Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God . Ecclesiastes 5, verses 6 and 7.
There is so much to discuss from these 2 verses that even I, the most verbose of men, couldn’t say it all. Yes, that’s a rarity; please record that admission because doesn’t happen very often. So let’s chunk it down and dissect it bit by bit. Remember that the overall theme of the first few verses of Ecclesiastes 5 is to be in awe of God. We should not make vows we don’t intend to keep. In a way, the verses are an extension of the ninth Commandment (yes, I had to look it up; I forget the order of most of them). You shall not lie. We must not make vows we don’t intend to keep because that would be nothing more than a lie.
“Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.” Building on that last thought, don’t promise things you can’t deliver. Don’t say one thing and mean another. Or, to take it to another level, let’s get all Thumper: “If you don’t got nothin nice to say, don’t say nothin at all.” It’s obviously more common sense, even if you reject the idea of human sin. Don’t let your words get you into trouble. Like saying it is better to not vow than to deliberately make a bad one, it’s better to be silent than to say things that lead us into sins. How many times do I wish I had kept my mouth shut instead of doing things or undertaking things that turned into sinful disasters? How much time do you have to keep reading? It’s common sense.
Who is the temple messenger? I did a little research on this. The temple messenger could be a priest, or in our case a minister. In the time of ancient Israel, it was the role of the Jewish priests (as judges) to determine what vows and oaths should be kept. Though God wanted His people to keep their word no matter what, then as now, people were legalistic. They wanted someone to decide. Older translations of the verse replace ‘priest’ or ‘temple messenger’ with angel, and this is consistent because people made (and make) vows before God’s angels. The angels are intermediaries between man and God. Neither divine nor human, they are go-betweens who serve God by assisting men. I believe in angels. Twice in the sphere of my influence I know of interventions that no human could have controlled, once very recently in fact. We should guard our words because those who intermediate with God on our behalf aren’t beings to trifle with. If you don’t believe me, read up on the story of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. He didn’t guard his words in front of the angel Gabriel and it got him nine months of silence.
Does God destroy our work and our words? This is tougher for me to tackle. God can destroy, He has, and He does. When something we do runs contrary to God’s purpose in our lives, He can and does tear it up. He’s God and He has that power. Still, I like to think that, when destruction comes into our lives, it’s usually more of a consequence of our actions – our choices – that God allows to occur. We mostly bring it on ourselves contrary to the good that God desires. Sure, random destruction happens and sometimes it happens out of the blue; there’s no way to say ‘we brought that on.’ Even in those times, I believe it is more an instance of God allowing chaos to enter our lives for our eventual good. Sometimes parents do that, you know. I feel for Him because, on a billion-person global scale, He watches it happen every minute of every day. It’s an awesome responsibility but He’s God and He can handle it. Still, I’m a parent too and I know it’s hard for me to stand back and watch sometimes. I can’t imagine how He must endure it.
Dreaming and verbosity are meaningless. Kenny Rogers sang it: “don’t fall in love with a dreamer.” I wish someone had told my wife what I dreamer I am. It would have spared her much heartache, yet I also think it may be one of the things she likes about me. But here’s the thing: God doesn’t need our daydreams or our words. He’s God and He already knows how things turn out, both in the world and in our lives, but we don’t and He lovingly allows things to unfold as they do. When our dreams interfere with keeping our word, trouble usually ensues. Too many of them and too much talking about what isn’t, what could be, or what we wish takes away from us living in the moment where God is constantly at work. I think that’s why this reminder is here. God doesn’t dream of what could be. He’s God, and He’s the only real dream come true. I used to dream of what it would be like to win the lottery, be self-reliant, and be wealthy. I don’t do that so much anymore. These days, I prefer to simply rely on God while using the talents He gave to me and make the most of what I can.
Finally, we should be in complete awe of God. Not the powerless, I can’t function kind of awe, but the ‘I’m inspired to do anything for Him” kind of awe. One source I reviewed for verse 7 said ‘Having the fear of the Lord means “holding God in such Awe that you are wholeheartedly motivated to pursue His holiness & His service.“’ (Bell, Sermon Notes, Ecclesiastes 5, http://preceptaustin.org/ecclesiastes_commentaries.htm). I’m hearing AC/DC trebling in my head; “you’ve been thunderstruck” (which, by the way, is a totally addictive song). I hope to see God one day with my own eyes. Like Job, I hope to look on my creator and my redeemer with my own eyes and live forever there with Him in complete awe. Until then – and after then – I want to live in awe of Him as I learn about Him here. It isn’t hard to do. Think of how you feel when you realize you love the people you do. That’s an awesome, awe-inspiring thing. That’s how we should live as concerns God.