As we begin chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes, the language of observation and reflection gives way to a series of instructions. In these first seven verses of chapter 5 there are nine commands (imperatives) wherein God is mentioned six times, the fool, three times, and some form of verbal communication (mouth, words, voice, mouth, vow, voice), ten times. Qoheleth’s purpose in this instruction is to warn against the careless speech of fools, especially before God in worship.
The first imperative directs us to guard our steps when going to the house of God (v. 1). The house of God in at that time refers to Solomon’s temple. Today, because Jesus is God’s perfect fulfillment of the temple, “the temple” has no specific locale, but is any place where two or three gather to worship (John 4:20-23, Matt 18:20). The next seven imperatives deal with a person’s words in corporate worship. Obviously words are important as the church assembles; we use words to encourage, to sing, to preach and to pray; however, we must pay careful attention to the words we do use, that they are not rash or flippant. The concise imperative, “Fear God” is a powerful conclusion to this literary unit which admonishes us to revere God by listening rather than speaking.
While this text was written 3,000 years ago to Jewish people about preparing for temple sacrifices, there is a most certain application to us in Christ’s church. The Preacher is speaking to every one of us who attend church, but find it difficult to pay attention to the sermon, those whose minds wander during prayer, or who tend to do a lot of talking, people who are full of good intentions to serve, but have difficulty following through. Does this not sound like all of us in one way or another?
We need to understand the gravity of our corporate worship. Whenever we gather, it is to revere God in holy worship; we enter the presence of a holy God who has gathered a holy people to hear His holy word. We must not take that for granted! Corporate worship is not a game to be played; we are not actors called upon to play a role for a two hour weekly performance. We are called upon to fear God in his might and majesty. To give Him the glory He deserves. Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 was written to help us take God seriously when we worship, not only for 2 hours a week, but with our lives.