The Sacrifice of Fools

Ecclesiastes 5:1 — 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. (KJV)

The subject of this entire blog is to clarify, through Scripture, the difference between the tradition of men and the truth of God. The problem of tradition infiltrating the worship of God and replacing the truth that is the heart and soul of that worship. As evidenced by the verse above, this problem was in existence even in Solomon’s day. Let’s take a closer look at it to see how it applies to Christianity today. We’ll examine Ecclesiastes 5:1 phrase by phrase.

“Keep Thy Foot”

The NASB says “Guard your foot”. The ESV says “Guard your steps”. In other words, Solomon is saying to watch your step; act with reverence and solemnity.

When God manifested himself to Moses, he told him to remove his sandal, because the place where he stood was holy ground (Exodus 3:5). When the pre-New Covenant manifestation of Jesus appeared before Joshua, he was told the same thing (Joshua 5:15). The custom of removing one’s shoe and giving it to one’s neighbor was a sign of giving up one’s right to something, or conceding (Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Ruth 4:1-8). In conceding to God, we concede to Him as Almighty, our King, the Lord of Lords, our object of reverence and worship.

Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, urges the reader to enter the place of worship with a mind toward reverence, conceding all to God. In his day, it was the temple in Jerusalem, which Solomon himself built. Today, it is anywhere we choose to meet in the name of God. God says,

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. — Matthew 18:20

When we stand in the presence of an earthly king, we show some form of respect. Depending on the culture, we might remove our hats, bow, kneel, or give any number of  signs of deferment. Would it not be only right to meet in the name of God, whether in a church, home, or anywhere else, with an attitude of humility and deference to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, especially if He is in the midst of us?  Paul commended the Corinthians for their attitude toward God:

And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him. — 2 Corinthians 7:15

In too many churches today, the entire concept of worship has been perverted. Some play loud rock music, attendees scream and throw fits in the aisles, and the entire event becomes nothing more than a concert where the name of Jesus is thrown about like the name of a rock star. Others go to have their itching ears scratched (2 Timothy 4:3) and eat at the potluck, as though it were some sort of social club.

The first purpose of meeting in God’s name is to worship Him, to give Him the deference, awe, and the humility due an almighty Creator and King, to learn the truth of His Word and strive to become more like Him.

Keeping our foot means behaving appropriately and respectfully, remembering our purpose in gathering with others for worship.

“Be More Ready To Hear”

The NASB and ESV say “draw near to listen”. The second purpose for meeting with the body is to be edified, to feed on the Word, so we can grow. We are to assemble in meeting to hear God speak through His Word, to learn from God. The objective is to be nourished through the Word (John 6:33, 35, 48; John 6:51; Mark 9:7). The book of Hebrews refers to God’s Word as food (Hebrews 5:12-14). It is not a social club, or a party, or a time of entertainment.

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. — Romans 10:17

If faith comes by hearing, then is it not important to be silent and listen to God’s Word being preached? We are exhorted by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, to “draw near to listen”. Again, our reason for meeting is not for the purpose of entertainment or socializing, but to learn and to worship.

“The Sacrifice Of Fools”

Examples of foolish sacrifices include the sacrifice of Cain (Genesis 4:5). Why was Cain’s sacrifice not acceptable? Based on Ecclesiastes, the sacrifice of fools is one offered without the reverence (guarding one’s foot) and a desire to listen to God (being ready to hear). The attitude toward God means more than any sacrifice (Psalm 51:17; Proverbs 21:3; Hosea 6:6). Jesus said all the prophets and the law hang on loving God and fellow men (Matthew 22:37-40). Another example of the sacrifice of fools is that of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3). Also that of King Saul (I Samuel 13:8-14).

In the early days of America’s founding, men such as Roger Williams dreamed of setting up a country where everyone had the freedom to “worship God in their own way”. Unfortunately, God does not want people worshiping Him in their own way. He spent a great deal of time in Scripture detailing exactly how he is to be worshiped. He spent books telling the Hebrew how to worship Him. When Christ and the apostles preached, they expounded on the fulfillment of the old way of worship and taught how to worship God after the Law was fulfilled.

When we worship God in our own way, we offer the sacrifice of fools. Cain, Saul, Nadab and Abihu, and the Pharisees all offered the sacrifice of fools. They turned a deaf ear on God’s ordinances of worship and implemented their own. Not only were the sacrifices vain (useless and empty), but they were also defying God, telling Him that their way of worship was better than His way. These men offered sacrifice to God without a love for Him and His commandments. They sacrificed in pride and presumption, rather than with fear and trembling.

When we cling to tradition in our worship, we insist on following man’s own rites. The burning of incense, the lighting of candles, the choirs, organs, bands, shouting, clapping, dancing, etc are all the sacrifice of fools. Ignoring baptism and “accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” is the sacrifice of fools. Studying Spurgeon, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Dwight Moody, Billy Graham, and other men rather than God’s own Bible is the sacrifice of fools.

When we simply go through the motions of religion, we offer the sacrifice of fools. If we go to church, attend the potlucks, and talk about Jesus all the time, but do not worship and obey Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), then we offer the sacrifice of fools, and we do evil. Religion is sin. Faith is obedience. God says that unless we obey Him, there is no point in calling Him Lord (Luke 6:26).

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. — Luke 13:23-28

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