“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,” says the Preacher (Ecclesiastes 5:1). Ecclesiastes is an immensely profitable Old Testament book that is also widely neglected by believers today. Therefore, I was thrilled when I learned one of our church’s small groups was studying the book this year. The study guide each person in the growth group reads during the week is Philip Ryken’s commentary. Here’s a few thoughts from Ryken that are good for us to think about on a Saturday night.
“The context [of the above exhortation] is that of a worshiper walking into the house of God, the holy sanctuary. In the days of Solomon, ‘the house of God’ would have been the temple in Jerusalem, but what he says applies to any sacred place that is set aside for the worship of God. As we go to worship, the Preacher is telling us to watch our step! There is a right way and a wrong way to enter the courts of thanksgiving and the gates of praise.
The right way to approach God in worship is to come with our ears wide-open. The Preacher assumes that when people go to the house of God, there will be something for them to hear. That ‘something’ is the Word of the living God. The house of God is a place for the reading and the preaching of the Word of God. So the first questions we need to ask ourselves as we prepare for worship are: Am I ready to listen to the voice of God? Is my heart open to spiritual instruction? Are my ears attentive to the message I will hear from the Bible?”
“The trouble, of course, is that it is hard for us to listen. So many other voices clamor for our attention. Even when we enter a quiet place for worship, the noise of the surrounding culture is still ringing in our ears. It is easy to let our thoughts wander, but hard for us to hear the voice of God. Like headless chickens, sometimes we go through the motions of worship without ever getting our minds engaged. It is better to listen, the Preacher says, making another one of his wise comparisons. It is not just a little better for us to listen to the Word of God but totally better.”