Come To God With Empty Hands!
On Sunday I heard the Lord shouting in my heart “Come to me with empty hands!” He was opening up the scriptures to my understanding, and I fell backwards into my chair because of the glory of the message.
A pure gospel message proclaimed comes with a manifestation of glory and power. I love to see people weeping as they listen, even physically healed without receiving prayer. I have often tangibly felt God’s glory in an experience that was trigged by thinking about some scripture. I know where the glory is, and it’s not complicated. It’s in the simple gospel message of “God loves you and Jesus died to restore you to relationship with him.” I like to listen to sermons that move me to tears, and I like to see people weeping when I speak.
On the other hand, where there is no power it is often because the gospel message is not pure. What the Lord spoke to me about approaching him with empty hands is quite contrary to what we have heard in so many churches, yet it is the message that comes with glory! When I go to church I want to see miracles, I want to see Jesus glorified, and I want to see people’s hearts gripped by God! Nothing less satisfies my soul.
Here’s what the Lord showed me about coming with empty hands:
“Nobody shall appear before me empty-handed”
Maybe as soon as some people saw the title of today’s post, they thought of this scripture:
Exodus 23:15 (NIV) “Nobody is to appear before me empty-handed.”
We’ve heard this preached in sermons about giving and offerings. No matter how nice a preacher tries to make this sound, the message a lot of peope are getting is “Don’t come to God without money!” This has been exacerbated by teachings about “sowing a seed” to get a breakthrough, or tithing so God can “open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing.” (Sowing and reaping is Biblical, but the harvest we reap for giving money isn’t healing, deliverance, or more money!)
Come, All You Who Have No Money!
Isaiah 55:1 (NIV) “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
We just read a scripture saying that nobody should appear before God empty-handed, but everyone should bring an offering. Now we read a scripture calling those who have no money! What? Let’s consider the contexts of both passages.
Galatians 4:21-31 (NIV) Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”
Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Paul said that Hagar stands for Mount Sinai, and she is in slavery with her children. We, in contrast, are children of promise. The command “Nobody shall appear before me empty-handed” was literally given on Mount Sinai! The contrast with Isaiah’s words is striking. Isaiah 55 is a passage announcing the gospel, a New Covenant passage yet found in the Old Testament, shortly after the prophecy of Jesus as the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. Isaiah is saying “Come empty-handed! Come, you who have no money!”
Let’s be honest. How often has the message “Come, you who have no money!” been what has come across to people from the church?
God Satisfies The Hungry But Sends The Rich Away Empty-Handed!
When we minister healing, some people have the attitude “I don’t deserve to be healed,” or say “I hope I can deserve to be healed.” Others say that such and such a person “deserves” to be healed. These are self-centered attitudes, a manifestation of pride.
Naaman was an important official who was sick with leprosy. His story is in 2 Kings 5. He almost didn’t follow Elisha’s instructions of dipping in the Jordan because of pride. Then when he wanted to give a generous gift after being healed. Naaman’s attitude was “don’t come empty-handed,” but the root was pride and Elisha refused it. Naaman had to humble himself to receive what God had for him, and then God humbled him again by refusing what he brought in his hands.
Don’t even attempt to come to God on the basis of your merit!
Luke 18: 9-14 (NRSV) He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 1:53 (NIV) He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
The gospel calls the hungry, those who have nothing to offer. It’s good news for the poor! Come you who have no money! Come, buy and eat, without money and without cost! God says “Come to me empty-handed, with nothing to offer in return, and you will receive grace!”
Those who come empty-handed will be satisfied, loaded with benefits! But the proud, those who think they are rich, who come with full hands, will leave empty-handed. Come to God with humility, with nothing to offer, and receive his grace.
Now of course, I’m not saying “Don’t bring your money to church!” or “Stop giving!” Lol. I’m just saying, don’t let that have anything to do with how you approach God. Giving in the New Covenant is about being moved by what moves God’s heart as we walk in communion with God. Let your giving be from that attitude and never from a place of “I need something to approach God with.”