See full series: studies-in-ecclesiastes
Sermon by Thomas Thornhill Jr
Passage: Ecclesiastes 5;1-7
Sunday, March 8, 2020 pm
STUDIES IN ECCLESIASTES (18)
Tonight, we continue our study through the book of Ecclesiastes. We find here gems of wisdom as we pursue real meaning in this life. Never forget that real meaning only comes when we include God in our thoughts and actions. That is the direction of this book. In this lesson we address our attitude as we seek to worship God and the importance of vows.
I. Walk prudently in the house of God (1)
- This entire section is about worshipping God (with outlying principles). Solomon has observed several places where we need to give thought to God, now he adds the place of worship.
Solomon ought to understand the sacredness of the place we worship God – He built the temple, blessed it and witnessed God’s presence (1 Kings 5-8, esp. 8:10-13) as it was dedicated.
- We need to take worshipping God seriously –
Under the Old Law, preparation for worship was a serious task. Priests had to ensure they were clean, offer sacrifices and follow God’s instructions. The seriousness of this is illustrated in passages like Leviticus 10:1-3 where Nadab and Abihu are burned to death for offering profane fire.
IF we want our lives to have meaning, worship God properly.
- John 4:24 speaks of worshipping God in spirit and in truth. We read often about the heart in our worship – Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.
Consider also 1 Corinthians 14:15 – we both sing and pray with the Spirit and with the understanding.
- When we enter the house of God to worship, are we prudent (watchful, guarding our steps)?
Another way of saying this is to ask WHY we are here to worship? WHAT is our attitude? HOW prepared are we? Our worship needs to be more than just a ritual that we check off or our weekly to do list. What preparations do we make to ensure that we gain what God desires out of the worship?
Like Ezra, we need to prepare our hearts to seek the Lord (Ezra 7:10 – also to do it and to teach it).
- Draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools (NASB says, “draw near to listen”, KJV, “Be more ready to hear”).
The Bible warns about being more ready to talk than to listen – James 1:19, Hosea 2:20, “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
Jesus warned about worship designed to be seen by men (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16; 23:1-12, etc.)
As we come to worship God, we realize that FIRST it is about Him! BUT in the process of worshipping Him, we examine ourselves with the determination to be pleasing to Him.
That is why our songs need to be meaningful, our prayers appropriate for the occasion, the lesson truthful and applicable, and others acts carried out with humble thought.
WHAT is “the sacrifice of fools”? It could be the one merely going through the motions, or treating the worship as a checklist. It could be one who has not prepared himself to be here. It could be the hypocrite who worships on Sunday and serves the devil the rest of the week. It could be one who is giving God his leftovers instead of his best. It could be the one who intends to show you how much they know and how wonderful they are (e.g. Luke 18:10-12). Consider also Samuel confronting King after he failed to completely destroy the Amalekites. 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 heed than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
It could also be one whose intent is to teach his doctrine rather than God’s.
- For they do not know that they do evil – such may think that what they are doing is acceptable, but it isn’t to God. Again, he demands our best and he demands that we respect His pattern. After all, it is He whom we are worshipping. Again, Jesus in Matthew 15:8-9 noted that it is vain to worship God when we are teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.
II. Don’t be rash with your mouth (2-3)
- Simply stated, be careful what you say. Make sure what you say and what you commit to is true and thought through. As we sing to God, do we genuine mean what is in the songs?
- Let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. Sometimes, when we hear or read something from God’s word, we know that it applies. We determine, I need to be doing that (or NOT doing that) and we commit to changing our lives. But then as we leave the services, almost immediately, we revert back to our sinful ways. We have made a promise to God and broken it almost immediately. OR, our promise was not genuine, but superficial.
Worship is designed to help us draw closer to God – for that to be, we cannot just go through the motions or make superficial promises. More on vows in a moment.
- For God is in heaven, and you on earth – know your place! Psalm 24:3-5. Recall how Jesus begin the model prayer, “Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). We are to serve God “reverently and with godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
- Therefore, let your words be few – Proverbs 10:19, In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 17:27, He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
We ALL need to listen! Even if you are privileged to lead and thereby teach – ARE YOU LISTENING?
Also consider that God doesn’t care how eloquent we are or how wordy we can be in our prayers, songs and sermons (this is not to say that being flippant or ill prepared is acceptable) – He cares about the substance and that it is genuine.
- For a dream comes through much activity and a fool’s voice is known by his many words. The idea presented by many here is that often our dreams are the product of too much going on or a busy mind (I think of one who is overwhelmed and exhausted, but when he goes to sleep he dreams about being ill-prepared for what must be done the next day), he might wake up exhausted, or lose sleep because of his dreams that have no bearing on reality.
Similarly, one who is ALWAYS talking rarely says anything of real substance. NOTE: The description of a dream serves as an illustration of the one who will NOT stop talking.
III. Pay your vows (4-7)
- In these verses Solomon speaks about the seriousness of vows that we make to him and to others. This accords with God’s word about such things. Moses told the children of Israel virtually the same thing said in this text. Deuteronomy 23:21-23 (also Numbers 30:2). Jesus didn’t use that language but He said something equally relevant, Matthew 5:33-37 where he summarized, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ ‘no’”, for whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
Vows are a serious thing. A society that takes oaths and vows lightly is doomed for many problems. Consider important vows we take – when we obey the gospel, it is a vow to put God first; and in marriage we exchange vows in the presence of God – that is why it is for life!
It is truly sad that for many, their word is not their bond – they look for legal loopholes or excuses to get out of their promises. With Christians this ought not be so!
- When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it, for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vowed. It is one thing to make vows to other men (which you should also keep, because God hears it and knows what you said), but to make a promise to God and then break it. Did you really mean it when you made the promise? Will you KEEP your word, even if it hurts (cf. Psalm 15:1-5, esp. 4)?
Jesus would further castigate the corruption of the hypocritical Pharisees and scribes for their deliberate deceit based upon the wording they used – Matthew 23:16-22.
IN CONTEXT OF WORSHIP – as already noted, do we ever make promises to God as we worship Him – (e.g. “That was a great point that I need to work on”, “God forgive me because I am guilty of that and will do better”, etc.) only to break it over and over again?
God notices when we do that.
- Better not to vow, than to vow and not pay – there is no sin in not making a vow that you cannot or do not intend to keep. This tells us about how serious it is when we make promises to others.
- Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin… – Don’t let God be angry with your excuses.
On more than one occasion we find God rejecting worship because of the way it was offered – rashly and hypocritically. Consider Isaiah 1:10-17 where He wanted nothing to do with their sacrifices.
Also Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-16 – they were lukewarm and sickening to the Lord. He would rather they we cold than lukewarm.
- In the multitude of dreams and many words there is vanity. Self-explanatory based upon what we had talked about.
- One might ask, “But what if I cannot keep a vow?” That is a challenge and we must weigh what God says. If the vow was made rashly, and we CAN keep it, even though it has a tremendous cost, we must keep it. Such will teach you to not make rash vows in the future.
Perhaps circumstances keep you from it, or there is a realization it is harmful. God knows your heart and motives (and so do you). You must consider that even as you repent and ask God to forgive you for your failings in this.
Solomon concludes this section by simply saying, “But fear God.” That really is the answer. Understand, when we make vows to God and break them, what are we really saying about Him? We do not fear Him as we ought to. If we find that to be our plight, let us repent and resolve that as we move forward we WILL keep Him commandments, just as we promised we would do. Think about it!