Ecclesiastes 5:1–7: Hear God, Fear God
Among the books of the Bible, Ecclesiastes is unique. In Ecclesiastes, the Preacher conducts a thorough search of the whole world, attempting to see if there is anything here that could provide happiness, satisfaction, joy, or salvation. The goal is not so much to give us the right answer as to eliminate every possible wrong answer we might mistakenly adopt. As such, Ecclesiastes is pre-evangelistic, clearing away the many errors that cloud the judgment of people to keep them from embracing the Jesus Christ with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
There are, however, a few minor exceptions in this book, where the Preacher turns his attention away from life under the sun to consider our relationship to the One who sits enthroned above the sun. Ecclesiastes 5:1–7 is one of these passages, where the Preacher considers the obligations that human beings have toward God. Even so, this passage does not give a full account of the hope we have through faith in Christ. Indeed, this passage considers only the most basic fundamentals for religious life, especially by noting the wide chasm that stands between human beings here on earth and God who is in heaven. As such, the Preacher’s main burden is to remind us, do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
1) On the whole, how much does this passage reveal about God—his character, his work of creation, his work of redemption, his love, or the hope we have of through the gospel of Jesus? How much of this passage is distinctly Christian? Why do you think that is? How does this fit in with the larger pattern in this book of considering life under the sun? How can even these (largely general) religious principles inform how we consider our place in this universe?
2) What does the Preacher mean when he warns us to guard our steps when we go to the house of God (v. 1)? Why is the Preacher so interested in exhorting us to listen (v. 2)? What is the danger of being rash and hasty in our words before God when we enter into worship (v. 2)? What is the significance of the Preacher’s reminder that God is in heaven, and that we area on earth (v. 2)? How should this warning shape the way that we approach worship each Lord’s Day?
3) Why do you think that the Preacher concerned with the vows that we make (v. 4–5)? What kinds of vows did worshipers make under Old Testament worship? What kinds of vows do we make in New Testament worship? How seriously does our culture take the idea of keeping our word, and doing what we have promised to do? Where do you see that laxity about vows influencing the life of the church? Where does it affect your life?
4) What does it mean to “fear” God (v. 7)? Why should we not understand this as meaning that we should be afraid of God? How, instead, does this relate to what the Bible elsewhere describes as faith? Why is fear so essential to the understanding of faith? How does the notion of fear relate to the trust that God calls to put in him? What hope does the Christian have that can strengthen and empower our fear of the Lord? How does Ecclesiastes help to fill out our understanding of faith?