By Lori Gardner
Throughout the entire book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon examines life on this earth from man’s perspective. His writing is sometimes harsh and depressing, but that’s the point. That’s exactly what life is apart from God.
In chapter 4, Solomon sees the tears of the oppressed and the power of their oppressors. Again, everything seems futile to him. So, in chapter 5, it is only natural that he would turn his thoughts to religion and the empty ways in which man attempts to approach God.
In Ecclesiastes 5:1, Solomon clearly sees that there is a right way to approach worshipping the Lord. He writes, “keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God.” This is another way of saying that man is to guard his steps as he prepares for worship.
The Lord told Moses something similar in Exodus 3:5. As Moses approached the burning bush, God told him, “… put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Under Jewish law, the priests were required to wash their feet before they entered the tabernacle. It was a way of cleansing and preparing themselves before they entered into the presence of the Lord.
In this dispensation of grace, our church buildings are not considered holy ground. We are not required to take off our shoes before entering to worship, but the idea that Solomon is trying to convey is certainly relevant for us today. True worship of the Lord starts before we enter a church building. Whether we are going to an organized service or an informal Bible class in someone’s home, we should do so thoughtfully, being serious about why we are there and what we are about to do.
Ecclesiastes 5:1 says to “be more ready to hear.” We are to be prepared to listen to the presentation of God’s Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Worship takes on many forms these days. How many people go to worship services just to hear a well known speaker, or be entertained by professional musicians? How many participate in meaningless rituals in order to feel good about doing something “religious?”
Isaiah 1 gives us an example of this kind of worship. God allowed the cities of Judah to be burned down by their enemies in order to awaken the Jews from their corruption. So, in an attempt to better their circumstances, they started bringing sacrifices and offerings to the Lord again. It was as if they were using their sacrifices as a good luck charm hoping that their empty gesture would appease God. It is what Solomon calls the “sacrifice of fools.” The Lord’s answer to them was, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? … I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.” Their hearts were not sincere; therefore, neither was their worship.
Solomon also gives a warning in Ecclesiastes 5:2-7 where he says, “Be not rash with thy mouth…” and “let thy words be few.” It’s always good advice to think before we speak, but especially regarding worship and prayer. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus told the Jews, “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
Have you ever sworn to give up something in this life if the Lord will grant some personal request? Solomon specifically warned against making vows to God and not keeping them. Since man does not know the future, it is better not to make vows that cannot be kept (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
The Apostle Paul tells believers today, “… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” This isn’t contradicting Solomon’s words. We should take our concerns to the Lord, but we need to carefully consider our requests. We should always keep in mind to Whom we are speaking and approach Him with the reverence He deserves. Real worship is never about empty gestures or foolish promises. It’s about having a deep respect for God and a heartfelt gratitude as we consider the great things He has done for us (1 Samuel 12:24).
To be continued—next issue.