Lessons for Worship

What lessons can we learn about worship today based on these warnings and commands about worship in Old Testament times in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7?

The passage must give some helps concerning public worship because it refers to "when thou goest to the house of God" (Ecclesiastes 5:1). We understand that the house of God here is the temple and that their worship was much different from ours. Therefore, we do not expect to match every detail. Yet, we can certainly make a healthy application of the thoughts in this passage. I would like to summarize the teachings of this passage in three words: respect, restraint, and responsibility.

RESPECT:

This teaching is not found explicitly but implicitly. That is, we see it by reading between the lines. They are warned not to "be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth" (v.2). They are also warned against making God angry by not keeping their promises to Him (v.6). All of this points to the need to respect God and to come before Him with reverence (Leviticus 19:30; Psalm 89:7).

Although the age of grace gives us a freedom not known under the law, we could still learn from this teaching. Worship services have become flippant farces in many churches. The time supposedly devoted to God has become filled with humor and showmanship. People talk and move around during the preaching. We might do well to remind ourselves that "holy and reverend is his name" (Psalm 111:9).

RESTRAINT:

Solomon urged his listeners to keep their foot (v.1), to avoid being rash with their mouth (v.2), and to not let their heart to be hasty to utter anything before God (v.2). They were to avoid making foolish vows (v.4-5). All of this points to a certain restraint in our approach to God. It is true that the New Testament offers a boldness in coming to God, but the nature of the restraint in Ecclesiastes is still instructive. It involves a hesitation to brag on what we are going to do for God; a carefulness in our promises to God. I believe that in our services today we have pushed so much for people to make some sort of commitment to God that we have minimized the seriousness of such commitments. We should still avoid rashness in what we utter before the Lord.

RESPONSIBILITY:

The Old Testament saints are admonished to fulfill any vow they make. Although we are not to be making vows today, there is still instruction for us. We are to keep our promises to God. Hearing the word of God and responding to it makes us responsible for what we have heard and seen. Many flippantly come to the front of the church and make many promises to God that they do not mean and do not fulfill. To whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). As we learn of our responsibilities; as God convicts and convinces us of our need to be obedient; as we externally submit to this conviction; so we are responsible to obey His leading. This knowledge gives a weight and gravity to the time of worship.

When taken together, these three qualities of God-honoring worship:  respect, restraint, and responsibility, demonstrate the need to approach the worship service with a healthy level of gravity. It is, indeed, serious business to come before the holy God of heaven and earth. We should approach the service with humble hearts ready to hear His words and heed His call. Ecclesiastes 5:1 still speaks to us today: "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools."

David Reagan
Daily Proverb

Proverbs 18:14

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?