The Preacher here enters upon a view of sacred worship in the house of God. He shows that all service void of spiritual worship is vanity. This is followed with similar observations, tending to prove that whatever men place their confidence in the world, terminates in disappointment.
Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. (2) Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
Perhaps Solomon had in view the situation of Moses at the bush, and of Joshua, before the captain of the Lord's host, by Jericho. Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:13-15. But keeping the foot, on entering the house of God, certainly carries with it a reference to the corresponding affections suited to a true spiritual worshipper. Under the gospel dispensation, we may suppose it implies what our Lord Jesus taught of worshipping God, who is a Spirit, in spirit, and in truth. John 4:23-24.
For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words. (4) When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. (5) Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. (6) Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? (7) For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
The divers vanities in dreams are what the Preacher is particularly marking in what is here said, and which he speaks lightly of: but not those in which the fear of God is. The scripture account of dreams, and visions of the night, are not what Solomon is speaking of. We know that the Lord was graciously pleased to make use of them upon many and various occasions of good: and when realized, they cease to be dreams; for the divine testimony is upon them. And here they cannot deceive. Elihu saith, that God speaketh in them: Job 33:15-16. And we have some blessed events said to have been first given in dreams. The dream of Pharaoh made way for great events not only in the family of Israel, but the church itself. Genesis 41:1-16. The great promise of the Spirit is said to be poured out in dreams, Joel 2:28. Yea, the name of Jesus was first given to Joseph in a dream. Matthew 1:20-21. If the Reader wishes to see more in confirmation of this doctrine, I refer him to several scriptures: Genesis 20:3; Gen_31:11; Gen_31:28; Gen_31:37; Joshua 7:13; 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Kings 3:5; Daniel 2:4; Dan_4:5, etc. Respecting the subject of vows, we find, it formed a part of the divine directions in this particular, with Israel in the wilderness, Nu 30. Among the followers of Jesus, the solemn dedication of the soul to God in Christ, is the only vow which we are authorized to make. The purchase of Christ's blood is Christ's property; and as such, every vow truly such, is to glorify God in our body, and in our spirit, which are his. 1 Corinthians 6:20. It is not very easy to determine what the Preacher meant by the charge: Say not before the angel, that it was an error. An angel, in scripture, means a messenger and hence Christ himself as such, is called the Messenger of the Covenant. Malachi 3:1. But whether Solomon had an eye to Christ, when thus speaking, is not clear. However, his caution is good. And if every idle word is to be accounted for in the day of judgment, rash and inconsiderate expressions of the mouth cause the soul to sin. Matthew 12:36.
If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they. (9) Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. (10) He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. (11) When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? (12) The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. (13) There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. (14) But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. (15) As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. (16) And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? (17) All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness. (18) Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. (19) Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. (20) For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.
I make no interruption in the reading of these verses, for one general observation belongs to all; and the Preacher's whole design from them is to impress yet stronger upon the mind, the great subject he hath in view. In everything short of Christ, Solomon finds vanity. And whether the Reader hath discovered his design in these sermons contained in Ecclesiastes we have already gone through, or not; certain it is, that the main object intended from the whole, is to lead to somewhat higher than this world can bestow; and that somewhat is Christ. Happy will it be for both Writer and Reader, if from the perusal, like Solomon himself, we form the same conclusion, and in Jesus behold where God the Father hath centered all things that pertain to life and godliness. 2 Peter 1:1-4.
MY soul! are all things here below empty and unsatisfying: and is there a rest that remaineth for the people of God? And wilt thou not, then, after such repeated convictions as these scriptures afford of human vanity and human disappointment, be prompted, like the Patriarchs to seek a City that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Enquire, my soul, in the history of these holy men gone before, from what cause it was that their lives were so peaceful, and honourable; and their deaths so triumphant and glorious. And the reason is assigned, in all that is said of them, They walked by faith, and not by sight. They did, as Abraham the great father of the faithful did, they believed God, and it was accounted to them for righteousness. They went out, when called upon to go forth into a place which they should afterwards receive for an inheritance, not knowing whither they went. God had promised, and that was enough. They took God at his word. And they were not afraid, but depended upon his faithfulness.
Do thou, my soul, the same. God's promise in Christ is the same now as it was then: or rather, it is now confirmed beyond the possibility of failure in that all the promised undertaking of Christ hath been accomplished. Look forward, look upward then, my soul, and contemplate the glories which shortly shall be revealed. And when, at any time, some renewed instance of vanity, arising from the things here below, shall occur, turn away thine eyes, and behold with faith that upper brighter world. There neither sin, nor Satan; care, nor anxiety; fightings without, nor fears within; can arise to break in upon thy everlasting enjoyments. There dwells Jehovah, manifesting himself in Christ to all his redeemed. There the Lamb, that is in the midst of the throne, is leading the church to fountains of living waters, and all tears are forever wiped away from off all faces. Say, my soul! art thou indeed to dwell there - to go out no more. Are these vanities here below no longer to distress; neither these eyes of thine to behold sin? And shall not even the prospect of such felicity, fill thee with a joy unspeakable, and full of glory? Oh! for the holy longing of the church; Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart, upon the mountains of spices.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://pro.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany