If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might God find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, “This is not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou are all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, “This is enow
Unto itself – ’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.”
Sir Thomas Edward Brown
While living in Williamston, NC, in the 70’s, we met Gordon Wells. He loved country gospel music “better than Peter loved the Lord”! Gordon had a small recording studio; and since we were beginning to travel to sing (mainly in those days) and teach, he encouraged us to make a record album. We did! Then another. (Anybody out there still have one?)
A few times a year, Gordon would bring gospel groups to town for concerts, so we got to hear several of them. Once a wonderful trio of young men called Higher Ground stayed in our home! Another trio that we loved was the Couriers from PA; their harmony was rich and their vocal range was incredible! Several of their albums got played often at our home and in our car in those days!
One memorable song they sang was “Empty Hands.”
The lyrics said “One by one God took things from me
until my hands were empty. He then said, ‘Lift your
empty hands to me.’ Finally I comprehended God
cannot pour His riches into hands already full.”
What a simple, yet profound truth!
In creation, God first formed Adam; then he breathed into the empty form to give him life! Bishop T. D. Jakes says that there is something about emptiness that attracts God; He enjoys filling empty things. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Hungry people know they are empty!
When Ruth started speaking at CFO, one of her early talks, still among MY favorites, told about the Bible’s “Tupperware lady.” (You didn’t know Tupperware was in the Bible, did you? Well, read II Kings 4:1-7 and you’ll see!)
Ruth says that if such a situation occurred now, the widow would ask her neighbors to lend her all of their Tupperware containers! We don’t know the size of the jar, but we know that it was a very limited amount of oil; neither do we know how many vessels they borrowed, but it was a lot!
Elisha told them to shut the door. Sometimes God allows us to get desperate enough to shut ourselves in with Him. We humans tend to pray a little and trust God a little, and thus get little results. Peter Marshall said, “With dynamite at our disposal, we live firecracker lives and get firecracker results.”
My dad Tom West only went to 4th grade; but he loved God and loved his Bible. God taught him some homespun truths that I’ve never heard from anyone else. One of his favorite sayings was, “Son, ‘I need’ don‘t mean much; but ‘got to have’ will work you to death!”
Do you get it? I often think of his words when at the end of some meeting, a leader asks, “Are there any needs?” The group “prays”; but hearing of significant answers is rare. So, I wonder what difference we would see if we could get beyond needs to “got to have”! In my own prayer life, I’m sure I would see more results if I would allow my “got to have” to shut me in to bring my pitiful emptiness to God and plead for Him to fill me. Too often we approach God while debating which of our ideas to implement. Foolishness!
The widow came to Elisha with her “got to have”! She shut the door and started pouring. She would never have known how much oil was available to her if she had never started to pour! One by one, her children brought the borrowed empty vessels to her, and she filled each one. She asked her kids for another vessel; but every one was now full. If there had been more empties, the oil would have continued to flow. Elisha instructed her to sell the oil, return each vessel to its owner, and live on what God had provided. Glory! Her children would NOT be sold as slaves, and they had plenty!
Another Bible widow taught an important lesson when she “poured.” Jesus and His disciples watched worshippers put contributions into the temple
receptacles. Wealthy men gave extravagantly. When
that poor widow dropped two copper coins valued
at about one cent, Jesus said she had given more
than anyone else. They gave from surplus;
she had none.
God not only sees what we give;
He also sees what we have left.
Tithing affirms that all that we “have” belongs to God; we are only stewards and tenants. Old pastor Fred Rivenbark used to say, “Tithing puts God first.” Giving the 10th confesses, ”I am empty; I have nothing.” Remember that Bishop Jakes teaches that God likes to fill empty things. So when we acknowledge our desperation and present our emptiness, He begins to open the windows of heaven and POUR! SELAH!
Confirming Scriptures: Eccl. 11:1; Prov. 11:24; II Cor. 8:1-5; Luke 6:38; I Chron. 29:9-15; II Sam. 24:18-25; Mark 12:41-44