How Not To Miss Out On God’s Blessings
Why do you go to church? I mean like, really? Why do you go? Maybe you go to…
make or keep friends…
not upset your parents or grandparents…
put God in your debt…
or to earn God’s favor.
Why do you REALY go?
That’s what Solomon wants us to consider in Ecclesiastes 5. Look at verse 1: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.”
Guard. Solomon wants us to take account of something; to be protective of something. Solomon wants us to guard…
Our steps…to evaluate how we walk, conduct ourselves. Now, notice that he doesn’t say to guard other people’s steps here when they go to the house of God. We shouldn’t be preoccupied with how other people are coming to God’s house, but with ourselves.
When we go. Solomon assumes that we’ll be going. He doesn’t say “if” you go, like you may decide to sleep in instead of going. He says when, with the assumption that we’ll be there. And where does he assume we’ll be?
The house of God. This would have been the temple in Solomon’s day, the place where God’s Himself was uniquely present. Now, we don’t have a temple anymore where God is uniquely present; Jesus said that His people are the temple of God, and where 2 or 3 of them are gathered, he’s there. That’s why we can gather in this elementary school and worship God and don’t have to go to some sort of temple or location. Followers of Jesus are gathering here, this is God’s church. But the principles of Ecclesiastes 5 stand: we should guard our steps as we gather together.
God cares how we gather. The gathered church isn’t a flippant, random gathering. God wants us to consider, evaluate, look at ourselves a bit and think through how we gather as the church.
That seems like a lot of work, right? Why does it matter? I mean, come on God, at least we’re here, right? Does it really matter how we gather as a church?
Solomon says yes, it’s a massively big deal, because of what he says at the end of verse 2: “God is in heaven and you are on earth.” God is in heaven, and we, we’re on earth. How big of a gap does that feel like to you? It should feel massive. Like Apollo 11 and those dudes on the moon. This verse is talking about God’s transcendence, the fact that He is complete separate and other from us.
A prophet of God a long time ago got a great look at God’s transcendence and wrote about it (Isaiah 6). Isaiah saw how different and other and higher up God is from us. He’s seated on a high and lofty throne in heaven as King of the Universe. We aren’t. The train of his clothes is so long it filled an entire room he’s so glorious. Ours don’t. Amazing angels are surrounding him, singing his praises. Not happening to any of us. His glory is seen in everything. Ours isn’t. When the angels sang the building shook, and God’s greater than them, so think about what would happen when he spoke, he’s that powerful! We aren’t.
That’s who the God of the Bible is. And when Isaiah saw God with his eyes look how he responded: Then I said: Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Armies. Isaiah saw God and instantly knew that he himself was nothing. He knew that he was unclean, a sinner, and that everyone else around him were unclean sinners compared to God. The gap between you and God should feel so wide that it makes you just want to curl up in a ball and stop existing. God is SO much greater than we are.
And when we gather, we are in His presence. We’re gathered tonight in this God’s presence. And he cares how we gather before him. That’s why this is a big deal! God is in heaven, we are on earth. But yet He invites us into his presence, calls us to meet with him.
So, how should we respond to that invitation? Look at the end of verse 1: “Better to approach in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong.” Solomon says that fools are gonna come to church. The people who gather to worship and follow God aren’t a bunch of perfect people. Some of them are fools! Just like every other community we’re a part of. There are fools in our Crossfit classes, fools at your job, fools on the internet, there are fools everywhere because people act foolishly. Especially in the church. We can be a bunch of fools, and sadly we can be foolish in how we approach God. Solomon wants to move us from acting foolishly when we gather to worship God to gathering in a wise way.
Here, Solomon’s saying that foolish people are ignorantly offering sacrifices to God. They recognize the need for sacrifices, but they look to themselves to supply the sacrifices that’ll make God happy. They honestly, but ignorantly, think that God will be pleased with how much they sacrifice for Him. That God will love and accept them if they sacrifice more, give more, attend more. But that’s foolish.
So what Solomon’s telling us is that when we gather as the church, we shouldn’t foolishly offer our sacrifices to God hoping that they’ll please him, but we should trust in God’s sacrifice FOR us that DOES please God. I know, I know, it feels like we need to do our own works, make our own way. But God’s told us what supremely pleases Him.
Jesus leads followers up a mountain. Peel back to see his glory. Matthew 17: 5 Suddenly a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the could said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him!”How do we show that we trust it? Submit to it. Believe it. Claim it.
AS YOU COME TO CHURCH, SUBMIT TO GOD’S TRUTH.
Don’t ignorantly think that as you gather with the church you’re earning God’s favor, or putting God in your debt.
Then in verse 2: “Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God.” Solomon doesn’t want people to speak quickly, or in meaningless ways when they come to worship God. He says it this way in verse 3: “Just as dreams accompany much labor, so also a fool’s voice comes with many words.” And then in verse 6: “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? For many dreams bring futility, so do many words. Therefore, fear God.” Solomon must’ve attended the temple with a bunch of religious people and noticed something: people who gather to worship God who love religious talk, right? There are people who know the right, Christian-y words to say all the time, and who are always the ones who need to speak and talk about God, and there words just don’t mean a lot!
And that’s exactly what people would do in Solomon’s day. They’d go to the temple and heap up religious words and expressions, impress people with how well they could speak about God, but that’s all it was, a bunch of words. And many of them thought that what they think and feel is the same as what God thinks and feels, so they’ve just gotta tell you what they’re thinking and feeling!! Their dreams always have meaning, they’re never just random nerves firing as they sleep, but it’s always God Himself speaking to them.
But for Solomon, in verse 7, he says that when dreams and words increase, there’s emptiness. Jesus said something very similar. Look at what he said in Matthew 6: “When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.” The same thing was happening in Jesus’ day, people trying to be impressive in how they talk to God. And then Jesus goes on to teach his followers a prayer that takes less than a minute to pray.
That’s why I think Solomon’s teaching us that as we come to church, we should be quite before God. Not all the time, but more than normal for sure. How do we be quite, in awe before God?
Listen. AS YOU COME TO CHURCH, LISTEN TO GOD. Let God talk.
How’s he been talking to you? recently What’s He been telling you to do? Reminding you of? You know how you’ll never know? Keep talking. Right? Like in any relationship. You’ll never know what you’re friends or your spouse is thinking if you’re always talking.
And then verse 4: “When you make a vow to God, don’t delay fulfilling it, because he does not delight in fools. Fulfill what you vow.” Solomon doesn’t want us making rash vows or promises to God. That was going on like crazy in his day. Super religious people would loudly proclaim what they vowed to do for God, and they didn’t have any real intention of doing it, they just wanted it to sound impressive to everyone else gathered around. They wanted to create the image of a person who was much more holy than they really were.
There were other people who would get caught up in the emotion of worshipping God, would really see Him like Isaiah saw him, and so they’d make these intense, emotional vows, usually about some sort of sacrifice they’d make for God. But then, when the emotions wore away, they realized that sacrifices cost a lot of money, and time, and energy, and so they’d find excuses for how to avoid the vows they made and they wouldn’t follow through.
Solomon warns against doing that so much so that in verse 5 he says: “Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it.” It’d be better not to vow at all than to look super holy when your vowing, but then not do it. That would be a foolish way to gather, to be a bunch of people who look good on Sunday with each other, who outward look like we’re super holy and then not live that way at all after we’re sent out.
So that’s why Solomon wants us to come to church and just rest in who we are before God. Just rest. Rest in who you are. Not in who you want others to see you as. Rest in the identity God has given you. All over the Bible, God talks about followers of Jesus being brothers and sisters. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re a brother or sister to every other follower of Jesus. Why? Because God has said that you’ve been adopted into His family, and you’re his kid.
THAT’S who you are. You’re a son of the King. You’re a daughter of the King. You are supremely loved, cherished, treasured. God is in heaven singing about you! Did you know that? Zephaniah 3:17 says that God rejoices over you with gladness and delights in you with singing! That’s who you are now if you’re a follower of Jesus.
You don’t need to impress God with your vows, you definitely don’t need to impress the rest of us with how holy you want to appear. Your Father DELIGHTS in you, even if you’re struggling with sin and extremely broken.
So when you come to church, REST WITH YOUR FAMILY.
Our church is not a gathering of impressive people. It’s not a gathering of people who are trying to impress God with our sacrifices, dedication, service, or sweat. It’s a gathering of sinners. A gathering of broken people who are struggling in their faith and doubts, who have failed all week, and who live hypocritically. Church under the sun isn’t heaven. Solomon realized this.
But yet he doesn’t abandon it. He says WHEN you go. God is still genuinely at work in His church. Our church IS a gathering of people who trust in Jesus alone for all that we are and all that we will become. And anybody can get in on that.
Are you in on it?