“Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing’ ” (1 Samuel 12:20,21).
LIKE THE PEOPLE OF SAMUEL’S DAY, WE NEED TO BE WARNED AGAINST GOING AFTER “EMPTY THINGS WHICH CANNOT PROFIT OR DELIVER.” Empty things are those that are fruitless and ineffective. They promise great thirst-quenching fulfillments but deliver nothing but dryness and dust in the end. And empty things are all that we can seek if we “turn aside from following the Lord.”
God Himself is what we were created to seek. When we reach forward to Him, we’re doing the most natural thing in the world. “Eternity” has been planted in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and that being true, we can’t really not need God. But if God is what we need, we must be careful to give our hearts what they need and nothing less than that. Empty things will leave our hearts empty!
But as we determine to reach for the right things, it is sometimes hard to be honest about what we’re really reaching for. We tell ourselves that it’s God we’re reaching for when in reality it’s certain blessings from God that we’re primarily interested in. It’s not God Himself that we seek but only a certain path to God. And if our path to God turns out to be different from what we had in mind, we sometimes falter in our faithfulness. But we need to be like Job, who was just as willing to trust God when it didn’t “pay” as when it did. It must be God that we want, period.
It’s a fact that we are a “reaching people.” By our very nature, we strain forward, eager to get in touch with something that can fill our needs. Foolishly, however, we often reach for the wrong things, things that can’t satisfy us in the long run. And this is no small problem; it’s a matter of life and death. If in our need we grasp the wrong things, we doom ourselves to death. So the question is not really whether we’ll reach forward — we will satisfy our desires in one way or another. The only question is whether our “satisfactions” will kill us or not. It pays a thirsty man to be very careful what he allows himself to drink.
“Thirst must be quenched! If our desires are not met by God, we will quickly find something else to alleviate our thirst” (Erwin W. Lutzer).