Worship Attitude

February, 2017
In chapter five there is an abrupt change as Solomon comments on the attitude necessary for proper worship and then goes on to talk about the enemy of spirituality - materialism.
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So far Solomon has been giving us the bleak results of a life dedicated to finding meaning and satisfaction without God. In chapter five there is an abrupt change as he makes some comments about worshipping God properly and goes on to talk about materialism, the arch-enemy of spirituality. He will conclude in chapter six with a portrait of his own life and some advice that he gives based on his experiences so far.

Without any explanation, Solomon leaves off the description of his lifestyle and begins to warn his readers about the proper attitude they should have at worship.

Pay attention to what you are doing - 5:1

Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.

When preparing for worship, realize that you are going to worship almighty God the creator and judge of the world. Lack of preparation or attention is disrespectful and dangerous. God speaks to us through the sermon, the prayers, the songs and the teaching so we should be aware and listening for Him as He speaks to us.

Guard your mind - vs. 2-3; 7

2Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. 3For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.
7For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.

When you pray, do not be too quick to ask or blame God for things. He is really listening! Give as much respect in your prayers as you would if you had an interview with a prospective employer or high official.

Let your yes be yes and no be no with God. He is not impressed with repeated words or the number of prayers. It is honesty, devotion and faith that He wants in prayer, not eloquence or volume. Also, when you are in worship, fear God and do not drift or daydream. Stay focused. It is easy for the mind to wander, become distracted, or make rash promises and statements in prayer. Solomon says that when you worship you should be calm, focused on God and offer simple, honest prayers to Him.

Keep your promises

If you offer God your life, do not take it back. If you promise to give up something, do not start it again. If you tell Him you are going to do something, make sure that you do it - Why?

God remembers - vs. 4-6

4When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! 5It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?

Asking God's blessing on what you propose to do and then not do it, or repenting of a sin and then going back to it leads to judgment because God remembers all of our prayers and promises, and will hold us accountable. Solomon says that if you are not sure, you are better off not saying or vowing anything. Jesus says that we should not make vows because we are too weak to keep them perfectly. Better we answer with a simple yes or no than make elaborate promises.

James 4:15 says that our commitments to the Lord should be based on our dependence on Him to help us carry them through "…if the Lord is willing...".

Folly of Riches – vs. 5:8-20

After his comments about worship, Solomon goes on to discuss what he has learned about the pursuit of wealth and power. In verses 8-17 he lists 5 principles concerning the pursuit of wealth:

1. Absolute power corrupts – vs. 8-9

8If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them. 9After all, a king who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land.

In other words, as the rich get richer and more powerful their tendency is to neglect, not help the poor. God desires that a powerful leader should "cultivate" his people, meaning he should help them to grow and develop a good life.

2. Greater wealth does not equal greater satisfaction – vs. 10

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.

If anyone could have felt satisfaction from wealth, it was Solomon. He was the richest and wisest man in the world at the time. He concludes that the amassing of wealth does not increase satisfaction. On the contrary, greater riches only produce the desire to have even more money.

3. More money = more worries – vs. 11-12

11When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? 12The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.

The more you have, the more you have to take care of, protect, count, service and replace. You lose sleep because of the fear of losing what you have or because of the work required to maintain what you have.

To all appearances the life of the wealthy seems relaxed and carefree, but the truth is that on the inside wealthy people are plagued with frustration, anxiety, discontentment and loneliness - and they worry about losing their stuff!

4. You cannot take it with you – vs. 13-15

13There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. 14When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him. 15As he had come naked from his mother's womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand.

There is a popular saying derived from this passage, "You cannot take it with you." No matter how hard you work and how much you hoard, there is no guarantee that you will keep what you have acquired, and you will definitely have to let it go when you die.

5. Those who live high, die hard – vs. 16-17

16This also is a grievous evil—exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind? 17Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger.

If wealth is what you pursue, then your life will be filled with discontentment (fail or succeed), and your death will be hard. It will be hard because money is no comfort to those who are dying.

In the final verses ­(18-20) Solomon goes on to contrast three gifts that we receive if we have the right attitude about wealth.

A - God gives true enjoyment – vs. 18

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.

The ability to enjoy what you have is a gift that God gives those who have the right attitude about wealth.

B - God enables fulfillment in your work – vs. 19

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.

A right attitude about your work and career will enable you to find satisfaction in what you actually do, not just what you would like to do. (Grass is greener on the other side syndrome)

C - God provides general contentment – vs. 20

For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.

Satisfaction and inner peace will find those who focus on the Lord instead of focusing on what they do not have or acquiring more of what they do have.

The blessings of enjoyment, fulfillment and contentment are the worthwhile things of life that money cannot buy - all freely given by God.

Self-Portrait - 6:1-12

In chapter six Solomon becomes introspective and gives us a portrait of himself as the king who pursued all of these things. In verses 1-9 he says that he is depressed for several reasons:

1There is an evil which I have seen under the sun and it is prevalent among men — 2a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor so that his soul lacks nothing of all that he desires; yet God has not empowered him to eat from them, for a foreigner enjoys them. This is vanity and a severe affliction. 3If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, "Better the miscarriage than he, 4for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. 5It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he. 6Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice and does not enjoy good things—do not all go to one place?"

7All a man's labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied. 8For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living? 9What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires. This too is futility and a striving after wind.
- Ecclesiastes 6:1-9

6:1-2 -He is not able to fully enjoy all that God has given him. The "foreigner" mentioned here can be an enemy, a disease or a depressed spirit, but something is in the way of his contentment. We know that his lack of full devotion to the Lord is what has blocked his enjoyment and peace. He has everything, but he cannot enjoy it.

6:3-5 - He has lost children and even replacing them with many others cannot create the joy he is missing.

6:6 - Long life or short life are the same, they both end in death.

7-9 - He is weary of not being satisfied with what he has, and wearier still of continually wanting more. Better he should be content with what he has, but he is not.

In the final verses he makes some realistic observations concerning his own life and condition.

1. God is sovereign – vs. 10a

Whatever exists has already been named,

Naming something denotes sovereignty (God named Adam, Adam named the animals etc.) Everything has been "named" so Solomon concedes that no matter how great he is, there is always someone greater.

2. Man is not sovereign – vs. 10b

and it is known what man is;

This suggests that man will never be sovereign, will always be in a position of inferiority before God so there is no room for pride here.

3. Disputing with God is a waste of time – vs. 10c-11

for he cannot dispute with him who is stronger than he is. 11For there are many words which increase futility. What then is the advantage to a man?

God's ways are not our ways. We do not have to understand. Our job is to believe and obey - His way is always the best for us in the end. Solomon finishes in verse 12 by saying that no one knows what life will bring, how it will end or what will come after. What is not said is that God knows and cares, and faith is what He wants, not debate.

Summary

Chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes completes the first major part of this book. In these chapters Solomon has examined life from every angle and experimented with every human desire in order to find satisfaction, happiness and true contentment, but to no avail. He has only discovered disillusionment, discontentment and depression. This dead-end forces him to begin looking in another direction for the peace and joy he desires.

Solomon goes from looking strictly in a horizontal direction (on earth, with earthly things) to a vertical or upward direction towards God for answers. In chapter 7 we will see him begin to look beyond the physical to the spiritual for answers, and note some of the things he discovers.

Reading Assignment:  Ecclesiastes 7:1-29