Wisdom for Worship.

This week, our study of Ecclesiastes moves from chapter 4's examination of oppression, competition, isolation, and position to adoration in chapter 5. While living through the difficulties of a broken world, God wants us to know His will and be refreshed when we come to worship Him. Solomon shares 3 aspects of wisdom to prepare our hearts for worship.

God has set aside the Lord's Day as a time to present ourselves to Him in corporate worship. Many things can distract us from being prepared for worship. Simply failing to get good sleep and proper nutrition can affect our heart attitude. A sin habit, failure to walk with God, or conflict with another person can create roadblocks. Medical issues, fighting addiction, a failing marriage, wounds from a past church, financial issues, and more can make us wonder if we can or even should worship.

On the other hand, some people attend a church regularly but are only interested in their own agenda. Their self-focus sows discord among the flock. Solomon shares wisdom for both kinds of people.

We are only able to worship with true integrity in Christ. The sacrifice we offer is a worship-filled life (Romans 12:1).

Preparation to Pursue

Since we all live in a fallen world, sometimes we need to take a moment to pull away from the impact that oppression, competition, isolation, and position has on our lives. Ecclesiastes 5:1 assumes that faithful worshippers are in the habit of going to the house of God. Someone rightly said, "Worship is the highest activity of the church, and it must always be approached with clean hands and pure hearts."

Our goal in coming to worship should be to listen before speaking. James 1:25 repeats that those who come to worship should be prepared to hear from the Bible and intend to do what it says.

We live in an increasingly noisy world. If we don't take time to pause and prepare, the noise will begin to consume the narrative of our lives. When everyone comes to worship to listen, it will not be a noisy place.

Deception to Avoid

Many people no longer attend church because of something others have done. God asks us to present ourselves to Him, not to use anyone else as an excuse. God is worthy of our worship because He created us and re-created those who are in Christ. We don't need to worry about anyone else. Even those who call themselves the people of God are broken human beings, so there will always be foolish worshippers among the faithful. In Christ, we are healed.

The sacrifice of fools is going through the motions of worship when your heart isn't right with God. Human wisdom says just to stay away; God's wisdom says to get right with God and worship.

Integrity to Achieve

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 and 4-6 gives 2 similar warnings. We can apply both in the context of prayer, which is simply the expression of thoughts or words to God. Passages throughout the New Testament (see below) instruct us to pray and how to pray. We will avoid hasty prayers by preparing our hearts. A prepared heart is careful, discerning, and governed by the truth of God's Word. That heart knows how to pray.

"It is better to have a heart without words than to have words without a heart." – John Bunyan

Those who offer foolish worship are often lazy in their personal walk with God and participation in the body of Christ.

"It is as natural for a Christian to pray as it is for a newborn baby to breathe." – Jonathan Edwards

God does not require promises from His people in order to be accepted by Him. Instead, He asks us to live by His promises. Any prayers with conditional statements are not wise. Likewise, public invitations are not biblical because they prompt making "vows" to God that are impossible to keep perfectly. Instead, simply seek to obey in everyday life with the help of God's Word, His Spirit, and God's people.

Application Points

  • How can you prepare personally for corporate worship? Can you take time on Saturday night or Sunday morning to prepare your heart to hear from God's Word? When you read the Bible personally, ask God what He has for you from His Word.
  • What noise is in your life that you need to stop bringing into worship? How can you do this?
  • Do you use others as an excuse for not worshipping? How does God's wisdom address this?
  • How can you avoid offering "the sacrifice of fools"?
  • Do your public prayers outnumber your private prayers? Are you lazy in your personal devotion to God?
  • Do you pray conditionally or make promises to God? What promises of His can you live by instead?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Isaiah 1:11-20, Amos 5:12-15, Psalm 50:1-23 – We cannot worship with integrity when we have unconfessed sin.
  • Romans 12:1, 15:16, 2 Corinthians 2:16, Colossians 3:12-17, Ephesians 5:1-21, Philippians 4:4-9, Galatians 5:13-26, 1 Timothy 5:8, 10, 2 Corinthians 8-9, Hebrews 13:15-16, 10:23-25 – Many aspects of worship-filled lives.
  • Psalm 24:1-6 – Approaching worship with a clean heart.
  • Psalm 66:18, 1 Samuel 15:12-23, Matthew 5:23-24, 1 Cor 11, Acts 5 – Approaching worship in a worthy fashion with God and others.
  • Luke 18:1, 1 Thessalonians 5, 1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 1:9-11, 4:6, Colossians 4:2-6, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3, Matthew 6:7, 12:34-37, Psalm 141:1-2, 1 Peter 3:12, Ephesians 6 – Instruction on prayer.