Explore the Bible Study: Why Listen?

7:25 AM


I'm sure all of you could complete the statement, "I should have listened when . . .," with some insight that would help all of us make better choices! I know how I would complete the statement. How about you? The Explore the Bible Study: Why Listen? will examine the wisdom Solomon gives on this subject.

In Ecclesiastes 4:13-16 and Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, Solomon, the Teacher, provides a series of warnings regarding the importance of listening. As these are examined, one should continue to remember Solomon’s emphasis on focusing on the eternal and not the temporal that fades away. He has made clear that all things achieved or built by humans will fade as vain and futile. Variations on the word "vanity" or "futility" are used nearly forty times in the Book of Ecclesiastes. This repetition reminds us that life is a vapor or breath. Life under the sun is fleeting and elusive. Therefore, the search for meaning and purpose in this life apart from God is also fleeting and elusive, like chasing after the wind. We are not transcendent over time but live and die within the time that God has allotted us. A wise person will accept this reality, place his faith in God (Christ), and desire to pursue things that matter the most in life.

The passage of study will focus on his warnings in three different areas regarding the importance of listening – Leading, Worshipping, and Promising.

Listening When Leading - Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

One must assume that this king started off strong but didn’t finish well. His entire influence became tainted by his choices as he grew older and quit listening to those who desired to warn him of impending dangers or bad decisions.

Solomon points to a cycle often seen in all areas of leadership, particularly the home, business, or the church. As one who leads grows old, he/she quits learning and listening. Suddenly, he is out of touch, and distances himself from the very ones who used to be able to speak godly wisdom into his life. Sadly, he doesn't finish strong. Notice also the irony Solomon points out when he states that a poor but wise youth is better than an experienced king who is no longer willing to listen to wise counsel.

In Ecclesiastes 4:16 Solomon makes an interesting statement regarding the futility of success for the one who refuses to listen. He says, “There is no limit to all the people who were before them, yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.”

So many people wear themselves out trying to gain the recognition they feel they deserve. They become consumed by things like awards, the number of social media followers, the number of “likes” on social media, or the quantity other means of recognition. The ETB commentary compares this to the “building of empires of dirt” that will one day be blown away by the winds of time. Jesus reminds us of the perspective one should have as he strives to be an effective leader. His prescription for growing old as a leader is, "to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you." (Matthew 6:33) 

We can’t seek first His kingdom if we aren’t willing to listen when leading.

Listening When Worshipping - Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

Solomon’s reference in verse 1 relates to the temple as being the house of God. In the Old Testament, people were required to bring sacrifices to God in the temple as a way of atoning for sin and as a way of entering into God’s presence. This is why the Teacher reminded us that God is in heaven, and we are on earth.  Additionally, the temple or tabernacle was the symbol of God’s dwelling with his people, and the people are the family/house of God.

The House of God is both God’s dwelling in the hearts of believers, a place of worship, and the community of believers with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Believers are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5), which together with Christ “are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Individually, believers are a “spiritual house” and, together, they are the family of God constituted by and indwelt by God’s Spirit (1 Peter 2:9–10).

Coming to the House of God or being the House of God is not something on a checklist to be completed but a lifestyle to be embraced. The lifestyle is reflective of a changed heart and the reality that we are always the House of God.

Consider how these passages provide additional insight into the warnings Solomon gives regarding worship:

  • Isaiah 29:13 and Luke 18:9-14. How does this help us understand Solomon’s warning? How can we guard our steps?
  • Matthew 23:1-6. How does this help us understand Solomon’s warning? How can we make sure we are approaching God in obedience?
  • Matthew 12:33-37. How does this help us understand Solomon’s warning? How can we make sure we think before we speak?

One doesn't enter into the presence of God aimlessly running his or her mouth.  In order to hear God with reverence, you must first be attentive and listen. Solomon challenged worshippers to approach God with a heart for obedience rather than with meaningless rituals. He further encouraged worshippers to listen more than they speak when in the presence of God or in the presence of other worshippers.

Listening Before Promising - Ecclesiastes 5:4-7

How do you feel when someone breaks a promise? What kind of vows do people make to God? How do you think God feels when someone breaks those vows?

Psalm 15:4 describes a righteous person as one “who keeps his word whatever the cost.” Since this is the case, one should avoid frivolous vows because a promise is a promise. There are no loopholes in God’s eyes that allow someone to back out of a vow. Believers should be careful about making vows, either to the Lord or to one another. The fact that we are prone to errors in judgment means that we may make vows foolishly or out of immaturity. Additionally, vows such as a public commitment to follow Christ or a wedding vow, when broken, demonstrate that the one making the vow really didn’t listen or think about the vow they were making. If was not taken seriously, nor was it made in the context of one who truly fears God.

Solomon states that God views one who makes frivolous vows as a fool in whom He does not delight. But he also gives a principle we should heed before making a vow – fear God. Does your life demonstrate, through the making and keeping of your vows, that you truly fear God? What does it demonstrate about our faith if we take our vows or promises lightly?

Wise believers carefully weigh the promises they make to God and others, knowing they will be expected to keep any promises made. Keeping our promises demonstrates our character and integrity. It shows that we love God and others. Make sure you are listening to God, yourself, and others before you make a promise. Don’t be careless with promises and vows.

What About You?

  • Do you need to be a better listener in order to be a better leader? Don’t let age or success prevent you from listening to wise counsel or to the voice of the Lord. Remember too, that we are all leaders of someone. Heed the words of John Maxwell who states that, everyone is a leader because everyone influences someone. This should be reason enough to listen so you can be the best Christian leader possible.
  • Do you need to be a better listener in worship? How can you discipline yourself to quit talking and become a better listener during worship? How can you prevent yourself from treating worship as a part of your weekly checklist or as ritualistic routine? How can you prevent worship from becoming something that calls attention to yourself?
  • Do you need to listen and think before you make a promise or a vow? Ask God to prompt you to be careful when someone asks you to do something. Ask Him to remind you that making a promise is to be taken very seriously—even the simplest of promises made. Confess your sin if you realize there are vows you haven’t kept and seek reconciliation from God and from those your actions affected.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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