Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
Know your place.
I’m currently reading through Ecclesiastes in my daily devotional times, and I’m continually reminded of the importance of perspective. The author sees through life’s promises of pleasure and worth and value, finding only vanity in the intentions and actions and accomplishments which so often drive the hearts of men. Only by living in light of the Lord can any human break out of the prison of ultimate futility. All are whispers and vapors; only God transcends the temporal.
At first, the author’s words strike us as discouraging. Can such a fleeting life be of any real value? Can a momentary existence make any meaningful difference in the world? Are we destined for futility?
The more I study, the less I find the author’s words disheartening. The message may sober us, as well it should, but it needn’t halt us. Rather, the author reminds us of the source of value, of worth, of purpose. “God is the one you must fear,” as he writes only verses later (5:7). Life, though temporary, is a gift of the Maker, given for a purpose. He intends us to live rightly, according to his good design.
Danger comes when we forget our foundation. Rather than living in light of eternity (see Ecclesiastes 3:11), we set our sights on the here and now. We chase fame or power or wealth or success or pleasure or satisfaction or safety or any number of things offered by the world. We pursue these goals whole-heartedly, assuming them to be ends unto themselves rather than recognizing them as signposts to the ultimate end. We thus fall into futility, into vanity, because we miss the eternal for the temporal, the substance for the shadow, the voice for the echo.
Because we often fail to see the true state of reality, we often fail to understand our place before the Almighty. We view God himself as a means to an end, treating him nonchalantly rather than reverently. We make hasty vows in hopes that he will satisfy our longings for his blessings, and we speak many words in our attempts to earn his favor. We forget that he sits enthroned in heaven while we walk the earth. He inhabits eternity; we exist for a moment. In passages like the one quoted above, the author of Ecclesiastes calls readers to remember the glory of God over all the earth and to reflect on their relationships to him. Such reflection, if properly done, will lead not to haughtiness but to humility. We will be changed when we understand who our God is and who we are before him. This is the fear of the Lord, the proper view of God and man worked out in proper response to God’s authority and power.
How would our lives be different if we understood our place before God? How might we walk if we saw with the perspective of the author of Ecclesiastes? I’m not sure I have the answers to these questions. I don’t see as clearly as I think I do. But I want to grow in vision, in wisdom, and in reverence. I want to see my life as God sees my life, and I want to align this life with his. And I pray that he would be always central in my heart and first in my mind.