Guard Your Steps
Have you ever considered that it is important to “guard your steps when you go the house of God” (Ecc. 5:1)? Perhaps we don’t often think of church as a dangerous place, and yet it is a very dangerous place for those who refuse to listen to the preaching of God’s word. The author of Hebrews warns that there are those who have “tasted the goodness of the word of God…and then have fallen away” (Heb. 6:5-6). In this case there is no other way of salvation for them “since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (6:6). Long before the author of Hebrews, the Preacher recognized the difference between the wise and the fools that went to the house of God. Therefore, in order to be wise in our worship, it’s important for us to understand what it means to guard our steps when we go to church.
First, we are to “draw near” (Ecc. 5:1). We are to make worship a weekly priority. Each Lord’s Day we are to go to church. Meeting together with other believers on Sunday should be a priority over all other things. As the author of Hebrews says, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25).
We are also to “listen” to the preaching of God’s word (Ecc. 5:1). There are lots of different reasons people go to church. Some people go because they are invited by family or friends. Others go because they are curious about Christianity. Still others go because they like seeing their friends and making connections in the community. But those who love God will draw near to listen to the preaching of God’s word and engage in the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). By God’s grace, we are to “hold [the word of God] fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). Like Mary, who “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” we are to do the “one thing” that is “necessary” and choose “the good portion, which will not be taken away” (Luke 10:39-42).
In addition to drawing near to listen, we should not be “rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God” (Ecc. 5:2). I am afraid that many of the churches in our cities have lost an appreciation for the holiness of God, and therefore, are quick to pray and sing songs without thinking too much about what they are saying or singing. Too often we are not “grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” because we are focused on ourselves in worship, and therefore fail to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” recognizing that He is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
Finally, guarding our steps involves recognizing that “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecc. 5:2). It is good and right to think of God as our friend, if we are believers (John 15:15), but some people think of God as nothing more than a buddy who builds us up and does our bidding. In contrast, Scripture reveals that God is holy. Think about Israel, for example, when they “saw the thunder and the flashes of lighting and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking” and “were afraid and trembled” and didn’t want God to speak to them, lest they die (Ex. 20:18-19). Moses told them, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Ex. 20:20). This fear of God is the Preacher’s main theme in Ecclesiastes (see 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 8:12; 12:13). Worship is not about our dreams and words, but about the holiness of God and His word. The Bible “is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Deut. 32:47). The importance of the written word points to the preeminence of the living word, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4). It is Christ about whom the Scriptures “bear witness” (John 5:39).
Perhaps you didn’t think going to church could be so dangerous, but the Preacher reminds us how important it is to guard our steps as we approach God’s house. Let us not neglect drawing near to God and His people on the Lord’s Day, listening to the preaching of God’s word, worshiping Him with reverence and awe, and recognizing His holiness.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.