Be Willing To Be Emptied
“...Saul said, "Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, therefore I said, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.' So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering." Samuel said to Saul, "You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure..."” (1 Samuel 13:11-14 NASB)
This passage describes the downfall of Israel’s first king, Saul. In asserting himself and offering a burnt offering, Saul disobeyed the Lord, and thus his kingdom was removed from him. And the lesson that came to my heart — even above and beyond the obvious, “do not disobey the Lord” — is what a tragedy it is to be unaware of God’s ways. And specifically, to be unwilling to be emptied by the Lord.
Just a few generations earlier, the Lord deliberately scattered over 99% of Gideon’s army (31,700/32,000), specifically because He wanted to get all the glory for their victory (Judges 7:2-8). If Saul had been acquainted with God’s ways — if he knew it actually pleased God to scatter all that His people put confidence in — then he would not have been alarmed when his own enemy scattered. He might have rejoiced at the sight, saying, “Surely the Lord wants to accomplish something special here at Michmash!” He could have seen the Lord accomplish a great deliverance in his own day. Instead, he never ended up defeating the enemy God surely wanted to give into his hands (1 Samuel 14:52).
And I see in this sad example a tremendous lesson for my own life. I have seen so clearly recently that the reason the Lord pours me from one circumstance to another (“from vessel to vessel,” Jeremiah 48:11) is that I might be emptied of my Self life. His intention in arranging the circumstances of my life is to bring me to absolutely nothing, that the life of Jesus Christ might fill my entire being. And yet I see how, like Saul, I can be caught unaware of His ways, oblivious to how my flesh resists His design to empty me of all confidence in myself.
Just last week I was sitting in a meeting, feeling overlooked and talked around. Folks were speaking to each other, referencing one another’s strengths, and completely leaving me out of the conversation. I felt the urge to clear my throat, sit up extra straight, and assert myself into the discussion I felt I was being excluded from. And I felt the Lord speak to my heart so clearly, “I want to bring you to nothing. Are you willing to be emptied in this circumstance?”
My heart sang for joy at the reminder! But I was deeply convicted of how quickly I can forget God’s purpose, and how easily I can be lured away from being “on the same page” with God and His purpose.
It has made me cry out for more brokenness, for more emptying, that I might come to nothing quickly. It took the Lord 40 years to break Moses of his self-confidence as a deliverer at his father-in-law’s house; it took Him 25 years to break Abraham of his confidence in his ability to produce the promised child; but it only took a few days to break Peter so thoroughly that he could be used mightily of God. I have been praying for the “Peter program,” telling the Lord that I don’t want to wait 40 years!
I’m not longing to be broken because I’m concerned with some outward ministry. I want to be like Jesus, perfectly content to live in obscurity if that’s God’s will; but I desperately want to be pleasing to Him, and I know that He has said, “To this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). So I want to be willing to be completely emptied of my Self-life, and I want to submit to every scattering circumstance that the Lord allows to help me along the way, because I am mindful of His purpose, and I am of one heart with Him against this filthy Self-life that sets itself up against the purpose of God (Romans 8:7-8, Galatians 5:17).