Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 Solomon now turns his attention to worship, an activity above the sun as opposed to his observations so far under the sun, that is in the human realm. He is calling his readers not make that study meaningless. Solomon tells his readers to take time to prepare for worship. How many of us do that. Getting a family ready for church can be a daunting task. Those involved in worship can be overwhelmed with preparations. Many just breath a sigh of relief once the service begins.
Solomon gives two principles that can prepare us inwardly for worship, however frenetic the outward preparations may have been. First, we need to recognize the holiness of God. To guard our steps is inwardly to obey the command given to Moses, ‘Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground’ (Exodus 3:5) or the warning Isaiah gives in Isaiah 1:12.
God is a Holy God and must be approached with reverence and fear. The worship of Israel taught this truth. The rites and rituals of Tabernacle and Temple worship were to demonstrate and call Israel to reverence and holiness. The day of worship taught this (Exodus 16:23; 20:8, 20:11), the place of worship (Exodus 26:33-34), the offerings (Leviticus 6:25-27), the priests (Leviticus 21:7) and the worshippers (2 Chronicles 20:21) were all to be holy before the Lord.
Jesus drove the money changers from the Temple courts (Matthew 21:12-17). Paul calls Believers to examine themselves before coming to the table of the Lord, lest they eat the bread and drink the cup ‘in an unworthy manner’ (1 Corinthians 11:27-28). The reverence and godly fear of Old Testament worship is reinforced in New Testament teaching (Hebrews 12:28-9). And, of course, overriding all of this is the command: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy’ (Leviticus 19:2).
Holiness begins with reverence towards the One we worship. It also means to be set apart for God. To be an instrument through whom God is worshipped and honored. In order to do this, the worshipper and his worship must be pure and sinless. How can we worship rightly if we do not make adequate preparation in our heart and life?
The second principle Solomon calls his readers is to acknowledge the authority of God. We are commanded to ‘draw near to listen’. Jesus explained the nature of true worship to the Samaritan woman, that it must be ‘in spirit and truth’ (John 4:24). True worship flows from the proclamation of God’s Word. Drawing near to hear involves listening for the voice of God as his Word is proclaimed faith to obey God comes from hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17).
If God’s Word is faithfully taught, then God will speak to his people. But it will only be heard if we have prepared our hearts to hear from Him. Jesus may have had these verses in mind when he told the story of the two who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14).
The emphasis in Ecclesiastes 5:2 is not to enter into worship in haste. Spirit led prayer is not going through a list. We have been cautioned by our Messiah about many empty words in prayer (Matthew 6:7-8). In Ecclesiastes 5:3 we see that When we come before God, seeking to put forth our agenda rather than the worship of God and seeking His will to be done we pray amiss. When we talk too much, we usually talk like fools. Many times silence can allow God to speak to our hearts so that we might pray rightly.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 – Solomon recorded this as well in his proverbs in Proverbs 20:25. Vows were an inherent part of Jewish worship. Worshipers committed themselves to offering of sacrifices, if God would grant their requests Jacob does so Genesis 28:20-22; as does Hannah 1 Samuel 1:11; so too David Psalm 132:2-5.
Promises usually flow from an encounter with God in worship and though His Word. But, we need to be careful, as Solomon warns it is ‘Better not to vow than to vow and not pay’ (Ecclesiastes 5:5). It seems that Solomon is telling his readers that many vows made to God are not necessary, but once made, must be kept. We see a tragic example of this in the rash words of Jephthah in Judges 11:29-40.
How many idle promises do we make to God? How many have we fulfilled? Jesus agreed with Solomon in Matthew 21:28-31. Peter was quick to say to ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you!’ (Matthew 26:35); yet it was not long before his words were proven meaningless (Matthew 26:69-75). The background for this verse is Numbers 15:22-31 which speaks that we do not just cause harm to ourselves but the entire community with our rash words or unfilled vows.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – Solomon recorded this as well in his Proverbserbs in Proverbs 20:25. Vows were an inherent part of Jewish worship. Worshippers committed themselves to offering of sacrifices, if God would grant their requests Jacob does so Genesis 28:20-22; as does Hannah 1 Samuel 1:11; so too David Psalm 132:2-5. Promises usually flow from an encounter with God in worship and though His Word. But, we need to be careful, as Solomon warns it is ‘Better not to vow than to vow and not pay’ (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
It seems that Solomon is telling his readers that many vows made to God are not necessary, but once made, must be kept. We see a tragic example of this in the rash words of Jephthah in Judges 11:29-40. How many idle promises do we make to God? How many have we fulfilled?
Jesus agreed with Solomon in Matthew 21:28-31. Peter was quick to say to ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you!’ (Matthew 26:35); yet it was not long before his words were Proven meaningless (Matthew 26:69-75). The background for this verse is Numbers 15:22-31 which speaks that we do not just cause harm to ourselves but the entire community with our rash words or unfilled vows.
This section ends with a reminder to respond to what God has shown us through His Word and His Spirit and not words that we dream up for ourselves. We should all have accountability partners that help us to examine our reactions to what God is revealing to us in His Word and His Spirit, so that we don’t deceive ourselves which we are prone to doing considering the nature of our hearts.
Ecclesiastes 5:8-10 – Solomon now turns to the reality of corruption and greed in government, to help his readers cope with the discouragement of living in a fallen world. He reflects God’s perspective as outlined in the Law, the Prophets, and the Proverbs, all of which condemn these practices. He seems to be describing how people use their position in government to exploit or be indifferent to the poor. Those who see it and do nothing are often as guilty as those involved.
As one U. S. government official once said, ‘The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.’ Solomon calls his readers to understand that God’s ultimate judgement will be on those who use their power to pervert justice (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 24:17). There is debate as to what was meant in the original Hebrew in interpreting Ecclesiastes 5:9.
On a positive note, it could mean, ‘In spite of a corrupt bureaucracy, there is still a king overruling the land.’ On the other hand, ‘Even the king himself is part of the corrupt system that feeds him. The one certain thing it does do is to acknowledge the reality of corruption in every area where one person has power over another. In light of the realities here in CBOT and all of our dealings in the business world of Chicago, we need to realize that there is One who is watching over it all and will bring to light all that is in darkness. The root of the problem is cited in Ecclesiastes 5:10.
Solomon was as wealthy as any multi billionaire of our generation. Money attracts money, as they say, even the Queen of Sheba brought wealth to Solomon. But there comes a point when money and power becomes so vast it is viewed by those who have it as meaningless. Perhaps this is why Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Ted Turner have given themselves to giving away their money to benefit others and put it to positive use. We would do well to heed the admonition given by Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:9-10.
Ecclesiastes 5:11-12 The result of the love of money is where Solomon goes next. John D. Rockefeller, who came to really understand wealth in light of the Lord was once asked ‘How much money does it take to satisfy a man?’ Rockefeller replied, ‘Just a little bit more than he has.’He understood the reality that as your wealth increases so to does your overhead and lifestyle. We can see this in Solomon’s lifestyle—his projects, marriages, servants, bodyguards consuming his fortune.
Elvis Presley was born in a two-roomed shack in Tupelo, Mississippi. He died in a mansion across the state line in Memphis, Tennessee from drugs that he took to maintain the lifestyle he became trapped in. This happened to Mike Tyson as well though it hasn’t killed him yet but has wrecked his life. In Ecclesiastes 5:12 there is a comparison of lifestyles.
One man exhausts himself physically, and whatever he eats is burned up in the process. He works hard but his simple life allows him to sleep well. The other man cannot sleep because he is driven, always trying to keep ahead of the market. His lifestyle has caused him not to be able to find the rest that God wants for His children. The only way real peace comes to any of us is if we come to the Lord – Matthew 6:25-33.
Ecclesiastes 5:13-17 – Wealth can bring anxiety as Solomon cites in Ecclesiastes 5:16; 6:2. When money is your focus you will never have enough especially if you hoard your money rather than understand that everything that we have is given to us as a trust from the Lord. A man must control greed in his mind before greed controls his mind (Proverbs 23:1-5). Many people work themselves into the ground to try and secure their future, but again we need to remember the theme of this book is “vanity” or emptiness.
Nothing is more vain or empty than loving money over the Lord. If you try and grasp hold of riches they will elude you. We need to understand the principle of the Dead Sea. Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are fed by the Jordan River but only the Sea of Galilee is alive and teams with fish because everything it receives from the Jordan it releases, either by the lower Jordan river or into the Israel water system. But the Dead Sea, since is the lowest point in the earth only releases what it receives by evaporation and so there is no life in the Dead Sea.
Hands that cling to the riches of this world will be empty in the grave. Solomon uses the term, ‘carry away in his hand’ meaning that material things will remain behind, but we do not leave this world empty, but we will receive our heavenly treasures which have been sent on ahead Luke 12:21-34; Psalm 49:10-12. The stress and anxiety produced by the lust for prosperity is ‘laboring for the wind’. It will inevitably take its toll on health and happiness and even your eternal destiny (Mark 10:25; Matthew 13:22; Luke 18:18-23).
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 Solomon’s conclusion here is great wisdom. Wealth is not evil. The root of the problem is in the attitude of the heart and mind. His words serve as a reminder that all that we have is a gift from the Lord, created and provided by him. Deuteronomy 8:18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
In the previous section wealth was viewed from an ‘under the sun’ perspective now the Solomon considers in the light of God’s sovereign hand and sees it in a different light. He now goes on to tell us what he has seen. Nothing has materially changed but the attitude towards it has! Happiness comes when we recognize that all we possess belongs to God, because it comes from God. He even gives us the life in which we can possess things!
Like all his creation, His gifts are good. The wise man enjoys God’s gifts. This passage contrasts the lost wealth in Ecclesiastes 5:13-17. Both scenarios are experienced by most of us and describe wealth from two very different perspectives: “riches” clung to which is lost, (Ecclesiastes 5:14) as opposed to “riches” “given” and entrusted by God, which brings joy (Ecclesiastes 5:19). Both involve work, but in the first case it brings no profit (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16), and in the latter he is able “to enjoy the blessings from his labor” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19).
A reminder of Paul’s admonition to Timothy 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Here in Chicago we have a testimony of a man who had a right perspective on money. In 1831, Cyrus McCormick, an American farmer, invented a mechanical harvester. Six years later he went bankrupt. He lost his farm and everything he owned was put up for sale, with the exception of one item—his recent invention—which was deemed to be worthless by his creditors. In 1840 it went on sale, making him a multi-millionaire! But McCormick saw the need for a greater harvest and used part of his fortune to promote the evangelistic ministry of D. L. Moody.