Drawing Near to God
Sermon Text: Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
Sermon Theme: There is a right way to draw near to God in worship.
- Guard your steps (vv. 1, 7)
- Watch what you say (vv. 1-3, 6)
- Do what you say (vv. 4-5)
Spurious forms of religion, which made much of dreams, verbosity and vows is vanity, and has in it nothing substantial or comforting. The superstitious man who puts his faith in dreams is unpractical and unreal; the garrulous man who is rash in his vows and in prayer thinks to be heard for his much speaking, displeases God and never secures his object. For the one true God, replace the formality of your worship with a reverent and steadfast sincerity. Put obedience before sacrifice. Do not hurry on your mouth to the utterance of words which transcend the desires of your heart. Be not one of those who comes to worship with a preoccupied spirit, a spirit distracted with thoughts that travel different ways. Realize the presence of the Great King, and speak to Him with the reverence due to a King. Keep the vows you have made in His house after you have left it. Seek and serve Him with all your heart, and you shall find rest in your soul.
- What is your demeanor and preparedness as one comes to worship, particularly readiness to obey, for listen refers to heeding as well as hearing (Luke 8:18)?
- Are you prone to carry your illusions with you while you worship and to talk without thinking?
- Have you been carelessly and cold and have failed to show to God fruits of holiness corresponding to what you professed or what you believed? Be aware of the severest penalties are in store for those who are careless, for “Cursed is he that does the work of the Lord carelessly.” (Jeremiah 48:10)
- Are you going to worship with your heart being upright before Him, devoted to Him, and furnished with those graces essential to the true worship of Him, especially with reverence, humility, meekness, faith and love?
- What can make our worship insincere? Preoccupied hearts? Distracted by the cares of life? Fervent prayers without any due sense of their meaning or any hearty wish to have them granted?
- Are you saying all day that He is Lord and yet cease to commend Him with praises and refuse to do what has been commanded?
- Does heavy responsibility hinder your concentration and lead to impatience in prayer? Are you impatience with God?
- Careless words are a reflection of the inner life. Are you careful of the words you use in prayer — for it is the heart that speaks forth a word?
- Does your mouth sometimes lead your flesh into sin?
- Does the fool make sin out to be a harmless violation or involuntary wrongdoing?
- Does the ineptitude of fools count on ritual excuses to cover their irreverence or breach of vows as a slight error?
- If words without deeds do not please us, how much more can faith without works fail to benefit us in the sight of God?
- With an upright soul can you say to Satan himself, I fear God; and because I fear Him, l do not fear you?
The vow in ancient Israel was a promise to God, which might be part of prayer for blessing (Numbers 21:2) or a spontaneous expression of gratitude (Jonah 2:9). It might take the form of a promise of allegiance (Genesis 28:20–22), a free-will offering (Leviticus 22:18) or the dedication of a child as Nazirite (1 Samuel 1:11). When vows are made, they must be kept (Psalms 76:11), even as God keeps His word to us (Exodus 12:41, 12:51; Joshua 21:45). Proverbs 20:25 is especially noteworthy:
It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly
and only later to consider his vows.
There is no harm in not vowing (Deuteronomy 23:22); but a vow once made becomes of the nature of an oath, and its non-performance is a sin and incurs the punishment of false swearing.
GOD’S NATURE TRANSCENDS OUR INTELLIGENCE (by Gregory of Nyssa):
Listen to the Preacher exhorting not to be hasty to utter anything before God, “for God,” (says he), “is in heaven above, and you upon earth beneath.” He shows, I think, by the relation of these elements to each other, or rather by their distance, how far the divine nature is above the speculations of human reason. For that nature which transcends all intelligence is as high above earthly calculation as the stars are above the touch of our fingers, or rather, many times more than that. Knowing, then, how widely the divine nature differs from our own, let us quietly remain within our proper limits. For it is both safer and more reverent to believe the majesty of God to be greater than we can understand, than, after circumscribing his glory by our misconceptions, to suppose there is nothing beyond our conception of it.
From the “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” (29 Vols)
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