Reverence and Fidelity
Ecclesiastes 5:1-12
Keep your foot when you go to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools…

With chapter five begins a series of proverbial sayings somewhat like those of the Book of Proverbs, but showing more internal connection. These represent some of the experimental knowledge which had come to the heart in its chase after many things. We may use them, as we do the Proverbs, as condensations of wisdom, each having a completeness in itself.

I. WORSHIP (vers. 1-7).

1. The proper manner of worship is here suggested to us. It mush be with a full intention of the heart and not merely with the outward symbols. Always in worship, even when it is most freed of external props, there is the opportunity for a lack of right intention, and, therefore, a lack of meaning to God as well as to men. Worship must always be interpreted by the condition of heart of the worshipper.

(1) Thought is necessary to due worship (ver. 1). It would be a good thing for every one of us if we would ask ourselves as we pass through the portals of God's house, "Do I really mean to worship God this hour?" If we cannot say yes, would it not be better for us not to enter?

(2) Deliberateness is necessary to acceptable worship (ver. 2). To be rash with our mouth, to rattle off a formula, however well constructed, without weighing the meaning, this is not to please God.

(3) Brevity is a virtue in worshipful utterance. God is high above us; we are here in a position that should make us most deeply respectful towards Him. We should use well-weighed words before Him, and well-weighed words are few. The touching prayers of the Bible — the publican's, Christ's on the cross, Soul's at his conversion — were brief.

2. Vows formed a considerable element in the old Jewish worship, and are more or less recognized in the New Testament. We promise to do certain things: to be faithful to Christ and His Church, to love our fellow-Christians, to obey those who are over us in Christ, etc. These are vows, pledges given to God, and they should be kept as scrupulously as we would keep a business obligation signed with our own hand.

II. A difficult passage concerning STATECRAFT follows. The State may be mismanaged, but it is wisest to make the best of it. "If thou seest oppression of the poor and violation of justice and righteousness in the government of a province, be not astonished at the matter. Such perversion of state-craft is not confined to the petty officials whose deeds you know. Clear up to the top of the Government it is apt to be the same. For there is a high one over a high one watching, and higher persons over them, and all are pretty much alike" (ver. 8). "But the advantage of a land in every way is a king devoted to the field" (ver. 9). The idea here is that the old simple agricultural form of government was the best for the people of that day. The general meaning is that good government comes from having rulers who are not rapacious for their own aggrandizement, but have the interests of the country at heart.

III. The matter of RICHES, which requires such special thought to-day, when riches come easily and to many, was not without its importance in the olden time.

1. Wealth then as now was unsatisfying (ver. 10). It held out promises which it had no power to fulfil. It said to men, "Be rich and you will be happy." They became rich, but they were not happy. The soul is made to crave the most ethereal kind of food; but the rich man tries to satisfy it with coarse things. It is made to hunger for the things of heaven; he thrusts upon it the things of earth.

2. Here also is emphasized the thought that the increase of wealth is not satisfying (ver. 11).

3. And then comes the old lesson, which many a rich man has confessed to be true, but which those who are not rich find it very hard to believe true, that labour with contentment is better than wealthy idleness (ver. 12). Many a successful millionaire has confessed that his happiest hours were in the beginning of his career, when he felt that he must work hard for his wife and babies, and when he returned home at night with a sweet sense of contented fatigue that never comes now in his anxious days of great prosperity."

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

WEB: Guard your steps when you go to God's house; for to draw near to listen is better than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they don't know that they do evil.

Lessons for Worship and for Work
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