“When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘‘My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God." Ecclesiastes 5:4-7
Louis Goldberg comments that Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 comes as a kind of interlude in the book. After considering so many of life’s harsh realities, it’s as if Solomon wants to remind us that through genuine worship we can come into contact with the living God. But even here there are warnings. When you worship, listen first (1-3). If you make a vow to God, keep it (4-6). Stand in awe of God (7).
That leads me to share some good news and some bad news. The good news is, you can worship God anywhere. I agree with those who say you don’t have to go to church to worship God. That’s true, and lots of people who go to church don’t worship anyway. They come by force of habit or in order to see their friends. Worship is the last thing on their minds. You can worship anytime or anywhere as long as you catch a glimpse of God’s holiness. When you see God, you’ll worship no matter where you are.
That’s the good news. The bad news is as bad as the good news is good. Although you can worship God anywhere, you cannot worship him halfheartedly. There is no such thing halfhearted worship. There’s religious routine and repetitive ritual, but true worship grips the mind and heart and soul.
During a radio interview I was asked why so many church members seem apathetic about their faith. I told him it’s because our churches are filled with people who don’t believe in God. They are theoretical Christians and practical atheists. They give lip service to God but live as if he doesn’t exist. They are apathetic because God bores them. But as Ravi Zacharias has pointed out, “When man is bored with God, even heaven does not have a better alternative.”
During the dark days of World War II, William Temple, then Archbishop of Canterbury, declared in a radio address to the people of England, “This world can be saved from political chaos and collapse by one thing only, and that is worship.”
Does that sound preposterous? Listen to his definition of worship: “To worship is 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 the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” If that is what worship really is, perhaps the Archbishop was correct. Only worship can save us. And we will never worship as long as we bored with God. And God will bore us until we get a glimpse of his holiness.
Holy Father, open my eyes that I might truly see you, and having seen you, to see myself as you see me. I pray to be holy as you are holy. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.