(Hover over the link to read Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)
Trying to find the answers for the meaning of life without God is a most difficult task. The work is hard and lead to frustrations instead of solutions. It's like chasing after the wind - you will not win, but be exhausted quickly. There is nothing to show for all your chasing and grasping after the wind.
And as soon as you think you're making any headway at all, you run into the great leveler: death.
Last week, we saw that even if you have the "simple pleasures of life" such as food, possessions, etc., you cannot even enjoy it unless God gives you the ability to do so!
Therefore, people must accept that God is God and people are people, and people must accept that they are dealing with a sovereign and inscrutable God.
Only when Solomon looks upwards to the Lord does cynicism and empty striving melt away. When we step into the presence of an awesome God and give Him our full attention, is where we find our full satisfaction.
Wealth, material pleasures, etc. can never bring people real satisfaction and fulfillment. Only when people are bound back to God can they find full satisfaction.
Can God be approached? Yes, but there are dangers when you approach God. God cannot be approached lightly. For instance, Exodus 30:17-21 lays out strict requirements for priests to be able to approach God (under the Old Covenant).
People often approach God in worship with 1. insincerity and 2. thoughtlessness.
Here, Solomon gives us a series of warnings on how to a properly approach God.
Guard your steps (Ecclesiastes 5:1). You must understand the holy character of God. Are you preparing to come before God? Feet are often used in Scripture as a figure of human conduct; they can either lead you down the wrong path or the right path. You can approach worship in a right manner, or in a wrong manner. The Bible allows us to have sufficient knowledge in order to know whether we are walking right or wrong. You can't just do anything you want during the week and then come to church expecting to worship the right way!
Listen carefully (Ecclesiastes 5:1). Truth is going to be deposited in your head and heart, and truth is always designed to change/transform you, to make you other than you were, to make you like Christ, to make you holy, Godly, sober, and listen to what He is saying. There is some danger in coming to God carelessly, offering up "the sacrifice of fools" ... the inappropriate, careless, stumbling into the worship of God without any thought or preparation. The fool rushes into worship without careful preparation and thought about the character of God. And the fool doesn't know that "they are doing evil!" Practically, we should anticipate the hour of worship, make sure our minds are ready to worship, be on time, prepare on Saturday to remove obstacles. Don't stay up late on Saturday. Guard against distraction, mental preoccupation, and pray for the worship hour. Pray that the Lord would speak to the congregation. That they would listen, then receive, then do.
Here are 3 admonitions of what to do to worship:
Ponder your own walk (Ecclesiastes 5:1) on the character of God who you are worshipping. It is God's time to communicate. It is not time to drift off, think about something else, text, twitter, surf the web.
Take a deep breath. (Ecclesiastes 5:2) Don't be impatient of spirit, let your heart race in thought or be hasty in words! "Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)" Stop being distracted! Have a careful and thoughtful approach to worshipping God. Don't be flippant in worship. In Ecclesiastes 5:2, God dwells in heaven, infinite and awesome, and we are merely on the earth. Restrain your tongue. Also, keep your mind free. (Ecclesiastes 5:3) Dreams here probably refer to daydreams. This is like letting daydreams take over during worship. Learn to discipline your mind to pay attention during worship. Dreams here can refer to anything that's not reality, anything that's transient. This can also refer to the preoccupation of hard work, which cause one to be unable to pay attention.
Be sober and serious (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6). When you finally do speak, watch what you say. Don't make frivolous deals with God. This can be extrapolated to commitments you make before God. Commitment to prayer, bible reading, church attendance. Commitment to faithfulness to your spouse (this is a direct vow to God). Keep your word, because God heard you. We don't have the power to relieve ourselves from our own vows and promises. A good example is Jonah, who didn't keep his vow to the Lord until he was in the belly of the whale, and God forced him to honor his vow to go where the Lord told him to. (Jonah 2:9). The main sin of Jonah was not keeping his vow to God as a prophet. So, don't be hasty to make a commitment, and once you do, don't say that it was "just a mistake" when it becomes hard to keep the vow. God will not let you get away with this. (Ecclesiastes 5:6; Deuteronomy 23:21-22).
The summary is in Ecclesiastes 5:7. Fear God! Don't play games with worship, but treat your relationship with God with a soberness, respect, reverence, and awe as you approach the house of God in worship.
When you come to worship, come attentive, come mindful of who you are approaching, be mindful of your daily walk. Don't let the anxieties of your life to squeeze you so hard that you don't have any real joy in your worship! Let's think hard about our attitude during worship in the house of God.