, then the client will be happy.” In this case people at public worship gathering made a promise to God to give a financial offering. This would be similar to filling out a pledge card for a building fund or other financial commitment, it was entirely voluntary but once made was considered binding. The temple workers actually had “tithe police” that would follow up with people to say “hey remember at the lamb ceremony when you promised before God to regularly donate a few shekels? Um we haven’t received it? “Oh, I was just caught up in the moment, it was all a mistake.” So we bargain with God in our prayers and in our lives. God doesn’t bargain with us, He doesn’t say if you just give me a little bit of your life I’ll bless that part. He doesn’t negotiate deals with us where we get to keep part of ourselves. He says, “I’ve paid for all of your life.”
God Hates lame excuses. He knows our hearts, we cannot fool God. “Hey, filled out a commitment card at a church camp at seven you have to accept me even though I’ve never acted like someone who follows you.” That’s not how God works. God has a flawless garbage meter when it comes to our lame excuses. You can’t “circle back” with God. Worshipers of God are not called to be fickle but faithful, so we don’t count “decisions” and “recommitments” to follow Jesus at Damascus Road. Not because we don’t want celebrate new life in Christ, but because we know people can often be emotionally stirred for a moment, but when it comes time live new lives of self-denial and follow Jesus they say with their actions “it was a mistake” to be so zealous. Life with God is not fast and fleeting, it’s a long obedience in the same direction. Yet…
We go back on our promises to God all the time! Praise God He never goes back on His promises to us! This is good news. Our relationship with God is not determined by the faithfulness of our worship of Him but the faithfulness of God. God’s faithfulness to us, despite us, should be cause for great reverence and worship. Religion says you owe God so “If I worship God perfectly He will have to accept me.” The Gospel says “I am perfectly accepted by God because of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and now I am free to worship God in the way He desires.”
Verse 7 | Fear God and Trust Jesus
If you’re going to worship God you’re going to fear him. There is safety in fearing God with awe of his Greatness “splendor, power, justice, righteousness,” We also have to know sin unaccounted for will lead to our destruction. God’s holiness means the penalty of death for our sin is just. God’s mercy and graciousness means He has prepared a way for that penalty to be paid for and relationship with Him to be restored.
Matthew 10:28-33 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
On our own, we are all fools in how we worship God. Jesus only has fools to save. Verse 4 says God doesn’t suffer fools; but In Jesus God suffers for fools. He saves us as fools, changing us into worshippers.
In Jesus, we have perfect and pure speech because every word he spoke was true. Even in the greatest pain and agony of the cross each word he said was carefully chosen.
In Jesus, as our mediator (one who brings God and humanity together) the gulf separating us from God has been bridged.
In Jesus, we have perfect worship before God because “In the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Heb 2:12 Jesus is the perfect worshipper and by our faith in Him we receive it from him. Now God the Father can accept our imperfect worship because He’s already received perfect worship in Jesus.
This is why the sinless life of Jesus is so important. It’s Jesus perfect life of worship in our place so when we fail to worship God perfectly he doesn’t grow angry and destroy us but because of the cross God poured out his anger and destroy Jesus in our place. That gives us great freedom to now worship God without fear
Hebrews 10:19-22 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
In light of the majesty and glory of God we respond with worship ready to listen, careful in speech, limiting what say before God and about God to what is true, right, and good. We give God what He deserves, including our time talent and treasure we’ve resolved to give. Because God is worthy of our worship we revere Him when we Trust Jesus!
More in THE PURSUIT | Ecclesiastes
January 3, 2016Season Finale | Ecclesiastes 12:1-14
December 20, 2015Bridled Joy | Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
December 13, 2015Farmers Market of Foolishness | Ecclesiastes 10:1-20