It’s All Meaningless 8? Going To The House of God (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7: Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.
Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools,
who do not know that they do wrong.
2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
3 A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
4When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it.
He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.
5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.
6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.
And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.”
Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?
7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.
Therefore fear God.
Powerful verses above, especially verse one.
Should lead us to ask the following questions:
- Why do we gather on Sunday mornings?
- What is the purpose/goal?
- What ISN’T the purpose/goal?
Please know that myself and others earnestly work
for each Sunday morning worship service
to honor the LORD & be a place where we truly meet with Him.
Much thought & prayer go into each Sunday morning, even the flow of it—
we don’t have each part randomly/lazily—e.g. because we’ve always done it that way.
My heart breaks for any Sunday morning where a person might think,
“I didn’t get much out of the service, I didn’t feel the LORD, it was dry,” etc.
- But oh the pressure from the culture & the world
to turn the worship service into the customer service,
- oh the pressure to treat the local church as a business
& all of you as customers
to please you in order to get you in the seats & keep you coming back,
- oh the temptation to create a worship “experience”
that gives goose bumps, meets everyone’s needs, pleases people,
entertains, causes just the right amount of laughter & tears and has
both wisdom & next steps to give you something to apply in your life.
It is shockingly possible to have a “successful”/“exciting” church service
that has nothing to do with drawing near to
& submitting ourselves at the feet of the LORD,
an entertaining event that has everything to do with us.
I’m not complaining, just commenting.
This is part of what Solomon is warning about in verse one,
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.”
Oh the importance of not centering the worship service around us
but around the LORD,
not focusing on the happiness of those in the seats
but on the holiness of the One on the Throne.
2 Kings 17:41: 41 Even while these people were worshiping the Lord,
they were serving their idols.
Wow. It’s possible to inflate people & knock their socks off
with an exciting experience
instead of teaching them to humble themselves—
deflating self-confidence & filling with God-confidence—
& take off their sandals & extol the LORD in reverence, awe & repentance.
Again: So why do we meet like this on a Sunday morning?
What is the purpose/goal?
There is a vertical reason, and a horizontal reason. First, the vertical:
Genesis 28:16-17: 16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought,
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”
17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Easy to forget the LORD is among us—how often kids at a birthday party focus on the fun games & not on the birthday girl/boy!
Sunday morning worship is the huddle with teammates listening to Quarterback Jesus & looking at the Scoreboard of what He has done thru the Cross & empty tomb as He leads us in the plays the Father has planned for us in the strength the HolySpirit gives us.
On Sunday we get off life’s tea-cup ride for 90 minutes & pause to acknowledge, worship, praise, thank, repent to, make requests of, just sit & stare at God by faith. That’s the central reason we meet. Figure skaters keep their balance when spinning by focusing on one point over & over—the LORD is our focus to keep our balance.
Bob Kauflin (paraphrase): We don’t create/design worship—
we respond to Who God is & what He has done.
We worship as we focus on Him by faith—
He is needed for true worship, not our creativity to set a mood.
Psalm 42 gives us some important details in the purpose of a worship service:
Psalm 42: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
6 My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Meeting with the LORD, assembling together with God’s people—faith in Christ is personal, but never private, not an individual life—that’s American culture—any more than a team sport is all about individual players.
The body of Christ is a body—a separated body is a dismembered body—it’s a crime scene, not a church. Not healthy for families to always be in their own rooms doing separate things with headphones in; healthy families assemble at certain times, e.g. meals, prayer, games, chores. Early Christians assembled regularly—daily!—to meet with the LORD in a special/separate way from meeting with Him on their own.
So what should we do when we meet together on Sunday mornings?
Nehemiah 8 & 9 gives a beautiful picture (but not legalistic paint by numbers)
of the whole & the parts of a worship service:
8:1-12: “…all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate.
They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses,
which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest
brought the Law before the assembly,
which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.
3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate
in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand.
And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion…
5Ezra opened the book.
All the people could see him because he was standing above them;
and as he opened it, the people all stood up.
6Ezra praised the Lord, the great God;
and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!”
Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7The Levites…instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.
8They read from the Book of the Law of God,
making it clear and giving the meaning
so that the people understood what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law,
and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all,
“This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.”
For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. [repentance!]
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks,
and send some to those who have nothing prepared.
This day is holy to our Lord.
Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying,
“Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink,
to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy,
because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
Rest of chapter shows the Israelites putting into practice what they read—
living the Bible out in their daily lives!
8:17-18: From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day,
the Israelites had not celebrated it like this [understanding God’s Word & obeying it!].
And their joy was very great.
18Day after day, from the first day to the last,
Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.
They celebrated the festival for seven days,
and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
9:1-5: On the twenty-fourth day of the same month,
the Israelites gathered together,
fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads [repentance!].
2Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners.
They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors.
3They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God
for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession
and in worshiping the Lord their God…
They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God.
5And the Levites said…:“Stand up and praise the Lord your God,
who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
Rest of the chapter: the people remembered Who God is,
what He had done & confessed the people’s sin.
Remember: THEIR JOY WAS VERY GREAT!
This is a beautiful Biblical pattern of assembling: gathering together, reading God’s Word, praising Him, confessing sin, praising Him, joy, going out in humble obedience.
May we guard our steps as we go to the house of God…