Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and you on earth…
What a contrast is there between this sound and sober counsel, and the precepts and customs prevalent among the heathen! These latter have corrupted the very practice of devotion; whilst those who acknowledge the authority of the Scriptures condemn themselves if their worship is superficial, pretentious, formal, and insincere.
I. THE RULES OF DEVOTION.
1. Avoid profane rashness and precipitancy. When rashness and haste are forbidden, it is not intended to condemn ejaculatory or extempore prayer. There are occasions when such prayer is the natural and appropriate expression of the deep feelings of the heart; when one cannot pause to weigh one's words, when one cannot fall back upon liturgy or litany, however scriptural and rich. What is censured is ill-considered prayer, which is not properly prayer at all, but the outpouring of ill temper and petulance. Such utterances may be profane, and are certainly unsuitable, unbecoming.
2. Avoid verbiage. When praise and prayer take shape in many words, there is danger of using "vain repetitions," against which our Lord Christ has so urgently warned his disciples. Long and diffuse devotions are probably addressed rather to men than to God. They are unnecessary and unprofitable, for God does not need them; they are irreverential, for they betoken a mind more occupied about self than about the Supreme. But this precept does not preclude urgency and even repetition when such are dictated by profound feeling and by special circumstances.
II. THE REASON OF THESE RULES.
1. The nature, the character of God himself. "He is in heaven." By heaven we are to understand the eternal sphere apart from and above time, earth, and sense. We are not to rank God with earthly potentates, but are to bear in mind his distinctness and superiority. As our Creator, he knows both our emotions and our wants; as our Lord and Judge, he knows our sins and frailties; as our Savior, he knows our penitence and faith. Such considerations may well preclude familiarity, rashness, verbosity, irreverence. To think rightly of God, to feel aright with regard to him, is to be preserved from such faults and errors as are here mentioned with censure.
2. The position of men. Being upon earth, men partake in the feebleness and finiteness of the created. They are suppliants; and as such they should ever approach the throne of grace with reverence and humiliation. They are sinners; and should imitate the spirit of him who, when he came up into the temple to pray, cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner! 'This was a short prayer; but he who offered it was accepted and justified. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
WEB: Don't be rash with your mouth, and don't let your heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and you on earth. Therefore let your words be few.