[April 28]--The Worship of Fools

Ecc. 5:1-7

Let me ask you a question. If you worked in a nuclear power plant, do you think you’d approach the reactor with a certain amount of respect? Do you think you’d keep up with the stats and different readings that you need to keep it from blowing sky high? Do you think you’d pay attention to the instruction manuals which tell you what you need to know?

If so, then I would contrast that with how we approach the Almighty in worship. He’s a lot more dangerous than a nuclear reactor, isn’t he? As N.T. believers, especially as influenced by American culture, we take such a lackadasical attitude towards him. We’re so used to treating him as our buddy, someone we can “hang with.” Today’s passage has a word for those who approach him like that: Fool.

Now I can hear the objections right now: We’re not in the Old Testament times any more! We’re under grace now! Jesus has made the way for us into the presence of the Father! All of this is true, and I’m glad it is. When Christ died, the veil in the temple which seperated the Most Holy from humanity was torn in half, from top to bottom. Most of the book of Hebrews emphasizes this point.

But that doesn’t mean we can take him lightly. He hasn’t lowered his standards of holiness one iota. He's still sovereign God, and we need to respect that.

And how would that be worked out on the practical level? If we’re supposed to “guard our steps” when we enter into worship, either alone or with others, what does that mean? Does it mean we cower in fear? Of course not. If I would summarize Solomon’s counsel on worship, it would all go under the heading of “listen a lot more than you talk.” And there are two good reasons for this.

First, it keeps you from a good amount of foolishness. Notice how the “the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong” is contrasted with listening. If you listen to God’s word, it’ll tell you where you’re screwing up. If you’re there to make noise, then you can’t be listening. As we see in Proverbs, if you talk long enough, eventually you'll say something foolish or even sinful. And if there’s an area of disobedience in your life, then God isn’t going to be impressed with your sacrifice. In fact, he detests them. This includes any money you put in the plate along with any prayers that you offer.

Second, it’ll keep you out of rash commitments. Naturally if the Lord is calling you to make some sacrifice for him, some act of service, then you’d best be doing it. But if you’re too busy talking and not listening, then you can end up making a promise that you can’t keep. And Solomon says that it’s better that you keep your mouth shut than to write checks you can’t cash. There could be some really bad consequences if you do that. If you make a vow to him, then you need to keep it.

Obviously this needs to be kept in context. Does God not want us to pray? Does he not want to hear from us? Of course he does. He told us to come to him and present our requests to him. That means speaking to him. But I find that’s it a very good thing to practice some silence when you come into his presence. Stop praying, stop talking, and listen to him. Read his word and let it soak into you. Stand (or sit) in awe of God for a few moments. Then talk.

Again, we need balance. We’re not coming like slaves before a harsh master, or like prisoners who are waiting for a condemnation from a judge. But we are coming before our Father who deserves respect, awe, and godly fear. Don’t be a fool.

Father, I’m so sorry for the times I’ve entered your presence with such casualness. So many times I need to follow Job’s example and slap my hand over my mouth. In fact, let me do that right now.

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