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The Scriptorium

Before God

Ecclesiastes 5.1

1Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.

The Story:Solomon injects a brief interlude (vv. 1-7) of instructions concerning how one should comport himself in the presence of God. This is an “under the heavens” section, even though that familiar phrase is not employed. The key idea in this verse, which sets the tone for the section, seems to be that in the presence of God we should position ourselves as more inclined to hear something from God than to do something for Him. The “fool” goes through the motions of worship, offering sacrifices and observing prescribed rituals, but he has no idea whatsoever concerning what he is doing. Because of this his worship is not only not acceptable, it’s downright evil in the eyes of God (cf. Ps. 50.16-23). The point of this summary verse seems to be: Before God, be a seeker, a listener, a receiver of His instruction before you assay to do anything in His Name. True religion is grounded in revelation, not in man’s best efforts to please God.

The Structure:You can’t pretend with God. He simply won’t have it. But this is the way far too many people conduct their religious life – offering things to G­od and thinking that He’s pleased with their efforts. Churches include both sincere worshipers and those for whom religion is more a cultural activity than an expression of genuine piety (Ps. 50). By inserting this “under the heavens” interlude at this point, Solomon is accomplishing two things: First, he provides sound instruction concerning how to approach God; second, he warns that anything other than this is just one more example of fraud and wrongdoing. Thus he gives Rehoboam – and us – an opportunity to orient ourselves properly.

How well do you understand all the different components of worship that you go through each week?

Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Approaching God: Ecclesiastes 5,” simply click here.


T. M. Moore

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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