Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (NIV)
The Lord had this reminder for me one week recently when I was on the worship team. I am working through a Bible study on Ecclesiastes this summer, and when I opened the study book, the reading was in Ecclesiastes 5. My Bible titles the paragraph “Stand in Awe of God.” Read it in The Message:
Now read it in T.M. Moore’s Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes:
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. They go to service not to hear the Word of God, but so that they can tell the Lord what he should do for them. They think that he exists to make them happy. He should be ecstatic just to see them! They are fools who think such evil pleases him who rules the worlds.
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. ( Eccl. 5:1-3, T. M. Moore’s Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes)
God is reminding me that worship is a serious thing. It’s easy to sing words and not think about them. It’s easy to listen to prayers, listen to a sermon, even think that I hope a certain person is listening, because they need to hear that message.
But Who is it that I worship? And why? The One Great God, the Creator of the universe, the Eternal One, the Savior of my soul. Almighty God, though He loves and takes a personal interest in me, is, as verse 2 says, in heaven and I am on earth. There is a vast difference between us. He is holy and I am sinful, and I can’t even come close to Him except by the blood of Jesus, my Savior. When I am too casual about the way I approach Him, or not mindful of what I sing, hear or say, Ecclesiastes says, bluntly, I am a fool. I am certainly disrespectful to God.
Listen. Enter to learn. Think. Obey. God is in charge, not me, and not the worship leader. God knows my heart and I can’t fool him. He knows what I need, so it’s my responsibility to make sure that my heart and attitude are right and that my mind and heart are paying attention, so that I can receive what I need from Him.
I challenge you, as well as myself, to examine your attitude of worship–as T.M. Moore puts it: “Take a good look at yourself before you make your next appearance before the Lord.” Do you come to worship with your heart and mind fully engaged? Do you come to learn and find a piece of God’s wisdom or will for your life this week? Do you come because you are so grateful for God’s salvation and grace in your life that you have to express it?
Psalm 27 describes how the Lord is my light, salvation, and strength, and how He protects me and teaches me. Verse 6 says that in response, I will sing and make music to the Lord. Music, especially singing, help me to focus on the truth about God and is a very meaningful way for me to worship Him. Many hymns and worship songs describe His greatness and what He has done, or a response to Him. I challenge us all to pay attention to the words and sing them from our hearts. And you don’t just have to sing them in church; you can worship Him anytime—our lives should be our worship!
Almighty God, help me to honestly search my heart as I prepare to worship You. You are holy, and I am sinful. Thank you that Jesus bridges the gap between us, and that I can come to you and express my heart. Thank you that you know just what I need to hear from you; open my heart and mind to hear it. Help me to listen, think, learn and be willing to obey. Amen.
Psalm 8 (and many more); Philippians 2:9-11; Isaiah 6:5; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6; Ephesians 5:19,20; Hebrews 4:14-16
O Worship the King; Holy, Holy, Holy; Heart of Worship; How Great Thou Art; Come, Now is the Time to Worship
Contributed by Sharon Anderson