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Teach Us to Worship

Teach Us to Worship

Chapters 1-4  are a reflection on meaning in life.  Can you find meaning in this life apart from God? At the end of your time on earth, what will you have gained?  The Teacher in Ecclesiastes says that apart from God, everything is meaningless and a chasing after the wind.

Now in Chapter 5, we begin to look at Ethics (moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour).  In particular today, we will focus on the attitude that we should have when we come to the House of the Lord. This very helpful instruction for us, but certainly not what you might expect from a message about worshiping God.

The building that we are in today is really very humble in contrast to the amazing Temple that was at the centre of Jerusalem.

The interior was cedar paneling with ornate woodwork that was covered entirely in gold.  The temple is where you would go to offer a sacrifice to God, and it was a big deal. 

There was a part of the Temple that was off limits called the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could go there, and only once a year.  

The temple was the House of God, he was said to be enthroned above the Cherubim, truly a holy place.

What sort of attitude would you have if you were going to the Temple?

Reverence.  Excitement. Awe.  Joy.

What goes on in our hearts on the way to church?

-grab a coffee

-get family in the car, on time, in church clothes

-hopefully it’s a peaceful drive, but all sorts of things are known to go down in the car on the way to church.

-Overall, I think that our culture has adopted a very casual approach to going to church.

When did we become NUMB to Worship?  When did it stop being a big deal to be in God’s presence, with God’s people, singing his praises?

Ecclesiastes 5:1HCSB

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong.

God uses the imagery of feet and paths in the Bible to talk about something bigger then your two feet.

The feet are used as way to think about human conduct.

Proverbs 1:15–16HCSB

my son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path, because their feet run toward trouble and they hurry to commit murder.

Isaiah 59:7HCSB

Their feet run after evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are sinful thoughts; ruin and wretchedness are in their paths.

Job 23:11HCSB

My feet have followed in His tracks; I have kept to His way and not turned aside.

We must guard our steps on the way to God’s house.  

Just because we are going to church doesn’t mean that our behaviour is righteous.  We must watch our steps all week long.

At other places in the Bible, we see that God will help us to guard our paths, and lead us on the right paths for his names sake.  But here, the Teacher gives you and me some responsibility.  Guard your steps.

ILLUSTRATION:

We have mats by the doorway in our house, especially in the wet seasons of life. My wife’s sincere hope, is that our wet shoes won’t make it past that mat and onto the inside floor.  She doesn’t want the mess.

And then to make things even more exciting, it turns out that kids aim for puddles.  Have you ever noticed that.  There is a giant puddle and the more mature parts of you and me say to walk around. But the kid inside says, Jump in the middle.  Well, our kids tend to listen to that voice that says jump, and they love it.

What are messes are we jumping into midweek, and then tracking into church?

Are we careless in our actions, Monday – Saturday, and then just show up casually on Sunday as if none of that matters?

Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not telling sinner’s to stay away. If you have messed up, if you have sin, if you have done wrong, you are still welcome here.  Come and find the loving forgiveness of a God who loves us at our worse, and be made whole. But that includes repenting of sin, turning away from wrong behaviour. Learning to guard your steps.

What I am saying, is that we need to guard our steps. Exercise caution in the way that you live, so that you are living for God all week long.

Ecclesiastes 5:1bHCSB

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong.

It’s better to draw near in obedience, than to offer the sacrifice as fools do.

Let me rephrase that.  Approach God with quiet attention rather than a loud show of religion.

  Will we come to his house with a quiet attention? prepared to listen, or will we make a sacrifice as fools do.

What makes a sacrifice foolish?

Bringing a Sacrifice that God doesn’t want.

Think about it, sacrifices cost you something.  In the Old Testament it costs you one of the best animals in your flock.  Now, a sacrifice can cost you real dollars, real time, real investment of yourself. What if you went to all that effort and expense in vain? That would be foolish.

Amos 5:22–24HCSB

Even if you offer Me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle. Take away from Me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.

Yes, it is good to bring God our very best, our very lives, and use it all for his glory.  But, not if it is in the place of justice.  And what good is a sacrifice from a person who ignores righteousness.

Kids like to buy their parents presents, at least mine do. But do you know what makes my birthday special, its when we all have a wonderful time together, its when they are obeying and getting along.

I think that’s a fair illustration of this point.  Yes, it is wonderful to bring our heavenly father gifts, but they are so much better when they come with unity, righteousness and justice.

Ecclesiastes 5:2HCSB

Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

The problem here is not that we want to come and talk to God. That’s a good thing.  The problem is being impulsive, or careless with our words.

Words that pass through our mouths, but don’t touch our hearts. Words where we speak before we know what it is that we are saying.

I like to watch some reality TV shows where there are judges and people who are singing. What the judges want from the singers is authenticity. They want to see that there is a connection between the lyrics and the performer.

We should be authentic in our prayers and authentic in the songs that we sing to God.  

We shouldn’t rush into prayer, saying words on impulse that we aren’t connecting with.  

Sometimes I find that there are little phrases that I just pray without thinking, how about you?  Lets think about what we are praying, and who we are praying to.  For we are in on earth, and God is in heaven. There is a world of difference between us.  And we don’t want to come to God carelessly and not even thinking about what we are singing or saying.

It would probably help us to picture ourselves before the throne of God when we pray.  To remember that he is awesome, and we are privileged to approach him in prayer.  

God is in heaven, and you are on earth.  So let your words be few.  Mean what you say.  take your time.  Pray in Jesus name.  Let the Holy Spirit help you.  Its God who is your audience, so give him your whole attention when you come before him in prayer, and in song.  This is the sort of perspective that we are instructed to have when we come to the House of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:3HCSB

For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words.

To help understand this proverb, it is important to know what the word “dreams’ means.  We should think of it like Hebrew word hebel, or breath.  

In the literature of the ancient Near East a dream is often a figure for anything that is an illusion and not a reality—something that is “unreal.

C. L. Seow, Ecclesiastes: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18C, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 199.

For dreams result from much work.  What should we see here?

The first 4 chapters of Ecclesiastes talk about the empty dreams that came from all of the Teacher’s work.  Pleasure, experiences, accomplishments, wealth.  It was all so vexing to him because these things didn’t deliver meaning in the way that he had hoped.  

The comparison is to a fools voice that results in many empty words.

Ecclesiastes 5:3HCSB

For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words.

It is the fool who keeps on speaking when they should be listening.  You can detect a fool by all of the empty words.

Lets relate this back to verses 1-2

Ecclesiastes 5:1–2HCSB

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

We don’t want to be foolish here.  We want to guard our steps, to offer our very best to God as pleasing sacrifice.  We want to limit our speech, so that we can hear God speaking to us.

I don’t want for my hard to work to result in futility. I don’t want to be proven a fool by speaking impulsively and carelessly and miss the voice of God.

Teach me to Worship.  So that everything I do and say will be for god’s glory, will count for eternity, and will not go to meaningless pursuits that will count for nothing. For I want my life to be a pleasing offering to God. 

We are encouraged by Paul in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 12:1–2HCSB

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

The sacrifice of fools is trying to appear religious, and in our efforts to make an appearance we are  ignorant of the harm that we do to ourselves in others with our performance.

The sacrifice that God wants is our entire lives lived for his glory.

Our time together at church is heightened when we live our lives in reverence of God, and come together as a community of people who are united for his glory.

I know that if we slow down, avoid excessive and impulsive words, guard our steps and stand in awe of God, we will find that he is here, and that he is willing and able to speak to his church.

Ecclesiastes 5:6HCSB

Do not let your mouth bring guilt on you, and do not say in the presence of the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry with your words and destroy the work of your hands?

A vow is a conditional promise that you make to God. God if you save me in this situation, then I’ll respond with this certain action.

A good verse to cross reference is 

Deuteronomy 23:23HCSB

Be careful to do whatever comes from your lips, because you have freely vowed what you promised to the Lordyour God.

The principle ethic that we are being shown is that we need to fulfill our vows to God without delay.  Fulfilling vows is a moral obligation.  Leaving them unfulfilled is a hinderance to worship and prayer.

There was a common practice in those days of people having a certain “buyers remorse” over their vows.

They would make a promise to God in front of the priest, and then when they had the chance to reconsider, they would determine that they never should have made the vow in the first place.  And so, they would bring some small sacrifice to God in place of the vow and hope that it might be squared away.

You show God proper reverence when you keep the promises that you have made.

Some of us have made marriage promises before God.

Some have made promises as members of the church as recorded in our membership covenant.

You might be thinking of other promises.

God does not delight in broken promises.  So keep your vows before God without delay. 

And take your time before making a promise to God.  Consider the cost.  Promises are voluntarily, it is better that you don’t vow at all, rather than to make a vow and leave it unfilled.

Ecclesiastes 5:7HCSB

For many dreams bring futility, so do many words. Therefore, fear God.

This verse sums up this section.  

Don’t let your words lead you to sin.  Be authentic in your speech.

The fear of God is the beginning of reverent worship.

Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes: Foundations for Expository SermonsSermon Exposition

Reverence for God will cause us to guard our steps when we go to the house of God. Reverence for God will cause us to draw near to listen rather than to blabber like fools. Reverence for God will cause us not to be rash with our mouth. Reverence for God will cause us not to delay fulfilling any promises we have made to God. Reverence for God will cause us not to come up with lame excuses for not fulfilling our promises. In short, reverence for God will make our worship truly awesome.