Pay what you vow. This was Solomon’s instruction to his readers. Just before this, he had instructed them to draw near to God with guarded steps and not in haste, or impulsively (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2). He had told them to approach God and listen, because the sacrifices of fools are evil and they don’t even know it. Now he is going to focus on those readers who have the best of intentions concerning their service to God, but lack the commitment to follow through.
“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5, NASB)
Does this mean that we should not even try? No – we still need to be proactive in our relationship with God. Remember his previous instruction: draw near, but draw near to listen (5:1) rather than to flippantly offer something to God. Do you have grand intentions of serving God? Then consider it carefully, and do not promise something that you will not follow through and make happen.
“Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?” (5:6-7).
Our words get us into trouble. The adage, “talk is cheap” is very applicable here. Solomon wraps up his instructions with a strange comment: in 5:3, he mentioned that “the dream comes through much effort and the voice of the fool through many words.” He now echoes this statement in 5:7, adding that “in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.” The vibe in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 is that the Preacher had been observing those who worshiped God in a very shallow way, “fools” who offered unacceptable sacrifices and didn’t even know it, who came before God without being properly prepared, spiritually. They didn’t know their place as the worshipers, and they thought their “religiosity” was getting them somewhere. Solomon’s advice to them was to not even make vows to God, because the vows that remained unpaid registered as sin against them when they spoke without acting. Or worse, when they spoke, later calling it a mistake and pretending they never said anything to begin with. Their efforts to be religious were empty, and God had no delight in them. How do we avoid this extremely undesirable situation as God’s people?
FEAR GOD. Don’t have delusions of grandeur when it comes to your worship. “Rather, fear God.” You can’t offer Him anything better than what He has actually asked for, and it doesn’t elevate you in God’s sight if you try. Fear Him. Listen, and worship in obedience to Him. Stop saying and start doing. As mentioned before, you cannot please God if you don’t learn how to do it by listening to His instructions. For “How to Please God 101,” the requirements are that you MUST take the time to read His Word and understand it, then act on what you’ve learned (James 1:21-22). It’s no more complicated than that.
Smart man, that Solomon.
By Keeley Rollert
Editor’s Note: this post of Keeley’s follows up on one of her previous posts, “Approaching Almighty God” here on CFYC. To see it, click here.
Keeley and her husband David are current students at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. They have been married just over a year. Check out her blog at http://wifeofapreacher.wordpress.com.