Summary: 10th in a series from Ecclesiastes. Wise worship of God is focused on him, not on us.
In the last couple of weeks, I have run across a couple of news articles that reflect some disturbing trends in worship here in the United States.
Earlier this week, many of you may have seen some of the results from a study performed by The Program on Public Values at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., regarding religion in America. That survey found that those who identify themselves as Christians have decreased from 86% of Americans in 1990 to only 76% in 2008. During that same period, those who say that they have no religion have risen from 8.2% to 15% of the population.
A February 27 article from the website “Slate” titled, “Why American churchgoers like to shop around” also caught my attention. That article cited statistics from a Barna Group survey that revealed that one in seven adults changes churches each year, and another one in six attends a handful of churches on a rotating basis. Another survey by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life last year indicated that 44 percent of American adults have left their first religious affiliation for another. But what was most disturbing to me is that the article actually viewed this as a good thing:
Even if the American mania for shopping extends to our spiritual lives, church shopping still doesn’t get much respect. But while it may be frequently derided as an example of rampant spiritual consumerism, shopping around can be one of the good things about the way religion is practiced in America.
But apparently this trend toward worshipping God on our own terms isn’t anything new as we’ll see as we continue our journey through Ecclesiastes.
1 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. 2 Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed -- 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. 6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 (NKJV)
This is really a whole new focus for Qoheleth. He now turns his focus from life “under the sun” to the worship of God. And as he does so, he draws a very sharp distinction between those who worship God on their own terms and those who worship God on His terms.
He begins this section with a stern warning – we are to “walk prudently” when we go to the house of God. Other translations render that phrase “guard your steps” or “watch your step”. In other words, we need to be very careful with our worship. And then Qoheleth goes on to describe the contrast between those who he identifies as “fools” and those who are wise and guard their steps.