Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 23, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

So far, the book of Ecclesiastes has consisted of the Teacher trying to find meaning and purpose in this life, and finding that every aspect of life is meaningless from a worldly sense. Here, in today’s passage of Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, he takes that one step further and encourages us to experience God’s presence in order to find that true meaning and satisfaction.

Verse 1 instructs us to, “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.” In chapter 4, the discussion was about power, motivation, and authority; here the tone changes to quietly experiencing God’s presence. This verse invites us to examine our motivation for being in God’s presence. Are we there to be seen as when offering sacrifices, or are we going to experience God listen to Him?

In our world today, it’s so easy to get caught up in doing religious actions rather than simply being in God’s presence to listen to Him. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something, to check off those items on our to-do lists, rather than simply experiencing God’s presence, sitting in silence to listen to Him. While doing things like reading the Bible and studying the Word are very worthwhile, our focus shouldn’t be on doing that for the sake of doing it, but for the sake of experiencing God and being in His presence in His Word. We should have a mindset of prayer that encompasses both talking and listening to God.

Verse 2 expands on this idea of prayer a bit: “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.” How many of us are guilty of prayer being all us talking and allowing no time for God to talk? That wouldn’t work very well in a conversation with a friend, so why do we think it’s okay to do that with God? The Teacher encourages us to do less talking and more listening in our prayer lives. Check out Matthew 6:7-8 for what Jesus had to say about this, and these blog posts for what some of our writers have shared on prayer.

In verse 3, the Teacher compares our prayers to dreams. Dreams generally don’t have any real substance to them, and that’s how our prayers are when they are simply a lot of words. When we pray, we’re often so focused on ourselves that we lose focus of what truly matters - giving God glory and praising His name. When we talk too much, we’re foolish because the only thing that matters is God.

The Teacher discusses vows in verses 4-6. The focus is that if we tell God we’re going to do something, we really need to follow through with it. It is foolish to do otherwise. Whatever the promise is, it’s better to not make the commitment rather than to commit to something and not do it. This is echoed in James 5:12: “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Otherwise you will be condemned.”

For an application of this concept, check out the story of Jephthah in Judges 11. Jephthah makes a vow to God that if God helps him win a battle, he will sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his house when he returns home. It looks like Jephthah wasn’t thinking clearly when he made that vow, but once he made it, he was obligated to keep it. Unfortunately for him, the first thing to come out of his house was his daughter! He told his daughter what he had done, they both made their peace with it, and Jephthah fulfilled his foolish vow.

This story is just one example of why we should not flippantly make vows or promises to God. As the Teacher says, “Do not let your mouth lead you into sin” (verse 6). If you make a vow that you end up not being able to keep, for whatever reason, you will be sinning when you break it.

The Teacher wraps up this section with these words in verse 7: “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.” The way in which we approach God must be realistic. We should not commit to what we can’t follow through on. We need to remember that God puts the highest value on our heart’s condition and motivation. Spend time quietly being in God’s presence rather than praying with empty words. Listen to what God is saying to you, don’t just talk at Him in your prayers. Don’t make vows or promises that you may not be able to keep, but instead strive to spend time with God and discover what He has for your life.

As the Teacher says, everything outside of our fearing God is meaningless. Fearing God, acknowledging and praising His awesome greatness and power in reverence is what we are created to do.

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