Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. – Eccl. 5:1 NIV
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The biblical book of Ecclesiastes, often called the Teacher is a book that attempts to inform its readers about the vanity of life and human achievements. It attempts to let man realise the temporary nature of this world and the need for man to remain conscious that sojourn here is very temporary as there will be relocation at some stage to a more permanent location. There will therefore be the need to act wisely in this world in order to please the Almighty God and thus get an assurance of a more comfortable life in the life after life.
The scripture for today’s devotion which is the first verse of chapter five of this biblical book is part of the many observations and advises of the Teacher. In the scripture, the Teacher advises the Christian in particular and anyone in general who is going into the house of the Lord to;
1. Guard their footsteps – Eccl. 5:1a. To guard will mean to watch over in order to control or protect ones actions or deeds. To watch in that definition will mean to exercise care, caution, or restraint about their actions when they are going into the house of the Lord. This is very important because nothing should be done in a manner that will bring regret, with regards to activities done in the house of the Lord by anyone. Every act taken in the house of the Lord by any one should be a product of proper consideration and an informed decision.
2. Go there to do more of listening rather than offer sacrifices of fools who he believes basically operate in ignorance of their acts – Eccl. 5:1b. The Teacher advises one who goes to the House of God to do more of listening rather than such a person ending up as a fool for operating in ignorance. This may be so considering that any act of an individual will be expected to be a product of thorough processing of all facts made available through effective listening. A decision maker who followed this process should not excuse decision errors on the basis of ignorance, else such will be making a fool of him/her self because at that point, one begins to wonder what factors were considered before the decision was taken.
According to the Teacher, the product of either not guarding ones footsteps very well or acting only after careful processing of all available information, will be pronouncements and thoughts that will be seen eventually as hasty actions. The Teacher advises that a solution to avoiding regrets of this nature is for the Christian to exercise care, caution and restraint in processing all available information, especially when one is in the house of the Lord. That is when such a person can be said to be listening and not acting on mere hearing and thus avoid acts that will be seen as being hasty.
Although the Teacher gave the advice and related it to the House of God, that this advice is relevant to every aspect of human endeavour is not an over-statement. Hastiness in reaction is no doubt a major factor that can lead to regrets in life. To be hasty is to act with excessive speed or insufficient consideration. Most hasty reactions have the tendency to ignore obvious factors that could have guided the decision making process and probably led to the implementation of a different decision. It may not be about the time spent in arriving at the decision, even though, more time in most cases does provide opportunity to have more information that will guide the decision making process. It is more likely to be influenced by the ability of the individual to have sufficient wisdom to process the available information, because most situations are hardly the way they present at the beginning. A better picture is revealed when very appropriate questions are asked, and careful observation of unsaid facts are done, to guide the decision making process. These two steps obviously may be time consuming, but will be worth it in the end when the implication of not following due process will be considered.
Making such hasty decisions is more likely in the House of God because most issues in that environment are very spiritual, which means that they can not be seen. It will require special gift of God to know the truth around most situations in such environment, and divine wisdom to be able to interpret such truths as seen or presented. The effect of the damage caused by taking hasty decisions in such environment is also more impacting as it tends to be spiritual unlike in non-spiritual environments. Not only do they most times, have serious negative impact on the spirituality of such environment, it also brings the individual into direct confrontation with the Almighty God, a situation that is best avoided as the person will always come out from it with serious bruises, and that is if such individual does come out at all – Eccl. 5:2b.
The Teacher also advised that, even where it seems sufficient information has been gathered to ensure a good decision, individuals should still speak less, as he considers those who use too many words while speaking as fools – Eccl. 5:2a. A wise person will always speak with few words to avoid trapping him/her self with such words – Prov. 17:27. This is because, words, once pronounced may be withdrawn in apology, but their effects last for a long time, if not for ever. Apologies do not remove the effect of words, it only serves as consolation balm to soothe the pain. It is better for those words not to have been dropped in the first place although apologies after their been dropped will still go a long way. However it is better to prevent the effect that words wrongly used have, by speaking less than waiting to apologise after their use.
Avoid being hasty in all things, especially when in the House of the Lord, and speak with very few words, even when you seem to have arrived at a well-informed decision, as there are still chances of some information not being provided at that decision making period, either by commission or omission, knowingly or unknowingly. Only the Almighty God seated in heaven can know and see all things and he only can take decision without regrets. Avoid making a fool of yourself when more information becomes available, by exercising caution when talking in that situation. You can only know what you know or what you are told and even with the best of intentions, human knowledge is very limited and so information available is also limited. Be conscious of this limits in human ability and caution yourself, either verbally or otherwise, so that you will not have offered the sacrifice of fools. May the Almighty God help us to guard all our actions not only in His house but in all situations and at all times in Jesus name. Amen.