1. Ecclesiastes 5:1 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

Summary of Ecclesiastes 5:1

Ecclesiastes 5:1 (ESV)

1 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.

It is often said that the writer of Ecclesiastes does not point to the Lord. He would actually be sceptical of God. At the very least he would have a very different view of God than many other writers in the Bible. Anyone who reads the book of Ecclesiastes carefully will see that this is not the case. What we read in Ecclesiastes 5:1–20 shows this very clearly! Solomon now addresses a different subject. He now discusses his personal life with the Lord. Solomon speaks of the temple as God’s house on earth. You need to think carefully about what you are doing when you prepare to go to the temple. You can detect this from the words: Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.

He certainly does not want to discourage visiting God’s temple. It is a requirement for God’s people in the Old Testament to go to the temple at least three times a year (see Deuteronomy 16:16–17; Psalm 122:4). This command from the Lord is to be obeyed, but not without proper preparation. It is about a special encounter with the Lord. You approach holy ground. It is therefore wrong to offer a sacrifice in the house of God without preparation. People who only go to the temple out of habit, for example to avoid getting into trouble with people around them, are sinning. It may even be the case that a large part of the people who faithfully go to the temple are living in sin. Outwardly, it appears that they serve the Lord. They fulfill their duties in the temple, but in everyday life there is no living out of love for the Lord.

We find an example of such a situation in Jeremiah 7. The greater part of the covenant people did not live with the Lord. They seeked their own advantage and they despised God’s commandments in everyday life. Yet they expected that the Lord would help them in difficult circumstances. They think in this way because the temple is in Jerusalem and they are doing their religious duties. According to them, the temple itself is a guarantee that the Lord will help and protect. Then the Lord says through Jeremiah, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord (Jeremiah 7:3–4).

Someone who comes into the temple and sacrifices before the Lord without love and reverence has no understanding. He is foolish. He sins, no matter how religious he may appear.

This is also connected to love for your neighbour. The Lord Jesus shows this very clearly in Matthew 5:23–24: So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

All these things have great significance for our preparation to meet the Lord every Sunday in the church services. The Lord requires preparation and reverence from us when we meet him in church.