Drawing Near to God
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.” (Proverbs 15:8)
“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.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1)
One of the advantages of living in a small space is that everything is close-by. Folks who live in small apartments, tiny houses, or mobile homes understand and enjoy this fact. It becomes especially important though, as HGTV is happy to point out, that a small space is a pleasant one, where we are surrounded by that which is enjoyable and agreeable. As I write this, I see there are too many papers and reference books in my immediate prevue, reminding me of unfinished tasks which will probably remain unfinished if I don’t attend to that which is so near. We can go to church today to worship and come away feeling “unfinished” if we think that we go to give God something, rather than to be in communion with him, staying “near to listen” to him.
Solomon’s advice in Ecclesiastes reflects his warning in Proverbs. Perhaps, writes Gill, guarding our steps as we approach our places of worship relates to the time at the non-burning bush when God instructed Moses to “‘take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’” (Exodus 3:5-6) Moses dropped his face, with reverent fear (v.6). Perhaps you are like me, who does not approach Sunday worship with the respect of Moses and am too casual in my preparation. Recently a good friend recommended to us that we read over the hymns we are going to sing at church (in the online program) at home, to prepare for worship. I think this will have special meaning for us if we follow through during the Advent season.
There is a fundamental difference in approaching God as if we have something to give him versus worshipping the Lord to receive divine graces and instructions from him. Moses entirely convicted of the need to listen to God, being near him, and knew from his past failings that he had nothing to offer. Sacrifices do not satisfy our God’s desire to be known by his children; those offered as a substitute for prayer and submission are unacceptable. Matthew Henry comments on worship: “Keep thy thoughts from roving and wandering: keep thy affection from running out toward wrong objects. We should avoid vain repetitions; copious prayers are not here condemned, but those that are unmeaning. How often our wandering thoughts render attendance on Divine ordinances little better than the sacrifice of fools!” *
Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice is the one on which we need to concentrate—what can we possibly offer God that is better than our prayers of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, and supplication, possible because of his ransom for us? Our prayers are the fruit of Christ’s work in us, and therefore not a sacrifice but a means of drawing near to God. Let us not think (foolishly) that we have anything of value outside of Christ to bring to the Lord, but concentrate on a heart and mind to hear him today as we worship.
* MatthewHenry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Ecclesiastes 5:1, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/ecclesiastes/5.html