Message Text: Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
We’ve grown accustomed to Solomon calling all these different life pursuits “meaningless”: wealth, pleasure, entertainment, education, notoriety or fame. He also says that through all the life seasons, it’s better having a friend or friends to do life with. That in itself brings meaning, especially if they’re God-honoring friends. And now, in so many words, Solomon turns to another topic – the spiritual life and worship. He’s calling worship and religion, as he currently saw it being practiced, as "meaningless" as well. Even worship is meaningless to the one who refuses to acknowledge or honor God.
Here in Ecclesiastes 5, Solomon has been looking at people who are coming to the temple that he built in Jerusalem. It took him 7 years and 183,000 workers to get it done. Solomons palace was close to the temple. He could watch people come and go. Solomon was taking notes on why people go to temple (or church in our day).
A trip to Solomon’s temple would have been a multi-sensory experience. It was a multi-sensory experience with smells, sights, sacrifices, sounds. All of this was to bring the worshipper to a place of surrender and obedience to a right view of God and a right attitude toward His Word. And then, they could leave refreshed and transformed and prepared to then offer the greatest act of worship which was and still is - life change. You went to temple and worship so that you could make these internal adjustments inside of you that nobody else can see – you gave God his place, you surrendered stuff, you laid down your burdens, you got the inside of you recalibrated toward God. You were comforted in your trouble. You were part of something bigger than you and this world. However, Solomon feels that most people were going to temple or to church – to cut some kind of deal with God.
There was a buffer for your soul in Solomon’s time, a place to recognize the toxins in your system, and to surrender them to God. You went to the temple, to church for a soul and life reset. That’s what the Temple was about. But Solomon said in so many words “Even this is meaningless, because instead of surrender and obedience to truth, the people are trying to manipulate God. And I think I know why. The number one thing that will wreck our soul: a feeling that God has reneged on His end of the deal. You’re going to see the people double down on their promises to God and make vows and commitments in Ecclesiastes 5, many of which they know they won’t keep, so God will be obligated to do for them what they want. “I kept my end of the bargain but God didn’t keep His end.” That thinking sends us into a spiritual wilderness.
How is your soul? FOUR SOUL-CARE STRATEGIES… They will guide you through and out of the spiritual wilderness. These STRATEGIES are really WAYS to deepen your relationship with God because you have a healthy respect for God. Solomon calls it the "fear of God". Sometimes, the key to a passage is found at the beginning of the front door of the passage; sometimes it’s tucked away in the middle on a shelf, and sometimes the key comes at the end. Today, the key is found at the end. Two words: fear God.
The best advice I've heard that has kept me stable in chaotic times - strategies for soul-care and time in the wilderness - is as follows:
1) Acknowledge your God. Stand in awe of Him and fear Him.
2) Take your step. Take the next right step… toward God and His community (v.1)
3) Watch your mouth. Stay calm. Form a buffer from distraction and noise (v. 2-3)
4) Keep your word. Maintain a schedule of your commitments and promises (v. 4-5)
5) Learn your lesson. Stay centered and grounded (v.6-7)
So on one hand, we have a duty to respect God with a healthy, robust respect that doesn’t just barge in like we own the place. But then when we read about what Christ has done, we can barge in when we are afraid or upset or when we’ve given parts of the bracelet away that we never should have. Jesus makes that possible. Have you been avoiding God because of an unhealthy fear of Him? A fear that He would never accept you. Based on the righteousness of Jesus all you have to do is admit that you're not good enough on your own and accept the Lord’s work on your behalf.