“Worship” – Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

December 1st, 2013     First Sunday in Advent

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

“Worship”

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  . . .  declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”— Isaiah 66:2

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 1) The house of God (GNB temple) may refer to any place where God reveals himself (cf. Gn 28:17, 22), including the tabernacle (Ex 23:19, etc.) or other Israelite sanctuaries (cf. Jdg 18:31).  Pagan shrines were also ‘houses’ of the deity concerned (Jdg 9:27; 1 Sm 5:5).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 97)
  • The imperative here as throughout 5:1-7 is singular.  If the Teacher is addressing a group, he is dealing with them one by one to put responsibility for prudent piety on the shoulders of each person.  “Fear” encapsulates the proper attitude toward prayers, sacrifices, and vows whose true meaning had been so badly mangled by foolish, half-hearted worshipers.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 135)

 

The question to be answered is . . . After getting us to realize what life would be like under the sun (without God) why does Koheleth now shift his attention to proper worship of God?

 

Answer:  Now that we have become familiar with the fact that only life under the Son (with God) can we enjoy purpose, meaning, significance, justice, work, relationships, etc., it only makes sense that we are now (maybe for the first time in our lives) in a position to sincerely worship the One who allows us to enjoy life that is truly life (1 Tm 6:19).

 

“Many go to church.  Few go to worship.” (James P. Gills, M.D., The Dynamics of Worship, 132)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Worship

 

Worship Defined:

Worship is the work of acknowledging the greatness of our covenant Lord.  (John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 1)

 

Worship is an outward expression of what we value most.   (Derived from Ligon Duncan;  5 Keys to Spiritual Growth, Ligonier Ministries)

 

Worship is expressing our love to God for who he is, what he’s said, and what he’s doing.  (Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Church, 240)

William Temple’s definition of worship:  “ To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open up the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”  (R. Kent Hughes;  Preaching the Word Acts: The Church Afire, 349)

 

Worship = a recognition of your desperate need for God.

 

True worship gives God center stage.

 

Koheleth (the writer of Ecclesiastes) tells us that proper worship involves:                 

I.  Proper preparation well before you even begin to worship.  (Eccl 5:1a)

 

Sometimes when the worshiper departs to complain, the problem is with the worshiper.  But, frankly, sometimes it’s the worship.  One Christian related that one of his biggest childhood disappointments came one day when he saw a huge tent in a field and thought a circus was in town.  He excitedly walked in the tent only to discover it was a revival meeting.  Then he added, “One of the biggest disappointments of my adult like came one day when I went to church expecting a revival and discovered it was just a circus.”  (Bob Russell; When God Builds a Church, 51)

 

Henri Nouwen once asked Mother Teresa for spiritual direction.  Spend one hour each day in adoration of your Lord, she said, and never do anything you know is wrong.   Follow this, and you’ll be fine.  Such simple, yet profound advice.  Worship is the act of the abandoned heart adoring its God.  It is the union that we crave.  Few of us experience anything like this on a regular basis, let alone for an hour each day.  But it is what we need.   Desperately.  Simply showing up on Sunday is not even close to worship.   Neither does singing songs with religious content pass for worship.   What counts is the posture of the soul involved, the open heart pouring forth its love towards God and communing with him.  It is a question of desire. (John Eldredge; The Journey of Desire, 177)

 

Fruitful and acceptable worship begins before it begins.  So our passage commences with the demeanor of the worshiper on his way to the house of God.  He is to keep his foot; that is, to go deliberately, thoughtfully, with realization of what he is about to do.  He is to ‘draw near to hear’ and to bethink himself, while drawing near, of what his purpose should be.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 351)

 

The heaviest rain runs off parched ground, unless it has been first softened by a gentle fall of moisture.  Hearts that have no dew of previous meditation to make them receptive are not likely to drink in much of the showers of blessing which may be falling round them.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 652)

 

No matter how much we frequent the house of God, if we go with unprepared minds and hearts we shall remain ignorant, and because we are so, our sacrifices will be ‘evil.’  If the winnowing fan of this principle were applied to our decorous congregations, who dress their bodies for church much more carefully than they do their souls, what a cloud of chaff would fly off!  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 352-53)

 

Making sure you recognize Christ’s presence in church each Sunday (Some suggested ideas to help you get ready).

During the week:

*I have mentally determined that Sunday morning with Christ in his church will be the high point of my week.

*I have learned what the main text of the sermon will be and have meditated on that passage.

*I have prepared myself to sing God’s praises by reading through the hymns chosen for the service.

*I have carefully considered the offering I want to present to the Lord with gladness.

*I have prayed about inviting a friend who would benefit from being with me in Christ’s presence.

On Saturday:

*I have asked Christ to make me sensitive tomorrow to the needs of people in the body who are hurting.

* I have solved the “Sunday clothes hassle” by making sure that what I will wear is ready today.

* I have spent time in confession so all will be right between myself and my Lord when we meet tomorrow.

* I have determined to get to bed early so I will be refreshed and ready for church tomorrow.

* I have planned on sustaining the delight of this time with Christ and his people by guarding against Sunday afternoon infringements.

On Sunday:

*I have gotten up in plenty of time so I will not feel rushed.

*I have programmed my morning so I will not just arrive at church on time, but get there early.

*I have eaten a good breakfast, so an empty stomach will not detract from my worship.

*I have my Bible in hand plus a pen and paper for taking notes.

*I have left for church with a great sense of expectancy because I know Christ will be there.  (Karen Burton Mains, Making Sunday Special, 109)

 

II.  Remembering you are coming before the God of the Universe who is sovereign, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  What could you possibly say or do that would begin to impress Him?  Let your words be few. (Eccl 5:1b-2; see also: Job 36:22-23; Isa 29:13; ch 40; 55:8-9; Jer 23:18; Mt 5:33-37; 15:8-9; Lk 8:18; 11:28; Rom 11:32-36; 1 Thes 2:13; Heb 4:2; Jas 1:19; 5:12)

 

Revising worship services to make them more emotional and entertaining can only teach the congregation subjectivity and spiritual hedonism.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” writes the Apostle Paul, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).  This text alone is enough to shoot down the argument that the church must change according to prevailing social trends.   “The pattern of this world” is not to determine church ministry.    (Gene Edward Veith Jr.; Postmodern Times, 228)

 

Today we act as if casualness (in worship) is the height of intimacy with God and that is not what the Bible presents at all.  (Mark Dever  “Worship in Spirit and Truth” from 5 Keys to Spiritual Growth series from Ligonier Ministires).

 

True religion is grounded in revelation, not in man’s best efforts to please God.  -T. M. Moore

 

This is a warning to people today who think they can fool God in similar ways.  They might feel they can disregard his stern decrees about cheating, cursing, drunkenness or divorce.  To appease God they become active members at church and contribute generously of money and time.  This is “the sacrifice of fools.”  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 49)

 

We earthbound creatures need to remember we are dealing with our almighty Father in heaven.  We can be honest with him.  We can’t fool him with a lot of empty words.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 50)

 

A fool is someone who glibly utters naive, ingenuous, and usually false things.  What the Searcher clearly has in mind here is that human tendency to complain and murmur about what has been handed us in life.  When we grouse about our circumstances we are really complaining against God.  We are murmuring against the choice God has made in His wonderful plan for our life.

We will never learn to enjoy anything by complaining.  We will not even enjoy our pleasures, let alone our pain.  So, he says, “Listen carefully,” for among the people of God the truth of God is being declared; the wisdom of God is being set forth.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 70)

 

The phrase “sacrifice of fools” probably refers to fruitless and irrelevant talk (cf. v. 2-3, 7; 1 Kgs 18:25-29; Mt 6:7).  Solomon is telling us to close our mouths and open our ears as we prepare for worship.  God speaks to us through the music, prayer, and sermon.  But we will not hear Him if our vocal cords are working overtime.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 49)

 

Solomon’s exhortation to us is:  Don’t daydream; stop churning; be calm. Ps 46:10a expresses this thought well when it says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”  We need to let go of our concerns, anxieties, and preoccupations when we enter into the Lord’s presence.  We are commanded to do this not simply so we can hear God and know Him better, but also because He hears our inner thoughts as well as our spoken words.  His heavenly perspective enables Him to penetrate and expose all that we think, say, and do.  So we need to guard our actions, words, and thoughts and listen attentively to what the Lord has to say to us.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 50)

 

Apparently the people took a mechanical attitude toward the sacrifices which God had commanded.  They were offering them in huge volume and with great attention to detail.  But they were missing the deeper meaning, the key purpose, of those animal offerings.  Listening to God is better than sacrifice was the Preacher’s word to them.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 131)

 

“The sacrifice of fools” was empty sacrifice, going through the ritual but missing its meaning.  What was the basic purpose of the offerings that God required?  It was communion with God expressed by “hear,” which means virtually to obey, and “draw near,” which frequently describes the intimacy between God and those who go to him for worship and fellowship (Dt 5:27; Ps 34:18; 85:9; 1 Kgs 8:59).  Therefore, the sacrifices dealt with the major human needs:  They brought forgiveness, when accompanied by a contrite heart; they expressed thanksgiving, when the offerer was truly grateful; they fulfilled vows, when God had brought unusual blessing.  The sacrifices were the means by which God’s people were to declare their total dependence on God.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 131)

 

The house of God is a place for the reading and the preaching of the Word of God.  So the first questions we need to ask ourselves as we prepare for worship are:  Am I ready to listen to the voice of God?  Is my heart open to spiritual instruction?  Are my ears attentive to the message I will hear from the Bible?  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 121)

 

The first requirement laid on his people in the OT was not “speak, O Israel,” but “hear, O Israel,” and that exhortation is a common and insistent one–both in Deuteronomy and elsewhere (e.g. Dt 4:1; 5:1; 6:3, 4; 9:1; Isa 1:10; 7:13; 28:14).  Without hearing there can be no understanding of the kingdom of God; thus Jesus repeats, “He who has ears, let him hear” (e.g., Mt 11:15; 13:9, 43; Jn 8:47).  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 119)

 

Scripture itself condemns worship that is based only on human ideas: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isa 29:13).  This word of God through Isaiah was repeated by Jesus in Mt 15:8-9 and Mk 7:6-7.  Paul in Col 2:23 condemns “self-imposed worship,” worship unauthorized by God.  (John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 39)

 

To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us.  God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship.  -James Montgomery Boice

 

So if worship is going to be in accordance with his nature, and his nature is transcendent, infinite, and incomprehensible, then how else can we worship other than by the direction of his word?  Once again, our doctrine of God impinges upon our doctrine of worship.  Given the distance between Creator and creature (a point of emphasis in Calvin, the Scholastics, Westminster, Van Til, and even Barth!), given the undeniable biblical reality that God’s ways and thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth (Is 55:8-9), what makes us think we can possibly fathom what would please God, apart from his telling us what to do in his word?  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 54)

 

In his book Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot, Richard Restak shares a profound truism:  learn more, see more.  He says, “The richer my knowledge of flora and fauna of the woods, the more I’ll be able to see.  Our perceptions take on richness and depth as a result of all the things that we learn.  What the eye sees is determined by what the brain has learned.

When astronomers look into the night sky, they have a greater appreciation for the constellations and stars and planets.  They see more because they know more.  When musicians listen to a symphony, they have a greater appreciation for the chords and melodies and instrumentation.  They hear more because they know more.  When sommeliers sample a wine, they have a greater appreciation for the flavor, texture, and origin.  They taste more because they know more.

Simply put: the more you know, the more you appreciate.

So what?  Well, how much you know may have more to do with how much you love God than you think.  Consider what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well: “You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship.”  Another translation says, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know.”  The Samaritans were worshiping God out of a lack of knowledge.  And when you worship out of ignorance, worship is empty.  God doesn’t just want you to worship Him; He wants you to know why you worship Him.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 102-03)

 

Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves.  His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him.  Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 31)

 

The absence of authority in much contemporary preaching is directly attributable to the absence of confidence in the authority of the Bible.  Once biblical authority is undermined and eroded, preaching becomes a pretense.  The preacher stands to offer religious advice on the basis of the latest secular learning and the “spirituality” of the day.  The dust of death covers thousands of pulpits across the land.

But when the Bible’s authority is recognized and honored, the pulpit stands as a summons to hear and obey the word of God.  True worship takes place when the authority of the Bible is rightly honored and the preaching of the word is understood to be the event whereby God speaks to his people through his word, by the human instrumentality of his servants–the preachers.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 118)

 

III.  Knowing that worry creates a false reality, so too does talking too much.  (Eccl 5:3, 7a; see also: Prv 10:14, 19; 13:3; 15:28; Jer 12:2; 17:9; Mt 6:7-8; 7:21; 12:36-37; Rom 3:9-20)  

               

In verses 3 and 7 he is probably quoting proverbial sayings both of which are underlining the fact that words can be meaningless, as meaningless as dreams, particularly the words of a fool; and fools are often far from slow to express their views.  Idle chatter, particularly idle pious chatter, is no substitute for a proper reverence towards God.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 36)

 

Careless words are a reflection of the inner life; for it is the heart that speaks forth a word.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 98)

 

The fool will consequently pour out a flood of words, but this is no remedy.  The need for care in prayer cannot be set aside.  Acts 4:24-31 provides a classic illustration with its worship (24) and application of Scripture (25-28), before its single request (29f.) and its dramatic result (31).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 99)

 

For ‘nothing is more unacceptable to God, than to hold on speaking, after we have left off praying.’  (Dr. South’s Sermon on Ecclesiastes 5:2-3)

 

No steady purpose can flow from half-hearted principle.  All such words and professions therefore have as little substance, as the multitude of dreams.  In many words how fruitful is the harvest!  A single thoughtless word lights up the fire.  A word of discontent stirs the troubled waters.  Many words–divers vanities.  “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men, that they are but vain” (Ps 44:11)–multiplied provocations!  But the remedy is before us.  Fear thou God.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 109)

 

The simile of verse 3 is recurred to, and the whirling visions of unsubstantial dreams are likened to the rash words of voluble prayers in that both are vanity.  Thus the writer reaches his favorite thought, and shows how vanity infects even devotion.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 355-56)

 

By “dreams” he means fantasies, and fantasizing produces much activity but accomplishes nothing.  So also a fool with his many words of complaint accomplishes nothing.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 72)

 

It is hard to be wise all the time, and the more talking we do, the greater the chance that we will say something foolish, especially when we worship.  As the general rule, fools are loquacious (cf. Eccl 10:14).  They rarely keep their thoughts to themselves but tend to do a lot of talking.  Tremper Longman paraphrases verse 3 like this: “Work leads to many dreams; foolishness leads to many words.”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 123-24)

 

As confused dreams, frightful and perplexed, and such as disturb the sleep; are an evidence of a hurry of business which fills our head, so many words and hasty ones, used in prayer, are an evidence of folly reigning in the heart, ignorance of and unacquaintedness with both God and ourselves, low thoughts of God, and careless thoughts of our own souls.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1007)

 

IV.  Paying your vow to God ASAP.   (Eccl 5:4; see also: Num ch 30; Jdg 11:29-40;  Ps 50:14; 65:1; 76:11; Jas 5:12)  

 

Martin Luther during an electrical storm:  “Lord help me and I will become a monk.”

 

John Newton – storm at sea: “Lord, help me and I will change my life.”

 

So often the comment our lives make on our promises is, “I didn’t really mean it.”  That, says Koheleth, like the other things to which he has drawn our attention in this section, is the mark of a “fool.”   (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 36)

 

Many a young heart touched by the truth has resolved to live a Christian life, and has gone out from the house of God and put off and put off till days have thickened into months and years, and the intention has remained unfulfilled forever.  Nothing hardens hearts, stiffens wills, and sears consciences so much as to be brought to the point of melting, and then to cool down into the old shape.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 355)

 

God is a realist.  He never plays games with us.  He sees things the way they really are and He tells us the way they are.  God expects us to carry out our word when we give it.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 72)

 

Bargaining with God is an extremely questionable activity, generally one to be avoided.  But if you do put yourself on the line, don’t even think about not making good, for God is not mocked.  What is vowed before Him is binding, just as He is bound by His many promises in the Scriptures.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 112)

 

V.  Avoiding making vows unless you are firmly convinced you must.  (Eccl 5:5; see also: Dt 23:21-23; Prv 20:25; Mt 5:33-37; Acts 5:1-11; Jas 5:12)   (See also: August 18th, 2013, HFM message from Jas 5:12 “Integrity of the Faithful”)

 

VI.  Realizing that it is impossible to defraud God with impunity.  (Eccl 5:6; see also: Mal 3:6-18; Mt 21:28-31; Gal 6:7; )

 

God does not take broken vows lightly.  A broken vow may incur his judgment upon our endeavors.  One who ‘swears to his own hurt and does not change’ pleases God (Ps 15:4).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 99)

 

Let him have the best–not the dregs.  Let him have the whole confidence–the whole heart.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 109)

 

But in fact for thousands of people and pastors, I fear, the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship.  We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; we “worship” to recruit workers; we “worship” to improve church morale.  We “worship” to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; we “worship” to teach our children the way of righteousness; we “worship” to help marriages stay together; we “worship” to evangelize the lost among us; we “worship” to motivate people for service projects; we “worship” to give our churches a family feeling, etc.

In all of this we bear witness that we are confused about what true worship is.  Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves.  I cannot say to my wife, “I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal.”  That is not the way delight works.  It terminates on her.  It does not have a nice meal in view.  I cannot say to my son, “I love playing ball with you so that you will cut the grass.”  If my heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to getting him to do something.  (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 240-41)

 

Christians confess that they would desire an encounter with God.  But the church’s avoidance of this kind of transformation, underscored by its avoidance of daring encounters with God, suggests that we choose to live something other than what we confess.  We say we offer God our whole lives, but our practice (the evidence of worship that matters most) shows that we don’t really want God to do what we ask–to take us, mold us, fill us, use us.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 64-65)

 

VII.  Knowing that our meaning and significance come as a by-product of our fear of the Lord.  (Eccl 5:7; see also: Ex 3:5; Lv 10:1-3; Dt 4:24; 1 Sam 15; 2 Chr 19:9; Job 28:28; Ps 19:9; 34:11; 111:10; 119:120, 161; Prv 1:7; 2:5; 9:10; 14:27; 15:16, 33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; Eccl 8:13; 12:13; Isa 11:2-3; 66:1-2;  Acts 9:31; Heb 12:28-29;  1 Pt 2:17)

 

It is a mark of spiritual barrenness in the church when people come to worship to fulfill a duty or keep a habit rather than satisfy an appetite. (Eric Alexander message, “Truth for Life”)

 

If God is small enough for us to understand, He isn’t big enough for us to worship.

 

Why do Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego choose fire over idolatry?  They know where the real danger lies.  They understand that God brooks no rivals.  It is better to die than to bow down before anyone or anything but Yahweh.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 61)

 

Ecclesiastes presents a number of interludes as the Teacher reviews various attempts to find the satisfying and unifying key to life and its purpose.  He has already said that the only satisfaction comes from accepting God’s plan for one’s life, even though the whole blueprint is not spread out to view.  Life should be marked by acceptance, not by making demands on God.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1167)

 

Heaven is a reminder of his greatness; it is the location of his glory.  Thus our impatience with God is rebuked by God’s greatness compared to man’s smallness.  Mankind must always be a suppliant, never an equal.  To restrain the tongue is the Preacher’s way of wisdom.  The point was later embodied in the Lord’s Prayer, where the twin truths that God is ‘Father’ but ‘in heaven’ guard against craven fear on the one hand and flippancy on the other.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 98-99)

 

We are dealing with the Author of life itself.  He holds our lives in the palm of His hand.  God is not cruel and heartless; He is loving, but He is real, so do not play games with Him.  Be honest with God; that is all the Searcher is saying.  Pay attention when you hear the words of God.  Listen as He describes life to you.  He is telling you these things so that you might find enjoyment in all that you do.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 73)

 

Prayer was solemn conversation with a mysterious God.  The vast gap between humankind and God–a gap measured by the difference between “heaven” and “earth’–demanded sobriety, not extravagance.  Neither the volume, nor the eloquence, nor the frequency of prayers were what influenced him.  In no way could God be manipulated into answering prayer.  What he would hear were the simple, sincere, brief words of those who truly submitted to his majesty and sought his help.   (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 132-33)

 

The book of Deuteronomy insists again and again that the one, undivided God who made the world and redeemed Israel must be approached and related to by one, undivided human person: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Dt 6:4-5).  It is a matter of heart as well as of sight (4:9) and speech (6:7).  It begins with deep internalization of God’s Word, which is to be the focus of life in all its aspects (6:7-8).  There must be a constant, meditative “remembering” of reality, so that reality seeps into the interior of the being and becomes formative for all of life (4:10, 5:15; 7:18:2, 18; etc.).  The consequence should be that Israel, and the individual Israelite, is able “to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all year heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees” (10:12-13).  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 118)

 

The proud and lofty man or woman cannot worship God any more acceptably than can the proud devil himself.  There must be humility in the heart of the person who would worship God in spirit and in truth.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 84)

 

If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile.  There will be no worship without the Spirit.

If God can be understood and comprehended by any of our human means, then I cannot worship Him.  One thing is sure.  I will never bend my knees and say “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I have been able to decipher and figure out in my own mind!  That which I can explain will never bring me to the place of awe.  It can never fill me with astonishment or wonder or admiration.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 85)

 

Our search for God will be most meaningful when we realize the utter barrenness of a soul separated from Him.  (James P. Gills, M.D., The Dynamics of Worship, 8)

 

To fear God means to be struck with awe in His all-consuming, holy presence; to stand always and forever in breathless exaltation of who He is and what He has done and how vastly and infinitely His greatness overshadows our brief, vaporous existence.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 311)

 

The wisdom of the Spirit does not offer a supplement to the human mind, but challenges its autonomy at the roots.  Knowledge that knows not God is folly, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  We are not computers, nor is wisdom only data-storage and problem-solving.  Fellowship with the living God, and with the Spirit who searches the deep things of God, frees us to seek and possess knowledge.  Such spiritual wisdom combines theory and practice, word and life.  (Edmund P. Clowney, The Church–Contours of Christian Theology, 143)

 

One of the central points of the book is one of the keys that connects Ecclesiastes to the theology of previous texts:  Fear God, for this is what life is all about.  The book of Deuteronomy had made “the fear of the Lord” a focal point of concern (Dt 4:10; 5:29; 6:2, 13, 24; 8;6; 10:12, 20; 13:4; 14:23; 17:19; 28:58; 31:12-13).  Indeed, “To fear the Lord” was to commit oneself to Yahweh by faith, as did some of the Egyptians (Ex 9:20, 30) who formed part of the mixed multitude that left Egypt with Israel (Ex 12:38).  That fear was not some extraordinary, numinous feeling of terror or even of awe, but instead it was an attitude of receptivity that manifested itself in belief, obedience, and love for the living God.  (Kaiser, Walter C. Jr., Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 33-34)

 

The sin of presumption is the antithesis of the fear of the Lord.  It is the harbinger of future defeat.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 142)

 

Humility is the fear of God, not man.  “By the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil” (Prv 29:25).  For this reason Paul declared, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10).  If we truly fear the Lord, we will not fear anyone else.  To honor and respect the Lord is to be delivered from all fear of man.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 123)

 

The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings, and in our worship of Him we should find unspeakable pleasure.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 28)

 

This is why the great Baptist preacher Geoffrey Thomas has said that in true worship men have little thought of the means of worship because their thoughts are on God; true worship is characterized by self-effacement without self-consciousness.  That is, in biblical worship we so focus upon God himself and are so intent to acknowledge his inherent and unique worthiness that we are transfixed by Him, and thus worship is not about what we want or like (nor do his appointed means divert our eyes from him), but rather it is about meeting with God and delighting in his delights.  Praise decentralizes self.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 64)

 

It is as impossible for a man to live without having an object of worship as it is for a bird to fly if it is taken out of the air.  The very composition of human life, the mystery of man’s being, demands a center of worship as a necessity of existence.  All life is worship…The question is whether the life and powers of man are devoted to the worship of the true God or to that of a false one. (G. Campbell Morgan; The Ten Commandments)

 

When we gather in public worship, we are ushered into the presence of Christ.  He is among us (Mt 18:20).  We do in worship what we were created to do–offer to God intelligent praise.  We become more truly human at that point than at any other of human existence.  Just as a boy is more aware of his identity as a son in the presence of his father, or as a husband is more aware of his identity as provider and protector in the presence of his wife, so we are most aware of who we are and what we were created to do as human beings at that point at which we bow in worship before our Creator and Redeemer.  We are humbled as we offer to him our praise and adoration.  We are cleansed as we confess our sins.  We are built up, torn down, and rebuilt again as we submit to instruction by his word (Eph 4:11-16).  We are fed and united to the whole body of Christ by the sacraments.  Through the bread and cup we enjoy koinonia with Christ and one another (1 Cor 10:16).  We access his strength through “all prayer and petition” (Eph 6:18) and are thereby enabled to fight the spiritual battles of life.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 330)

 

Commit yourself to the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s house, and little else outside of the home will be necessary for the cultivation of a thriving spiritual life.  The Puritans referred to the Lord’s Day as “the market day of the soul.”  Six days a week one buys and sells for the sake of one’s body.  Sunday however we are to “trade” in spiritual commodities for the sake of our souls.  All secular affairs are to be set aside.  All Christians, “after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand,” are to “not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts, about their worldly employments and recreations,” but also are to be engaged “the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy” (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.8).  The key to consistent attendance at public worship (of which we have spoken above as the key to your spiritual well-being) is a commitment to observing the Christian Sabbath.  Or to state it negatively, you will never be able to become consistent about attending public worship until you are convinced that Sunday is not just the Lord’s morning, but the Lord’s Day.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 332)

 

For truly, that abundant sweetness which God has stored up for those who fear him cannot be known without at the same time powerfully moving us.  And once anyone has been moved by it, it utterly ravishes him and draws him to itself.  Therefore, it is no wonder if a perverse and wicked heart never experiences that emotion by which, borne up to heaven itself, we are admitted to the most hidden treasures of God and to the most hallowed precincts of his kingdom.  (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.2.41)

 

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.  Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 1)

 

Our worship should, in the literal meaning of the word, be characterized by enthusiasm–which signifies not simply human exuberance but the divine indwelling (en-theos).

Lifeless, meaningless worship will inevitably put off the newcomer who is not yet a believer.  But in the heartfelt worship of a people surrendered to him, God is pleased to dwell in the praises of his people. (Eddie Gibbs; Church Next, 182-83)

 

“My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms.  Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us.  There is no such thing as sad adoration or unhappy praise.

We have a name for those who try to praise when they have no pleasure in the object.  We call them hypocrites.”  (John Piper; Desiring God, 19)

 

“Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship.  The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.” (John Piper; Desiring God, 81)

 

“When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship; then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us rather than that we had been made for Him.”  — Stephan Charnock

 

If the Church’s worship is faithful, it will eventually be subversive of the culture surrounding it, for God’s truth transforms the lives of those nurtured by it.  Worship will turn our values, habits and ideas upside-down as it forms our character; only then will it be genuinely right-side up eternally.   Only then will we know a Joy worthy of our destiny.  (Marva Dawn; Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, 57-58)

 

The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.  -Oswald Chambers

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How does Christ bring hope to an otherwise seriously depressing reality of our relationship with God?:

A-  Only Christ has fully satisfied the necessary requirements to offer proper worship before God.  It is only by being “In Christ” that we have any hope of coming before God.  (Mt 3:15; 5:17; Lk 18:31; 22:37; Rom 3:21-30; 5:8-21; 10:4; 1 Cor 5:7; Eph 5:1-2; Heb 2:17; 7:23-28; 5:1-10; ch 9; 10:1-14; 1 Pt 2:5; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10)

 

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a Great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.” (C. S. Lewis   Mere Christianity, 55-56)

 

When we consider the holiness of God and compare it with our own unholy worship, it is a wonder that any of us is still alive.  Thank God for Jesus!  It is not only his sufferings that save us but also his obedience, including the perfect worship he offered to his Father.  Jesus died for all our sins, including all the sins we have committed in the very act of worshiping God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 121-22)

 

By faith in Christ, that perfect worship now belongs to us, as if we ourselves had offered it to God.  This is part of what it means for us to know Christ: our imperfect worship is accepted by the Father because of the perfect worship offered by the Son.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 122)

 

Our engagement in works of justice arises out of a worshipful life.  It comes not out of being activists but out of living in God’s rest, every day.  This is one of the most profound aspects of a Christian social ethic.  It is not that we are meant to find our lives by being community organizers.  It is that, as we live in the rest of God, we live in our true home, in the heart of God in Christ, in whom “all things hold together…Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:17, 20).  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 103)

 

God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach to Him with cheerfulness; He is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; He is a Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with the deepest humility; He is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address Him with purity; He is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we must therefore acknowledge His excellency in all that we do, and in our measures contribute to His glory, by having the highest aims in His worship; He is a spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying Mediator and Intercessor.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 371)

 

Jesus warns us that it is possible to engage in what we call worship, only for God to reject it as worship “in vain.”  How is it that we can worship the true God in vain?  Jesus gives two causes.  First, God turns away from worship when the worshiper’s “heart is far away” from him.  Second, he refuses worship when the teaching or doctrines about worship are “the precepts of men,” not the precepts of God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 309)

 

But those who do have the Holy Spirit and are now capable of worshiping in spirit do not worship in spirit if they do not worship in holiness.  “Worship the LORD in holy array,” says Ps 29:2.  The holy array that God required of the OT priests was that they dress in a very particular way and prepare themselves in minute detail before presenting their sacrifices.  Likewise the priests who come before the Lord today–that is, all believers in Christ (1 Pt 2:9)–must also come in holy array.  First and foremost, our holy array is the holiness of Christ.  God receives our worship based upon Jesus’ having already offered to him the perfect sacrifice–himself–on our behalf.  And all our subsequent worship of the Lord is received, not because we are now so sincere, but because the blood of the high priest Jesus has made it acceptable to God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 310)

 

. . . “they had Christ discovered to them anew as an all-sufficient Saviour, and in the glories of his grace, and in a far more clear manner than before; and with greater humility, self-emptiness, and brokenness of heart, and a purer, a higher joy, and greater desires after holiness of life; but with greater self-diffidence and distrust of their treacherous hearts.”  (Jonathan Edwards; An Account of the Revival in Northhampton 1740-42 in a Letter to a Minister of Boston, 152)

Worship often degenerated into celebrating the believer’s dedication to God.  After a while you wake up and say, “Hey, what are we celebrating here?  Not my dedication.  We’re celebrating the work of Christ!”  (Robert E. Webber; Worship is a Verb, 30)

 

One of the most serious problems facing the orthodox Christian church today is the problem of legalism.  One of the most serious problems facing the church in Paul’s day was the problem of legalism.  In every day it is the same.   Legalism wrenches the joy of the Lord from the Christian believer, and with the joy of the Lord goes his power for vital worship and vibrant service.   Nothing is left but cramped, somber, dull, and listless profession.   The truth is betrayed, and the glorious name of the Lord becomes a synonym of a gloomy kill-joy.   The Christians under law is a miserable parody of the real thing. (S. Lewis Johnson, “The Paralysis of Legalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra, no. 478 [April – June 1963]: 109).

 

“The way for the world to know that it needs redeeming, that it is broken and fallen, is for the church to enable the world to strike hard against something which is an ALTERNATIVE to what the world offers.

Unfortunately, an accomodationist church, so intent on running errands for the world, is giving the world less and less in which to disbelieve.  Atheism slips into the church where God really does not matter, as we go about building bigger and better congregations (church administrations), confirming people’s self-esteem (worship), enabling people to adjust their anxieties brought on by their materialism (Pastoral care), and making Christ a worthy subject for poetic reflection (preaching).  At every turn the church must ask itself, does it really make any difference, in our life together, in what we do, that in Jesus Christ God is reconciling the world to himself?” (William Willimon and Stanely Hauerwas; Resident Aliens, 94-95)

 

B-  Seeing your inability to make your worship suitable and proper for the God of the Universe causes you to repent, be broken and contrite which is the very attitude that allows us to have an audience with God. (Psa 51:16-17; Isa ch 6; 66:1-2; Mt 3:2-11; 4:17; 21:32; Mk 1:15; 6:12; Lk 3:3-8; 5:32; 13:1-5; 15:7-10; 24:46-47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20; Rom 2:4; 2 Cor 7:9-10; 2 Pt 3:9; Rv 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19)

 

The man who does not fear God becomes so proud that he cannot detect his own sinfulness.  (Patrick Morley ; The Man In The Mirror, 242)

 

Much of our problem in continuing fellowship with a holy God is that many Christians repent only for what they do, rather than for what they are.  (A. W. Tozer; Whatever Happened to Worship?, 72)

 

Some people claim to be normal Christians when actually they mean they are nominal Christians.  My old dictionary gives this definition as one of the meanings of the word nominal:

Existing in name only; not real or actual; hence so small, slight, or the like, as to be hardly worth the name.

With that as a definition, those who know they are Christians in name only should never make the pretension of being “normal” Christians.

Is the Lord Jesus Christ your most precious treasure in this world?  If so, you can count yourself among normal Christians.  (A. W. Tozer; Whatever Happened to Worship?, 105)

 

No worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 125)

 

Worship reorders reality.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 39)

 

Moreover, whether or not they believe in evolutionary naturalism, people who think of human beings as their own centers and lawgivers reject the whole idea of our dependence on a superior being.  Indeed, they find this idea entirely distasteful.  To them the proposal that we ought to worship someone who is better than we are, that we ought to study this person’s will and then bend our lives to it, that we ought to confess our failures and assign life’s blessings to him–to them, the notion that we ought to take this posture toward anybody else at all is humiliatingly undemocratic, an offense to human dignity and pride.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 17)

 

The speaking to God that follows on from our listening to God bears always in mind who God is–a Father who knows what we need before we ask.  A holy God, certainly, but also a caring Father, whose holiness does not routinely bring destruction to human beings but has redemption as its utmost goal and who characteristically issues an invitation to embrace holiness (e.g., Ps 51:11; Isa 6:1-5; Hos 11:8-9).  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 120)

 

Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)

 

The appetite for serious preaching has virtually disappeared among many Christians, who are content to have their fascinations with themselves encouraged from the pulpit–and are extremely resistant to any preaching that confronts or contradicts this self-absorption.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 111)

 

Real prayer is the breathing of God’s own Spirit in the heart; have you this?  It is communion and fellowship with God; know you what this is?  It is brokenness, contrition, confession, and that often springing from an overwhelming sense of his goodness and his love shed abroad in the heart; is this thy experience?  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 95)

 

Any desire of the heart for Christ, any secret brokenness, any godly sorrow over indwelling sin, any feeble going out of self and leaning on Jesus, is the gracious work of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and must not be undervalued or unacknowledged.  A truly humble view of self, is one of the most precious fruits of the Spirit: it indicates more real fruitfulness, perhaps, than any other state of mind.  That ear of corn which is the most full of grain, hangs the lowest; that bough which is the most heavily laden with fruit, bends the nearest to the ground.  It is no unequivocal mark of great spiritual fruitfulness in a believer, when tenderness of conscience, contrition of spirit, low thoughts of self, and high thoughts of Jesus, mark the state of his soul.  “Who hath despised the day of small things?”–not Jesus.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 163)

 

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.  -Robert Pierce

The people who were most readily received by the Lord were those who had this sense of need and who therefore did not come to him with a sense of the sufficiency of their performance.  The people he received were those who came broken-hearted and bruised with the sense of their inadequacy.  (Roger R. Nicole, “The Doctrines of Grace in Jesus’ Teaching”)

 

God can never entrust His kingdom to anyone who has not been broken of pride, for pride is the armor of darkness itself.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 17)

 

A truly humble man does not fear being exposed.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 121)

 

The great weakness in the North American church at large, and certainly in my life, is our refusal to accept our brokenness.  We hide it, evade it, gloss over it.  We grab for the cosmetic kit and put on our virtuous face to make ourselves admirable to the public.  Thus, we present to others a self that is spiritually together, superficially happy, and lacquered with a sense of self-deprecating humor that passes for humility.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 122)

 

We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor.  If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.  (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 122)

 

Man is born broken.  He lives by mending.  The grace of God is glue.  —Eugene O’Neill   (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 270)

 

A man after God’s own heart is constantly rejoicing with a broken heart.”  (Buddy Briggs, Bible study May 6th, 2012)

 

God repeatedly expresses his pleasure with and delight in those who do exactly what he says.  In Isa 66:1-4 true religion (“the life of God in the soul of man”) is characterized by one “who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” in contrast to those who choose their own way.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 58)

 

“In this book you will find more than a dozen of these fast day messages described by Evan along with calls to corporate repentance issued by government bodies and church leaders.  Early Americans, despite their faults, knew that God hated sin and punished it in the unrepentance, including unrepentant believers and churches.  Because they feared God and His ability to punish, they sought to lead their people in quick and thorough repentance.

They were alert to signs of God’s manifest displeasure among them.  Natural calamities, which some of us treat with a shrug of a shoulder, were dutifully examined, prayed over and improved by godly men of old.  Even the unexpected death of a pastor, a youth, a government official, a farmer or a housewife had power to provoke them to inquire if God had a grievance against His people.

Their attitude of brokenness and contrition before God made them sensitive to what He was saying to them, just as the arrogancy and self-sufficiency of today’s church make it virtually immune to the voice of God and the promptings of the His Spirit.  If they passed into dry seasons spiritually, they took this as a message from God and sought His face in renewed repentance an dedication.”  (Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation, xii)

 

We have such smooth, almost secularized ways of talking people into the kingdom of God that we can no longer find men and women willing to seek God through the crisis of encounter.  When we bring them into our churches, they have no idea of what it means to love and worship God because, in the route through which we have brought them, there has been no personal encounter, no personal crisis, no need of repentance–only a Bible verse with a promise of forgiveness.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 118)

 

Let us not forget that it is broken and contrite hearts which God will not despise; therefore, any ministry which fails to produce them, no matter how acceptable, is nevertheless in the sight of God a failure.  (John D. Drysdale;  The Price of Revival, 33)

 

Some think they can’t do it; others refuse to change or grow.  They simply lack the faith to step out and do something.  “Where is your faith?” I wish to admonish them (and many times I do).  “Don’t you believe that God will enable you to obey Him?”

The churches that mature in health and effect lasting change are the ones that come to God in brokenness and humility and beg Him to produce the obedience of faith in them. (Donald J. MacNair; The Practices of a Healthy Church, 231)

 

When preaching plays to the culture without substantially critiquing and engaging it, it becomes part of the problem.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 19)

 

According to the narrative of Scripture, the very heart of how we show and distinguish true worship from false worship is apparent in how we respond to the poor, the oppressed, the neglected and the forgotten.  As of now, I do not see this theme troubling the waters of worship in the American church.  But justice and mercy are not add-ons to worship, nor are they the consequences of worship.  Justice and mercy are intrinsic to God and therefore intrinsic to the worship of God.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 37-38)

 

Much like Isaiah in Isa 6:5 . . .

“The more we encounter the holy God in our worship, the more we will recognize our utter sinfulness and be driven to repentance.  This, too, is an essential part of our praise.”  (Marva Dawn; Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, 90)

 

Praise is a contradiction of pride.  Pride says “look at me,” but praise longs for people to see Jesus.  There’s no room for showing off in the holy throne room.  Picture it now: There we stand in the glorious presence of almighty God; elders bow as low as they can and seraphs cover their faces.  But there’s one person right in the middle of the whole thing showing off a bit–a little dance routine, an over-the-top vocal and just generally hamming it up.   Ridiculous?  Of course.  And I’ve exaggerated to make a point, but I hope the point is clear.  It wouldn’t hurt to run everything we do in worship through that filter.  The reality is that in the throne room of almighty God, everyone’s bowing as low as they can.  (Matt Redman; The Unquenchable Worshiper, 89)

 

The debate gets so hot, it’s sometimes called ‘the worship wars.”  Some churches are fighting for traditional forms of worship, and others are fighting for contemporary forms of worship.  The traditional people accuse the contemporary people of being superficial, and the contemporary people accuse the traditional people of being irrelevant.

Isaiah points the way out of our wars into God’s peace by helping us think in God’s categories.  His categories are not traditional versus contemporary worship but, more profoundly, acceptable versus unacceptable worship.  And he has told us what kind of worship he considers acceptable: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit” (Psalm 51:17 NRSV).  Acceptable worship is sweetened with a spirit of repentance.(Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Preaching the Word: Isaiah, God Saves Sinners, 33)

 

Worship point:  You will never have proper worship until you begin to comprehend Who God is (Holy, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, merciful, forgiving, patient, kind, just, and His very essence is love) and who you are (a lost sinner).  To say that you worship God on the merits of your own pure heart and righteousness is blasphemy.

 

John Calvin said that knowing God and knowing ourselves is the sum of all wisdom.  Eccl 5:2 gives us that wisdom.  God is in Heaven; he is the eternal Deity who made the entire universe.  We are on earth; we are mortal beings, limited in time and space.  There is a vast distance between the finite and the infinite.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 123)

 

Knowing how widely the divine nature differs from our own, let us quietly remain within our proper limits.  –Gregory of Nyssa

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Endeavor to prepare yourself for worship each and every week by reading the sermon notes ahead of time, coming 10 minutes early so you can make your social connections ahead of time and reflect on the verses inserted in the announcements.  Finally, open yourself up to receive what God wants to say to you through the reading of His Word, the music, the prayers, the offering and the sermon.

 

You can tell what a nation worships by its advertisements.

 

Right now a hundred million angels are praising God’s name; He certainly doesn’t need to beg or plead with us.  We should be the ones begging to worship in His presence.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 109)

 

I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 13)

 

T. M. Moore has written a loose poetic paraphrase of these verses that can help us remember its spiritual lessons.

How brazen and dishonest people are

                with their religion.  They will go as far

                with it as suits their needs; so they attend

                the services and sing the hymns, and when

                they have to, give a little money to

                the Lord.  But do they live as one should do

                who’s made a vow to God?  Don’t kid yourself.

                Among their friends their faith is on the shelf…

                     Remember, God knows everything.

                He knows our hearts when we before him bring

                our worship, and you can’t fool him.  So take

                a good look at yourself before you make

                your next appearance before the Lord.  And go

                to listen, not to speak, for he will know

                just what you need.  Why, any fool can spout

                a lovely prayer or sing a hymn about

                his faith.  His words are mindless, like a dream,

                although to people looking on they seem

                impressive.  Not to God…

                     For words are cheap,

                just like the dreams you have while you’re asleep.

                God wants your heart, my son, not just a show.

                Get right with him before you to him go.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 127-28)

 

 

 

Quotes to Note:

True worship always forgets itself.  (Matt Redman; The Unquenchable Worshiper, 42)

 

Feelings are great liars.  If Christians only worshiped when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship that went on.  Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith.  Paul Scherer is laconic: “The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.” (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 50)

 

“Many worship services are monuments to the spiritual self-centeredness of local churches.” (Richard Lovelace; Renewal as a Way of Life, 174)

 

The sheer weightlessness of much contemporary preaching is a severe indictment of our superficial Christianity.  When the pulpit ministry lacks substance, the church is severed from the word of God, and its health and faithfulness are immediately diminished.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 110)

If we truly grasped that when we sing we are praising him or praying to him, that we are in the presence of the King of Glory, and that we should have come to thank him, praise him, and ascribe worth to him (not to make ourselves feel better), we would begin to understand how important it is to know what we are singing.  This is one reason, among others, that hymns have fallen out of popularity and use in many circles.  It is because they require thought, and we do not want to think.  “I come to church to be refreshed–not to work” is a common attitude.  But proper worship does take work, thought, preparation, and action.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 251-52)

 

There is no subtler perversion of the Christian Faith than to treat it as a mere means to a worldly end, however admirable that end in itself may be.  The Christian Faith is important because it is true.  What it happens to achieve, in ourselves or in others, is another and, strictly speaking, secondary matter.  For the Christian Faith will remain true whether we who profess it turn into heroic saints or into even more miserable sinners.  We must insist that we worship God because he is God, not because we want something out of him.  What a mean blasphemy it would be, to go through magnificent acts of public worship always with the dominant intention at the back of the mind—“This is really going to make a better chap of me!”  What arrogance and presumption, to treat eternal God, throned in glory, as a visual aid to moral self-improvement. (Harry Blamires; The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?, 110)

 

To worship God is also to bow before his absolute, ultimate authority.  We adore not only his power, but also his holy word.  Psalm 19 praises God first for revealing himself in his mighty acts of creation and providence (vv. 1-6) and then for the perfection of his law (vv. 7-11).  When we enter his presence, overwhelmed by his majesty and power, how can we ignore what he is saying to us?  So, in worship we hear the reading and exposition of the Scriptures (see Acts 15:21; 1 Tm 4:13; Col. 4:16; 1 Thes 5:27; Acts 20:7; 2 Tm 4:2).  God wants us to be doers of that word, not hearers only (Rom. 2:13; Jas 1:22-25; 4:11).  (John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 4)

 

Worship is not like going to a concert and coming away inspired and uplifted by great music.  You can do that and remain totally insensitive to what is going on around you: indeed you can be so uplifted that common everyday things and the needs of people around you seem trivial and unimportant.  But worship must never be merely spiritual self-indulgence or the satisfying of our emotional needs.  It must mean listening, opening ourselves to the obedience that God wants from each one of us.  It must flow out into action.  As Jesus reminds us: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21).  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 34)

 

It is lip-service (e.g., Ps 50:16; Isa 29:13; Jer 12:2), offered by a people whose hearts are far from God.  Jesus stands in the prophetic tradition when he criticizes many of his contemporaries for their practice of this kind of religion.  In Mt 23:27-28, for example, he describes the teachers of the law and the Pharisees as “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”  Sincerity, by contrast, is to be the mark of the Christian (e.g., Acts 2:46; Rom 12:9; 2 Cor 6:6; 1 Tm 1:5; 3:8).  The NT, too, knows of a “form of godliness” that lacks the transformative power of true faith (2 Tm 3:1-5).  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 118)

 

We have been made for relationship with God.  Therefore it is not surprising that we long to meet and know God.  But the God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is.  We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it.  We worship a god of consumer satisfaction, hoping the talismans of guitars and candles or organs and liturgy will put us in touch with God as we want him to be.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 65-66)

 

It must be by the Holy Spirit and truth.  We cannot worship in the spirit alone, for the spirit without truth is helpless.  We cannot worship in truth alone, for that would be theology without fire.

Worship must be in spirit and in truth!  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 46)

 

True worship occurs only when that part of man, his spirit, which is akin to the divine nature (for God is spirit), actually meets with God and finds itself praising Him for His love, wisdom, beauty, truth, holiness, compassion, mercy, grace, power, and all His other attributes.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John, vol. 1: The Coming of the Light: John 1-4, 296-97)

 

Colossians 3:16 “Word of Christ” – Ephesians 5:18-19 – “Spirit of God”

When there is all word and no Spirit the people tend to dry up.

When there is all Spirit and no word the people tend to blow up.

When there is both Spirit and Word the people tend to grow up.  (Alister Begg sermon  “Learning How to Worship”)

 

If we could pick out one theme that has been particularly insistent in the evolution of Protestant worship since the eighteenth century, it would have to be subjectivity.  By this I mean the tendency to construct and evaluate worship in terms of the human subject–human experiences, feelings, and responses–rather than in terms of the divine object, God, the blessed self-revealing Trinity, and his will, word, and activity.  This subjectivity takes various forms, but they all share in common the view that worship is essentially something we experience, rather than something we offer, and that the quality of that experience is the measure of effective worship.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 407)

 

Our worship services need to be relevant without being irreverent.  — Juli Yoder

 

If corporate worship emphasizes emotions, the church begins to look for physical manifestations of God’s work during its services in order to verify that He is blessing us.  If the church emphasizes the intellectual aspect, the power of the Spirit becomes overshadowed by the prowess of human logic.  Services can become lectures surrounded by archaic formality.  If a church dwells exclusively on active response, it may miss the message of God’s sovereign grace.  If none of the facets of God’s character are evident in the service, the church soon becomes a dead organization, bound together only by human loyalties and/or financial obligations.

For a worship service to have vital worship, at least three things are required.  First and most obviously, the Spirit must be working in and through the people of the church.  Second, a preacher is needed who combines meaningful, biblical scholarship, comprehension of the dynamics driving today’s culture, and pastoral insight about contemporary living.  The Word must be persuasively proclaimed and insightfully applied.  Third, the service must be geared to achieving vital worship of the living God.  (Donald J. MacNair; The Practices of a Healthy Church, 94)

 

To handle the things of God without worship is always to falsify them.

(Dallas Willard; Leadership, Spring 1999, 32)

 

 

. . when you go to the house of God . . . let your words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

 

 

Christ:

Worship Leader

 

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