Dr. Ed Young - Finding the Answer
Ecclesiastes is a very bright book. It is bright because it is written under the dazzling background of darkness, and that darkness is death. You read Ecclesiastes, and Solomon is always couching everything under the background of death. And he asks over and over again, in many, many ways, "What is life for under the sun"? He asks, "What does your life mean"? And by the way, it's interesting to observe as you read Ecclesiastes, he talks in general terms, and then he talks about, "I, I, I".
Remember when he said how narcissistic Solomon is? "I, I, I, I, I, I," But we come to the 5th chapter, which we're going to look at, and he says: "You," second person singular, he says, "You". He changed from, "I, I, I," and general kind of teaching to, "You". He makes it very pointed, and the question he keeps asking is, "What does your life mean? What difference does your life make under the sun? What are you here for? What can you and I do in this life that has not only meaning now, but meaning 100 years or 1,000 years that will have any significance in all of eternity"? And he keeps asking that question, and it's a very uncomfortable question. But, folks, that question is the greatest question that can be asked, the most important, significant question that we have to face. "What are you here for"?
Now we come to the 5th chapter of Ecclesiastes, and here we see Solomon takes on a whole new characteristic. And it's stunning, but we see now Solomon, I think, goes back to the early years of his life. He was a young man, discipled by a godly man, a godly prophet. How he became king. How he built the temple. How he dedicated the temple. How he prayed in the temple. How he brought sacrifices to the temple. How he studied the Word and obeyed the Word. But now he's an old man, and he didn't finish well. All of a sudden, he'd married all these women from all over the world for so-called, "Political reasons". And now they've brought all their pagan altars into Israel. All these mice had come, and now he'd moved away from God. And we see that, incidentally, in a little interesting thing.
Don't miss this. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the Hebrew word that is used for God is usually "Elohim," which is just a pedestrian word. It's just a reference to God in a general sense. The covenant word for God in the Bible, mentioned 500 times, it's an interesting word. It's the word "Jehovah" or "Yahweh". In other words, Solomon writes, knowing that somehow he had drifted away from having a covenant with God. What does it mean to have a covenant with God, this word that is used? It means there is an understanding of grace. It means there is a hope that the Messiah would come and change this world. You see, that's the covenant relationship God has with Israel, and those are the words. Solomon does not use that word. He knows somehow he has moved out from under the covenant, the protection, the umbrella of Almighty God, so he does not use the word "Yahweh" or "Jehovah".
Interesting, isn't it? But he comes her and tells us, "Let me tell you about worship". He built the temple. He knew about worship. His dad, David, who had experienced so powerfully the grace of God, was a man after God's own heart. He knew worship. Solomon had worshiped, and now he tells us in these seven verses, follow me carefully, how to worship and how not to worship. That's big, isn't it? Did you know one of the things that distinguishes us from animals is that we can worship? Animals can't worship. We can worship. We're made in the image of God. We can call upon God. We can know God. The human beings, we have the capacity to worship, awe to God. He tells us, first of all, how to worship.
Look at it, verse 1, chapter 5: "Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen". In other words, when you came to church this morning to worship, did you guard your steps? Before you came, did you pray, "Lord, speak to me today. Lord, I need a word from you today. Come and tabernacle among us today". Did you come with expectation? Did you come that a hope in God would break through and heal, restore, in form, guide, bring you through this dark place, or lift you up in the place of opportunity you're in so you'll maximize your life? Did you come praying? That's what he's saying. "Guard your steps when you go in the of God". Don't go into church casually or flat-footed.
Anticipation, you see, for worship to take place, not only must there be testimony in word and song and the teaching of the Book, but there has to be those who receive, those who come with open minds, open hearts, wanting to feel the touch, the reality of the living God, see? It's a twofold way. And he says, "We come to listen. We come to listen. We draw near to listen". That's the first, he says, "This is how you worship". You could sit in a pew, go through the motions, check all the box, "I went to church. It was okay," and say, "Boy, you know, he didn't perform as good today". But you see, we come and say, "Lord Jesus, I need your Word. Let your Spirit come and bring my life into reality with you. I wanna catch fire, have meaning, significance, and confidence, hope".
All of that happens in worship, private worship, and corporate worship like we engaged in now. Come in tiptoe. Come with great expectancy. "Come near and listen". And then he tells us how not to worship. And look, these are strong, strong words. They're a little frightening to me as I kept looking at them. He says, "Rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; as they do not know they are doing evil". In other words, phony worship, foolish worship, it is coming like a fool to church, coming like a fool when you do your quiet time, coming like a fool. And he says, "When you come as a hypocrite, without sincerity, look what happens". He says, "It's not just not a good thing to do". He said, "It is an evil thing to do".
Ladies and gentlemen, it is absolutely dangerous to go to church. It's a ferocious thing. It's a frightening thing. It's an overwhelming thing to go and say, "I'm going to worship," and not worship. It is the worship or the sacrifice of fools. And then he tells us exactly, precisely what the sacrifice, what phony, hypocritical worship is all about. Look what he says first of all in verse 2. He says: "Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth". What is he saying? He said, "Fools worship foolishly, engage in foolish worship when we forget who God is". We forget who God is.
I had a member of the staff once in a meeting said, "Oh, we need to have a come-to-Jesus movement". Let me tell you something. I don't like that terminology. No, no, no, we use Christ as an expletive, of all things. We gotta remember who God is. Who is God? He is omniscient, he's all-knowing. There's no thought we've ever had, no emotion we've ever experienced, nothing we've ever done or said or not done that he doesn't know about. You don't have any secrets from God. I don't have any secrets from God. He's omniscient, he's all-knowing. He is omnipotent. He is all-powerful. He speaks, and it happens, all-powerful. Whew, this is who God is. He's omnipresent, he's present everywhere. That's the reason I'm always sort of uneasy when somebody with a pious twang in their voice says, "Lord Jesus Christ, we welcome you and your Holy Spirit in this place".
Let me tell ya, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is already there, anytime, anywhere, any place, anywhere you go. He is omnipotent. He is omniscient. He is omnipresent. Don't have to invite him. He's already there. So we have to understand worship, worship. And then he would say that worship has to transform areas of your life. A number of years ago, it just stands out in my mind, I got up and I had my quiet time. I was in the Word. It's one of those times when heaven opens, you know, and God speaks. And I guess I cried and I confessed and he came close and I was inspired, and it was one of those mountaintop moments, you know, you have, not every day. It was just a mountaintop moment, and I went in and ate breakfast with Jo Beth and the kids, and I went and got dressed in my suit, and I just was walking out, and I kissed Jo Beth, and I went out, and she said, "Would you mind takin' out the trash"?
And I wanted to say, "Yeah, I mind," but I didn't. And I went back and I got the trash, knowing that my oldest son had walked by that trash four times already that morning, and he hadn't even made up his bed. I'm sure of that. But I went back to get the trash, and there were some... it wasn't tied up with one of the little tie things then, you know? And I saw some old apples there. By the way, while I'm here, let me tell ya one of my pet peeves. One pet peeve is when people park over the line and take two places. That just, I think that oughtta be capital punishment. But I've got a greater pet peeve than that. That is those little sticky things they put on fruit.
Whatever government regulation brought that to bear, they oughtta go to jail forever. And they put 'em on evidently with permanent glue. I mean, it's unbelievable. What in the world does that do? Can anybody tell me? No, it's some gimmick, some company that... I'd love to be the guy that makes those little sticky things they put on all the fruit in America. Anyway, back to the trash. And I got all the trash together, and I put it on, and it was full, and I take it out. And I remember I got to slam dunk it outside in the trash thing, and some of it came out on my pants, and Jo Beth says, "We've got another one". Boy, I went stormin' back in there, and I got that other one, and I went out and this was the guy who just a little bit before in the holy of holies of prayer, this is a guy who is covered in shekinah, takin' out trash.
You see, my problem then, and many times since, and probably yours is we don't transfer our worship to how we live, how we think, what we do, because worship is to transform your life and my life and the mundane things as well as the big, big things that we encounter, is it not? So he says, "We are fools engaged in foolish worship when we forget him with whom we are dealing with, him whom we are worshiping". And then he says to us, the second thing involved here about foolish worship, the sacrifice of fools. Look at it, verse 3, he says: "For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words". You are a fool engaged in foolish worship, and I am when our worship is filled with words and dreams.
We go to God and we've got our agenda, "God, let me tell you what I believe you need to say to me, and I wanna make this deal with you. And God, God, God," and we talk, and we talk, and we have all our dreams and our aspirations and what we think and what we know and how we cut a special deal with God and we just talk, when God wants to say somethin' to you and me, when in the world is he going to say it, even when we're trying to worship, when our mind and our tongues are just babbling? You have an appointment with Bill Gates, oh. And you sit down with Mr. Gates and said, "Mr. Gates, I wanna tell you what I think about the Internet, about the computer industry, and about IT," and you spend all your time telling him what you know about the iPhone and all the rest of us, and you walk... is that stupid?
Man, you were the man who started some of this. Or down with Albert Einstein, "Dr. Einstein, I had a course in physics when I was in high school, and I wanna tell you what I have figured out about this physical..." You're with Albert Einstein. Is that insane? We are with God. He might wanna say somethin' to us, speak a word. But we're just talkin' about dreams, and we quote Scripture to God. I never understand that. Sometimes we just wait and be still. Elijah wanted to meet with God. Man, he'd had a tough time, had a victory, now he was depressed. He's in a cave. He said, "Oh, God, I need a word from you". He needed to worship, and boy, here comes a tornado, winds blowing. And he said, "Boy, God is gonna be in this tornado. I know he's gonna speak to me in this mighty tornado". But the Bible says, "The Lord didn't say a word to him". Huh, huh, tornado, God didn't speak.
And then there was the earthquake. Man, the earth begins to separate, it's rattling. That'll get your attention. Surely, God is going to speak to his Prophet Elijah in the earthquake, but God didn't say a word. Then there was a fire. Oh, that's how God speaks. Here's a giant fire. In the middle of the fire, God is gonna really zap Elijah and say the word that he needs. God wasn't in the fire. Then the Bible says, "God spoke the way he usually speaks, a still small voice". We're fools engaged in foolish worship when we just spend that time battling around.
Maybe God wants to say something to you and me. Let's learn how to still and quiet ourselves so he can speak, okay? And then he talks about another kind of fools who engage in foolish worship, this foolish sacrifice. And look at it. It starts in verse 4. He said: "When you make a vow to the Lord, do not be late in paying it; for he takes no delight in fools". And he talks about vows. Have you ever said to God, "God, if I get a good report on this health situation, I'm going to..."? Or, "I'm going to start"? Or, "I'm going to stop"? Made promises to God; he takes that seriously, yeah. You see, if I tell you something, I want to keep my word. If I tell God something, I certainly wanna keep my word. It's a vow. We made a vow when we got married, a vow. We know Jonah made a vow at the temple, "Oh, Lord, I'll serve you". But God said, "I've got an assignment for you, Jonah. I want you to go to Nineveh". Jonah says, "I hate those Ninevites".
So he runs and heads out for Tarshish. You know the story. He's shipwrecked. He's thrown over the sea. He's swallowed by a giant fish, remember? And he's living in that fish. And I love this passage. It says, "He was in the fish three days and three nights, and then he prayed". I don't believe it'd have taken me that long. That's how far he got away. And his prayer is tremendous, but he ends up by saying, "I will keep the vow that I made to serve you, to go where you want me to go". He ends up in Nineveh and has one of the greatest turnings to God that you see in all of history, and the sorriest sermon he preached there you've ever heard: "Repent, or 40 days, you've had it". I mean, that doesn't have any glamour to it, does it? But they came to Christ, amazing.
Keep your word to God. You say, "Well, God is a God of grace, a God of forgiveness. You know, he'll forgive me when I break my word". Go back to that vow. Let me tell you something. God's love and God's grace is not gonna bail us time and time again until, first of all, we meet the next thing that we read here in our Scripture, and that is genuine worship. It's found in that 7th verse, and it's so clear: "For in many dreams and many words there is emptiness". Worship of fools, forgot who God is. Worship of fools, many words. Worship of fools, "I made these vows to God and I didn't keep them". But now he said, "Let me tell ya how you worship me". He says, "Fear God," "Fear God". Listen, God is holy, ladies and gentlemen. All this pedestrianism, this, "Somebody up there likes me". "Oh, God is so sweet".
And listen, the fear of God is where we begin, our awesome God. He's Abba to be sure, but also he is a God not to be trifled with. That's our God. You read Moses there. He was a shepherd. He walked by that burning bush. He said, "There's a bush that's on fire that's not being consumed. I'm going to go over there and see what's happening". And he went toward the bush and God speaks and says, "Moses, take off your shoes. You're on holy ground". And it says that Moses hid his face in fear. It's not a fear of bodily harm, that lightning's gonna strike us, but it is a fear of deep conviction of where we are with him. You see, if there's active sin in your life and my life, you can go to church, give to church, sing, praise, solo, preach sermons. You can do everything in the world, but God's not gonna deal with you and me until we get clean with him.
So it begins so many times with confession and repentance, does it not? Confession and repentance. The fear of God, that's where we begin, an awesome God, a loving God, a triumphant God, a caring God, a God who came down to this earth to meet us exactly where we are in Jesus Christ. That is the God whom we are to worship. This is how you worship. This is how you do not worship. You begin with the fear, the reverence to a holy God. The word "fan" in the original Latin means, "passionate devotion to God".
Isn't that something? A fan, passionately devoted to God. And that's what we are to become as worshipers. We're to be fans of God, celebrate him, love him, listen to him. Don't offer the sacrifice, the worship of fools, but go to him in openness and let him touch and deal and lead and heal and forgive. We are to be fans of him. And what the bottom line here is, how are we to worship him? Wholeheartedly, wholeheartedly, we're to love the Lord our God with all our strength, with all of our power, with all of our might, with our mind, with our souls, with the whole shootin' match of your life and my life, wholeheartedly. How do you land this plane?
I think we land it in a psalm that pretty well sums all of this up, the 100th Psalm: "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord, he is God. It is he that hath made us and not we ourselves. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates," come into church, "with thanksgiving, into his courts with praise. Be thankful unto him and bless his name, for the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations". That is wholehearted worship, and it sums up these verses as well as they can be summed up. Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen. We learn to worship like that, just a little bit of that, wholehearted worship as fans of the Lord God Almighty, it will absolutely change our lives.