Blue lights, blacked out ceiling tiles, pallet wood backdrop, and big screen. They are all necessary elements of today’s worship program? Meh… Neither here nor there. This article is not about the externals of worship, although I have opinions but will not discuss them here. This writing stands alone. Forgive the sermon format element. It is taken from the manuscripts of a Sunday morning sermon.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 5:1-3
Principles regarding worship
- Guarding our approach to the House of God
Practical thoughts on section:
The guarding of our foot while entering in the house of God is in light of God’s holiness. The teaching is that while approaching God in His house, we are commanded to be mindful, reverent, careful, and specific. My wife and I work hard at cleaning our house, we like it clean and neat. We are very particular about the cleanliness of the house. Our children know that they cannot track in mud. They know that their shoes go off at the door because mom and dad’s eyes are watching. Likewise, God is particular, He is holy and we ought to understand he is watching with piercing gaze and displeased at a flippant, irreverent, and disrespectful worshipper.
The reasons are listed in three points:
Point 1: verse 2 “for God is in heaven and we upon earth.”
Point 2: verse 4 “for he hath no pleasure in fools
Point 3: verse 6 “wherefore, should God be angry at thy voice and destroy the work of thin hands”
Point 1: God is otherly. Verse 2 “God is in heaven, we upon earth.” This is also reflected in the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father which art in Heaven…” The clear teaching is that God should not be treated, thought of, like a mortal. He is above, otherly, and holy. Of all the doctrines about God that have been twisted and forsaken I think the holiness of God is the most offended. There are certain implications and characteristics of worship and devotion that should flow from a healthy perspective of God’s Holiness. They are as follows:
- In light of God’s holiness, there is the need to self-reflect and repent. Here is an example of methodical repentance. Jonathan Edwards resolutions were written down, read every day, and guided the life of the great preacher. Resolution #37 “Resolved to inquire every night as I am going to bed wherein I have been negligent what sin I have committed and wherein I have denied myself also at the end of every week, month and year”.
- In light of God’s holiness, the believer will have God honoring prayers full of knowledge with God’s will and glory as the center. Praying God’s will is accomplished through careful study of God’s word, repentance and denial of selfishness. Faith is essential. Faith is not in faith but in the sovereign God who discloses His will through His word.
- In light of God’s holiness, any pattern of life contrary to his word will be repented from and wrestled with to be brought in subjection to his will. Holy fear is a motivating factor in scripture, not the only one, not the primary one, but it is one. Fear of God is essential to salvation, in fact is characteristic to those that are the church.
- Lastly, in light of the fear of God, any suffering, trial, persecution we undergo will be humbly submitted to in understanding that it is of the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed altogether. I will one example to draw from: David being cursed by Shimei in II Samuel 16:5. Shimei met David as he was fleeing the throne in retreat from Absolam. Shimei started cursing him, throwing rocks, calling him a bloody man. Those with David said why should this man curse the king, let us take off his head. David responded in verse 10-12 to leave him, that the Lord may have prompted him to do this and to suffer humbly the Lord may look with pity upon him and may mercy. Perhaps David understood deep down that he was a bloody man, adultery, and murderer. This humbled David under the hand of God to accept the current persecution. So, I feel this is a wonderful lesson for us while under persecution. Again listen to Jonathan Edwards resolutions that reflect this principle: Resolution # 8 “Resolved to act in all respects both in speaking and doing as if nobody had been so vile as I and as if I had committed the same sins or had the same infirmities or failings as other and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God”
Point 2, 3: Verse 4 “He hath no pleasure in fools.” “wherefore, should God be angry at thy voice and destroy the work of thin hands”
These two are lumped together and there are many things to say about them. The clear teaching is that the fool has one telling characteristic and it is loathed by God. The fool is full of empty words and actions.
- Verse 1, The fool is more busy with doing and saying than listening while in God’s house. Also verse 2 tells us “be not rash with thy mouth and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God.” Again, “let thy words be few.” There are several reasons here. Proverbs 10:19 states much talk leads to sin. James says be slow to speak and quick to hear. Our text says to let our words be few. Why?
- Because in much speaking there is little contemplation, little reflection, and little measure out our words. It’s comparable to turning on the water hose connected to a well almost dry: all that comes out is mud and air. So many people have no reservoir of knowledge built up through contemplation and reflection. They simply speak what come to mind, all the time. It is comparable to mud and air. There is no substance. How offending and irritable to deal with such shallow obtuse people.
- God likewise has no pleasure in their empty worship or the works of their hands. They approach God with full, busy, minds. They have shallow hearts, shallow minds, and vain works and actions. God is not pleased with abundant words and actions. The pharisees thought they would be heard for their much speaking. Scripture says obedience is better than a sacrifice. Also scripture tells us that God grew weary of Israel’s offerings because of their impenitent hearts.
- Verse 1 tells us that one should “be more ready to hear” than to give sacrifice. This tells us that God places premium on coming to the house of God in preparation to listen to him. By listening I think what is in view hear is this:
- Obviously listening to the Word preached.
- Humble posture, ready to receive and reflect
- The phrase “be ready” tells us that constant preparation is in view here
- The ear is the organ of faith—Luther. Faith is the treasured substance that God longs for in worship. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word.
- It is the opposite of the home depot “more doing”. Personal note, I have been on both ends of the church paradigm. Doing is great, but less doing and more hearing is better. The example is Mary and Martha. Martha was busy doing, Mary busy listening to Jesus. Jesus said that Mary chose the better. May our church and people be listening more, and may our doing be blessed and full of substance.
- The fool is the one characterized with much speaking. Verse 3 tells us that a dream comes by much work and a fool is known by much speaking. Again, the plea is to listen before God and shut up.
This is the meat of healthy worship. Let the outward be blue lights and palate wood or ties and hymnals but let the inward be this. That will be alright with me.