Reverence for God

1Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be h asty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

4When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. 6Do no t let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7Much dreaming and many words are meaningl ess. Therefore stand in awe of God.

Solomon ended the previous chapter with a story about the fickleness of men in their allegiance to their kings. In this section, Solomon warns against such fickleness regarding our relationship with God, as he speaks on the revere nce due God. Solomon starts with a warning against meaningless worship: "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong" (vs. 1). Solomon, of course, supervised the construction of the house of God. He also apparently watched and noted the behavior of those who went there to worship. He found that some were robbing God of the reverence and honor that He deserves. Their hea rts and/or minds were not taking part in their worship: their bodies were merely going through the motions. This was "the sacrifice of fools". They did not even understand that they were "doing wrong". They thoug ht that bodily going through the motions of worship was enough. They felt they deserved a pat on the back for their "sacrifice of fools".

Solomon advises to "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God." Do not go frivolously; make sure your heart is prepared. Make sure you understand properly what the worship of God means: "Go nea r to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools." An accurate understanding of the things of God is crucial for effectual worship. Many remain unaffected at worship services because they do not truly understand the things of Go d and thus, are unable to contemplate who God is and are unable to appreciate all that God has done for them. "Go near to listen", so that you may hear of the righteousness and holiness of God. "Go near to listen", so that you may hear of the power and majesty of God. "Go near to listen", so that you may know and understand the love of God. He has given His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins, so that we may dwell with Him in paradise. Oh, the love of God! Meditate upon His love, and your worship of Him will thrive.

Secondly, Solomon warns against carelessness while praying: "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A s a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words" (vss. 2–3). When we pray, we must remember who we are praying to––the Lord of the Universe––and show Him the reverence He deserves. As Jesus taug ht: "When you pray, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matt. 6:7). Some would think that they are being holy if they repeat the Lord’s prayer over and over and over, bu t to do so is to "babble like pagans". To do so is also to insult the intelligence of God, for what intelligent being would delight in the endless repetition of a rote prayer. An abundance of words does not make up for a lack of de votion.

Also, our prayers should not be impromptu utterances of just anything that comes into our heads. Instead, they should be heart-felt, well chosen words. It is right and proper to pause and meditate during prayer, and to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to our hearts what we ought to pray (see Rom. 8:26–27). "Do not be quick with your mouth" to utter foolish prayers for worldly desires, but listen to what the Spirit would have you pray. Hastily uttered prayers are, at best, a waste of time, and at worst, they can lead to a lack of faith that God answers our prayers. James teaches us that unanswered prayers are our own fault: "You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, yo u do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:2–3). "How much of our own spirit mingles with our intercourse with God!... Whence all thy waverings in prayer––thy d iscomfort after prayer––conscious of having dealt with God, yet not prevailed? Is it not this? The mind has thought and lips have moved––without the Spirit. Better be silent altogether, than run [through the] motions" [Bridges, 101–102]. We must remember, as Solomon reminds us, that "God is in heaven and [we] are on earth" (vs. 2). He can see through our frivolousness. We must carefully weigh our words when we, frail "earth"ly creatures that we are, approach our Father in heaven.

Lastly, Solomon warns against rash vows: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not l et your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God" (vss. 4–7). God, in His Law, does not require His people to make vows. God has, however, provided His people with rules concerning vows in order to give them the opportunity to express their devotion to Him through vows, if they fe el led to do so: "If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth" (Deut. 23:21–23).

Many people make vows when they are in dire straits, or undergoing extreme trials. They pray to God, "Oh Lord, if you get me out of this, I will do such and such..." This is an improper use of vows. By making a vow in such a situation, they are implying that God needs to be paid in order to answer prayers. Thus, they are misunderstanding and misrepresenting the love of God, and the care that He has for His people. Vows are to be made to God under no sense of duress, so that they may be made "freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth."

Under no circumstances should you make a vow to God that you cannot or will not carry out. Unfulfilled vows are detrimental to one’s spiritual growth, as well as being unlawful. Through unfulfilled vows, "the soul is rat her ensnared than helped, and the enemy gains an advantage even in the very posture of resistance" [Bridges, 106]. So, vows to God should be very rarely made. "We have burdens and infirmities enough pressing upon us. Let us be careful th at we do not rashly or needlessly multiply them... For are we not bound by direct, sacred, and constraining obligation to consecrate to the Lord all that we are––all that we have––all that we can do––independent of an extra bond ?" [Bridges, 106].

Solomon teaches: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it" (vs. 4). The dedication to a vow usually diminishes with time. It is best to fulfill a vow without delay. Delaying will not help the situation: the vow will not go away. To make a vow that you do not fulfill is foolish and, in Solomon’s words: "[God] has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow" (vs. 4). Of course, "it is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it" (vs. 5). Often, an unfulfilled vow is yet another instance of our loose lips getting us into trouble. Solomon warns: "Do not let your mouth lead you into sin" (vs. 6). Then, he says that making e xcuses will not get us out of our vow: "And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake’" (vs. 6). Many do a similar thing today. They make a rash vow to God, and later regret it. Then, they visit their pastor a nd want him to find some loophole in God’s law to get them out of fulfilling their vow. They themselves do not want to bear the responsibility of not fulfilling their vow; they want their pastor to tell them they do not have to fulfill it. This is wrong. Fulfill your vow.

In conclusion, Solomon gives a remedy to making the aforementioned mistakes concerning our relationship to God. The remedy to these things is a living faith: "Therefore stand in awe of God" (vs. 7). Forget not t hat God is the Supreme Lord of the Universe, the Creator of the Universe, who is all-wise, all-knowing, all-righteous, and all-holy. He alone is worthy of our praise. Needless to say, He deserves the utmost respect and reverence. To be aware of th ese things is the first step in practicing the right and proper worship of God.

Home | Previous Article | Next Article | Back Iss ues | Contents | Complete Index | Mailing List

To contact us:

ssper@aol.com