It would seem that for the Preacher not an area of life was exempt from frustration if lived out but “under the sun.” He had sought wisdom, he had worked hard. He had held back no desire which his heart desired, and took extreme living to the max. His riches were beyond counting, his accomplishments had been recorded for posterity, and his bucket list was complete. Yet he hated life “because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl. 2:17).
And as I continue to read Solomon’s ledger of his pursuit of meaning and his failure to find it, I’m hovering over the fact that what was true in every other area of his life was also true of his pursuit of God.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
(Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 ESV)
How easy it had been to simply carry over the bravado with which he had lived life into the temple. Without a second thought he could offer sacrifice without limit because of his wealth. To sing God’s praise had become second nature. After all, his dad had written the Psalter, he could sing most of the songs from memory. And, being somewhat of an orator and writer himself, prayer could flow freely from his lips–whether or not his mind was engaged with any of the words his mouth uttered. Easy to go through the motions. Easy to go big even if it was meaningless and without substance. Even in the house of God.
Thus, concludes the son of David as he takes stock of this area of his life, when you go to the house of God, guard your steps . . . let your words be few.
And as I chew on this I can’t help but heed his words. The vast majority of my Sunday mornings over the past 38 years have been spent in “the house of God.” Though specific practices have varied, for the most part the elements are the same. Go, connect with God’s people, offer sacrifices of praise through song, receive the meat of the Word from the pulpit, remember at the Lord’s table, serve as able. Repeat next week . . . and the week after that . . . and that week after that . . .
Shouldn’t be surprising if it can kind of become routine. Not beyond the realm of possibility that meaning might decrease and mindlessness might increase. That what is increasingly familiar can spawn that which kind of feels futile. That vitality can be lost and vanity is all that is left.
So guard your steps, says the Preacher, when you go to the house of the God. Think about where you are going and what you about to do. Remember whose presence you seek to enter. For God is in heaven and we are on earth.
So draw near to listen. Recognize that each week the seed is being sown. As much as lies within you, ensure the soil is ready to receive it. Lean in, engage fully, and “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
So watch your tongue. “Dont shoot off your mouth” (MSG). Before you add your amen to the prayers, think about what you are agreeing with. As you sing those songs, “dont be too quick to tell God what you think He wants to hear” (MSG). Measure your words. Monitor your utterances. Let your words be few.
Even good things can become vain things if allowed to be simply done “under the sun.”
But when the people of God . . . enter mindfully into the presence of God . . . to engage by the Spirit of God . . . in lifting up the Son of God . . . then, by the grace of God, will be known the glory of God.