To whom have you made promises and what are some of the more important promises of your life? Perhaps your marriage vows, or promises to your children, yourself or to God. How did you enter those promises? Were they done in the heat of the moment or after careful reflection? How do you enter business relationships? Do you read and study the contract? Do you get to complain, after having signed the contract, about its terms?
Qoheleth has taken great care in the preceding chapters to establish his credentials as one keenly knowledgeable of the human condition. Now he gives us some advice on how to deal with the most important relationship we will ever have, our relationship with God.
Think for a moment or two about how you relate to God. Is he a buddy, a father figure, or is he somewhat disconnected from the everyday aspects of the world? Just exactly who is it you are trying to relate to?
As usual Qoheleth wants us to observe the futility/vanity/hebel of every day life “under the sun”. He sees people who go before God without thinking about what they are doing, who speak when they should be listening, who make promises they won’t keep, who act hastily on matters of eternal importance and then are surprised when God destroys the work of their hands.
He offers several concrete points of advice to guide our relationship with God.
- Guard your steps – Walk reverently and tread softly, don’t stumble in where we don’t understand.
- Listen before speaking – Whatever God has to say to us is infinitely more important than anything we have to say to Him. Imagine what He might say to us if we listen.
- When it is time to speak don’t be hasty or long – Be sure of what you are saying, being concise is part of the discipline of being certain.
- Fulfill any vows – This one is only totally obvious. It is better not to promise than to promise and not deliver.
Our approach to God today often emphasizes the love of God and the companionship of Christ through the Holy Spirit. These are not inappropriate emphases and are certainly promises found throughout Scripture in the New Testament. But if they are all we consider when we think of approaching God and of relating to Him we still may approach Him amiss. For while He is the God of All Comfort, Love and Blessing; the One who sought us out and paid for our sins while we still hated Him; He is also the Sovereign Creator of the Universe who is perfect and holy in all His ways. We would do well to tread lightly in such presence.
How is it appropriate to approach God? Are things different for us in light of the Cross than they were for Qoheleth? What is meant in 5:7 by “Therefore fear God”?