They rejected the LORD’S statutes, the covenant that he had made with their ancestors, and his warnings that he gave them. They pursued meaninglessness—and became meaningless themselves—as they followed the lifestyles of the nations that surrounded them, a practice that the LORD had warned them not to do. (2 Kings 17:15)
At the risk of sounding like an Old Testament prophet, I read this verse the other day and then was drawn again to it this morning. It is speaking something profound and in this particular translation, the wording from the Hebrew adds even more depth. “They pursued meaninglessness—and became meaningless themselves…” Meaninglessness—Without meaning or value. Meaningless—Lacking any significance; having no real importance or value. They pursued things, values, entertainment, and fulfillment, in things that had no meaning or value. Because of this, their lives began to lack significance, having no real importance or value. They did this by following the lifestyles of the nations that surrounded them.
It is how I feel sometimes when I observe things happening around the world, and even within the body of Christ—pursuing meaninglessness and becoming meaningless. Meaningless. That word is haunting me as I look into my own life. Someone once said that we can tell a lot about ourselves when we look at what we do when we have nothing else to do—what do we turn to for entertainment, for pleasure, for filling up the gaps in our lives?
What constitutes a meaningful life? Speaking from personal experience, a meaningful life is a life that is lived full-on, all-in for Jesus Christ. It is a life that has learned from hard experience that there is nothing meaningful in the world system—not the music, the entertainment, the value system, the women’s movement, the demand for rights to be met, the temporary satisfaction of sex, drugs or alcohol—none of it fills up the empty gaps; it only leaves the gaps wider, emptier and craving the next false promise. These are the “gods” today, and just as the golden calves under the trees that offered nothing real, they promise fulfillment yet leave us meaningless.
What was it that the children of Israel had done that led to leading meaningless lives? In verse seven it tells us that they feared (were in awe of) other gods, then in verse eight it says that they began to walk in the ways of these other gods. In verse nine, we read “And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God” It goes on in this downward spiral to actually setting up images of the other gods under trees, burning incense to those images, and last of all—they worshipped the creation rather than the Creator. They became awed by the gods of the world; they started walking—taking steps toward, the things (gods) of the world, then began secretly absorbing those other gods into their imaginations, and finally moved into actual worship of them. This scenario is repeated in Romans chapter 1, just in case we want to draw lines between the Old Testament God and the New Testament Jesus.
God, in His infinite love, sent prophets among them to plead with them to return to the LORD, Yahweh, the God who loved them deeply; the only God who could meet their deepest longings, yet they hardened their hearts and finally after pursuing meaninglessness, they became meaningless—without significance or value.
When life disappoints, when life expectations elude us, it is a dangerous place to be. The enemy can sneak in—unawares—and send in the “little foxes” which promise to fulfill our dreams. He’s a master at this. Trust me, I know. I have lived full on in both worlds; I have also lived a split personality with one foot in each. Meaninglessness almost always begins with disappointment. Disappointment dissolves into disillusionment, then into depression. Depression dissolves into despair—the feeling of utter meaninglessness; having no significance or value. From this downward spiral, we can add bitterness to the mix and it becomes toxic. Anger wells up, turns on those who love us, criticizes those who want to be there for us, embraces the failures of others, which temporarily soothes our own feelings of worthlessness.
My own experience with disappointments, disillusionments, depression, despair and bitterness is burned into my consciousness—something that God has never removed because in the remembering I can detect the symptoms which precede the spiral. Looking back at it now, there is absolutely no temptation to ever return to that dark place. He wants me to remember from where I came. Oh, I didn’t get there because I had never known Him. I had known Him. My disappointment began when He failed to answer my prayers for my marriage, and it grew deeper and darker as I fed my bitterness and embraced the false security and promises of the world.
Just as He did with Israel, He sent prophets to me, to gently speak His words to me from time to time. I recoiled at first and rejected the words, but slowly He begin to penetrate my feelings of abandonment and disappointment and worthlessness and He brought me out of that darkness and into His marvelous light. (2 Peter 2:9). And He didn’t leave me there—he set my feet in a large room–a “spacious place”; “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19); “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” (Psalm 31:8). The spacious place—the “large room” is filled with brilliant light, with meaningfulness, with thankfulness, with praise, with powerful music and He is there, because He is the large room and I can live there every day of my life—filled with meaning and purpose and love and forgiveness and peace and hope and joy and service to others. It is what He longed to share with the children of Israel; it is what He longs to share with us.
May I then play the part of prophet to someone today, bidding you to hear Him again? To call you back from the lure of the world’s meaningless attractions and into His marvelous light? He has not given you into the hands of the enemy—He has set your feet in a spacious place—because He delights in you.