- Rick LoPresti
The value of emptiness
God's value system and the world's value system are in direct opposition. God's value system is spiritually oriented and is based on eternal principles. The world's value system is based on the carnal nature and its lust and pride, and the temporal. Sometimes when the Bible speaks of the world it is speaking of the people who live in the world, such as "God so loved the world (Jn 3:16)." Other times it is talking about the value system of the world, such as "Love not the world (1Jn 2:15-17)." Since these two value systems are at odds, one often places great value on things the other finds no value in, such as "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God (Lk 16:15)." God also often places high value on things man does not, such as brokenness, the soul, the pain and suffering of Christians, blood, the church, and His word. In fact, Jesus said one soul is worth more than all the world (Mt 16:26).
Man hates emptiness. People go to extreme efforts to avoid feeling empty. They try to fill that emptiness with sex, drugs, money, power, superficial relationships, false ideologies, sports and entertainment, gangs, and government. King Solomon's life was full in so many ways. He had more wisdom and riches than anyone else in the world (1Ki 3). He had 700 wives, and 300 concubines (1Ki 11). That is enough for a different woman every day for almost 3 years. He built the temple, and led Israel through its most prosperous and peaceful years. Yet when he departed from his relationship with God, none of these things could satisfy him. He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes to complain of his emptiness. They word vanity, which means emptiness, appears 86 times in the Bible, and 33 of those are in Ecclesiastes. The second verse of the book emphasizes this by using the phrase "vanity of vanities" twice. This book describes how Solomon tried to fill his emptiness with everything this world has to offer, but still was not fulfilled. That is why the rich and famous still get divorced and commit suicide. Solomon reached this conclusion at the end of the book:"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man (Ecc 12:13)." The only true fulfillment comes from a relationship with God. That shows us one value of emptiness. It should drive us to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ where He died to find true living.
There is another aspect of emptiness that also has great value. Even Jesus Christ experienced it. It is described in Philippians 2. This is a great passage for understanding the unity of the Godhead and the dual nature of Jesus Christ. The principle of divine/human, Spirit/ flesh, God/man, Father/Son is displayed . It is further revealed by looking up some of the key words in the original Greek. First, we should remember the purpose of this passage is to tell Christians to follow the example of humility Jesus showed by His incarnation and death (vs. 3-5). It should also be noted that this passage says nothing of persons in the Godhead, and does not mention the Holy Ghost at all. Let us not read into scripture something that isn’t there. Phil 2:6 says Jesus was in the form of God. The Greek word for form is morphe which means “the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; external appearance”. Jesus is the visible part of the invisible God (Jn 1:18, Jn 5:37, 2Cor 4:4-6, Col 1:15, Heb 1:3). Phil 2:6 also says He was equal to God. The Greek word for equal is isos, which means “equal in quantity and quality”. Since all the fullness of the Godhead is in Jesus bodily (Col 2:9), and since the term Godhead means essentially the quantity and quality of God, the phrase equal to God means all of God is in Him. Remember Jesus said His Father is greater than Him (Jn 14:28). Phil 2:7 says Jesus made Himself of no reputation. This is the Greek word keno, which means he emptied Himself. Verse 7 continues that he was made in the likeness of men. This is clearly a reference to His humanity. Verse 8 says he was found in fashion as a man. The Greek word for fashion is schema, which means “everything in a person which strikes the senses”. Again, this is clearly His external humanity, not His internal deity. It next says he became obedient unto death. Does one person of God have to obey another? How are they then co-equal? The obedience was unto death. God did not die on the cross. The man did. Verse 9 states God highly exalted Him, and gave Him a name above very name. Did one person of God exalt another, and give Him a name? No, rather God raised the man, and exalted Him (Acts 2:22-24). Verses 10 and 11 are a direct quote from Jehovah the Father about Himself (Is 45:23). Note that Jehovah said that right after He said, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else” (Is 45:22). This is why Phil 2:11 says that confessing Jesus is Lord gives glory to the Father. This would be confusing if they are 2 separate persons; but since the Father is in the Son as one person, this is understandable. Thus once again we have the oneness understanding of the Godhead confirmed by scripture.
Jesus was and is God the Father, the Creator and Lord of all. Yet He came in the flesh and emptied Himself to become the humble, suffering, servant of the need of man to be saved from his sins. When He cried from the cross "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me (Mt 27:46)?", He was not only fulfilling one of eight prophecies about His death in Psalm 22, He was showing us how He emptied Himself for us. He could have called over 12 legions of angels to deliver Him (Mt 26:53). A Roman legion was 6,000 foot soldiers and 100 horsemen. He did not call the angels, even though He was being taunted to do so. They could not have killed him if He chose to stop it. They tried before many times, but could not. He gave Himself willingly because He loves us (Jn 10:18). When Jesus prayed, He did not pray as one person of God to another. God does not pray. He prayed as a man who emptied Himself to the Father (Heb 5:7). Because He emptied Himself to the will of God, He is now risen, ascended, and glorified. The emptiness was only temporary.
We can try to fill ourselves with our own will and find ourselves empty in the end, or we can empty ourselves to the will of God, and find the eternal fullness God has prepared for us (Mt 16:21-28, Lk 14:11). The first fulfillment is temporary, but the emptiness is eternal. The second emptiness is temporary, but the fullness is eternal. We choose. That is the value of emptiness. It can help us realize our need of God, and the need to do His will. Sometimes we think the will of God is really our will, even though it is a "Christian" thing we want to do. We also need to empty ourselves of those things, and let God be in charge, trusting that He knows what is best, and knows what we need.