“Church.” Religious ideas vary in the extreme. Religion is nothing more than human approaches to God. Man assembles a jumble of concepts and prejudices about religion and throws a mixture of practices into the bowl, with a heap of emotion for dressing.
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, Ecclesiastes 5.1 ESV.
When you talk about, deal with, seek after God, you had better get your head down and your ears open. Religious buildings are full of fools who ignore what God wants and follow their own lights.
As is often true in Scripture, listening involves obedience. To truly hear is to quickly obey. Steps are guarded in the presence of God and in the assembly of the saints when one follows the commands of the Lord.
The writer of Ecclesiastes was probably thinking of the temple as the “house of God.” It pains us to have to say it, but the translation of this principle into the new covenant is not a physical building, but rather the meeting of God’s people.
A fool is one who doesn’t know, but ought to know better. He is a fool because he fails or refuses to listen. We usually think of evil as intentional harm. Here, it is the selfish insistence on one’s own way, exactly in the moment when people ought to submit to the will of God.
If there is one thing in Scripture that we ought to come away with, it is that God is not approached nonchalantly. Remember Nadab and Abihu? Remember Uzzah? Remember Ananias and Sapphira? Remember Diotrophes? All of them, and not a few like them, in and out of Scripture, thought they could do their own thing. Uzzah especially was likely well-intentioned but ignorant.
How many of the New Testament letters warn Christians away from damning practices in faith and worship? Go to Corinth, Colossae, or Galatia and see the thousand and one creative approaches that lead away from Christ.
Christ says the Father demands Spirit-and-truth worshippers, John 4.24. Before we discard the Old Testament so quickly, which progressives and others of their ilk are quick to do, let us hear the writer of Hebrews:
So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe. For our God is indeed a devouring fire, Hebrews 12.28-29.
That last phrase is pure Mosaic, from Deuteronomy 4.24. We don’t import practices from the Old, since we have received a different kind of kingdom, an unshakable one, far superior to the touchable Mosaic mountain. But we have the same God, we approach the same Holiness, we listen to a voice which deserves far greater attention than that of the previous covenant:
Take care not to refuse the one who is speaking! For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less shall we, if we reject the one who warns from heaven? Hebrews 12.25.
To ignore this warning voice from heaven, who tells us how to be saved and how to please him in worship, is ten times more irrational than Ecclesiastes’ sacrifice of fools.
The editor is working on listening better and making it one of his choices in life. He is the author of the book, Choose!