Thursday, July 11, 2019

Nature abhors a vacuum. Maybe it prefers a clean sweep.

Have you ever felt a vacuum in your life--not like a Hoover, but like a black hole?  Grief can make you feel that way, and so can depression.  It's not only death of a loved one that brings this kind of sadness, but the loss of a marriage, loss of a job, children moving away, your own move to a different home, or change of any kind.  Depression can be brought on by life situations, and it can also be caused by chemical imbalances.  These things can make you feel like you have a vacuum in your heart, consumed from within by a black hole.

In 1 Samuel 16, King Saul felt this way:

14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”
17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”
18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”
19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”
23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

There are three theological points that I don't have time to get into in depth right now, but I want to briefly touch on.  The first is that God doesn't send evil spirits--that was the common misconception of Hebrew authors at the time.  The second is that under the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit would come and go, but under the New Covenant, believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit forever.  The third is that some people interpret "evil spirit" to mean a demon and others interpret that phrase to simply mean a bad mood or psychological event.  Your opinion on that is immaterial to what I'm saying today.  So what's the point?

Vacuums want to be filled, and messy houses need a clean sweep.  

Saul felt the way that he felt because the Spirit of the Lord had left him.  Empty spaces in the heart want to be filled with something.  Some people who feel internal vacuums fill them with drugs, alcohol, sex, YouTube, political campaigning, food, hoarding, or anything else that can be addictive.  Others fill the void with self pity, complaining, and undermining of others.  These are negative ways of dealing with the empty space inside.  When Saul felt this way, he could be slanderous and murderous.

To deal with the problem, Saul needed to make a clean sweep inside his heart.  He needed to "get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Eph 4:31 NIV)."  But you can't simply sweep a house clean and leave it that way.  Jesus says in Luke 11 (NIV):

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

What Jesus means is that you can't simply empty out the bad habits, the negative thinking, and the problematic things from your life, get that clean sweep, set your house in order, and expect it to stay that way.  You've got to fill your life with positive things that cancel out the negative.  Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have learned to replace drinking with meetings, and with helping others.  In the times when Saul was successful at resisting the vacuum, he would fill his heart with songs of worship.  This is helpful because Psalm 22:3 says that God is enthroned on the praises of people.  This means when we put God on the throne in our hearts, He takes the seat that was vacated by negative things.  He gets rid of the vacuum, makes a clean sweep, and then keeps the house clean.

I wonder--if you're trying to get rid of something negative in your life, are you simply trying to cast it out?  Or are you replacing it with something good?  I hope you'll fill the vacuum with good things today.

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