by Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

Who can ever forget the old TV show, “Hogan’s Heroes”? The show aired from 1965-1971. My dad really loved the character, Sgt. Schultz, the dimwitted officer who was responsible for overseeing the prisoners of war of their camp, Stalag 13. Sgt. Schultz would often be confronted either by his Colonel or by one of the multi-national prisoners. His standard reply would be, remember? “I know NOTHING, NOTHING!”.

In my morning devotions today I was reading Psalm 101:3 which says, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.” This psalm, written by King David, gives what I call the believer’s “I Will’s”:

* “I will sing of mercy and justice” (verse 1a)

* “To You, O Lord, I will sing praises” (verse 1b)

* “I will behave wisely in a perfect way” (verse 2a)

* “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (verse 2c)

* “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (verse 3a)

* “I will not know wickedness” (verse 4b)

In the midst of this is Verse 3a, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” This is an HUGE proclamation of faith for the king! It is more than an hope-so thought. Rather, it is a promise of a lifestyle, a promise made between the king and his King, the Lord Himself. And since we have that promise in Scripture, wouldn’t it be a good idea for each of us to make that promise as well!

So the word “nothing” caught me by surprise. I looked up in my “biblegateway.com” computer program and was overwhelmed by what I found! The word “nothing” appears some 281 times in the Bible! It appears 261 times in the Old Testament. It appears another 120 times in the New. Most of the verses are not so familiar; however, many of them are ones that each of us may have memorized for a Vacation Bible School or Sunday School!

How about you? Let’s check some out!

The FIRST use of the word “nothing” in the Good Book is found in Genesis 11:6. The Lord is looking down upon the land of Shinar, where a tower was being built which purpose was for man to seemingly reach all the way to heaven! This is His response to what He was observing: “And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.’” We know the rest of the story, don’t we? The Lord caused the languages of all the people to be confused. And the tower would be called “Babel”, that is, “confusion”. Such is what would be called Babylon. The key to this whole story is a people who desired to eliminate the Lord from their lives, much less from their world. Is that not a warning for us today?

I was pleasantly surprised to find familiar verses with a most unfamiliar word, “nothing”. Do you remember Nehemiah 8:10? The Governor, Nehemiah, and Ezra the priest were instructing the people as to where their true Hope is. Their hope was not in those who provided for their re-building the walls of Jerusalem. Their hope was not in the people who gave of themselves to do the work. Where then was their hope? The verse says it well. Do you remember singing the last part? Here we go: “Then he [Nehemiah] said to them [the people], “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The last eight words are a most familiar chorus in many of our worship sessions. But the use of the word “nothing” shows a fellowship which believed in true ministry, true care. Nehemiah was reminding the people that true love sees all people the way the Lord does! And then the chorus lets them know where their true strength comes from! Are you singing yet?

In Nehemiah Chapter 9, one of the longest prayers in the Bible, in verse 21 Nehemiah reminds the people of what their ancestors enjoyed on the behalf of future generations – the very people who were listening to Nehemiah’s prayer. He said, “Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; They lacked nothing; Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” These are truths that we might not have known unless they were uttered in prayer. Let’s try something today. For those of us who are over 40 years old, let’s look back upon the previous 40 years. Has God been faithful to us, to you? Are there ways that, in glancing back upon 4 decades, that we have neglected to return thanks to the Lord as Nehemiah is doing now? The people in the wilderness lacked nothing. Couldn’t that be said of us, too?

One more obscure Old Testament classic. But first, let me tell you the story of Keith! He was a good friend, a good brother in Christ. And like me, he loved to go to antique stores. (Well, in my wife’s and my almost 49 years of marriage, we had to come to an agreement on vacations: we are allowed to go to only ONE antique store per day. Well, again, we’ve stayed pretty close to that pledge!). But back to Keith. At the time of our rich friendship before Keith went Home to Jesus, he would love to go to a local antique store. And when I would visit Keith, what would be the topic of conversation? “You should see what I got at the store today! I paid [this much] but I know from the books that it is worth way MORE!”

And the verse? I now call this “Keith’s Verse”. Proverbs 20:14, “‘It is good for nothing,’ cries the buyer; But when he has gone his way, then he boasts.”

Now wasn’t that FUN?

Let’s look at a couple of verses from the New Testament!

Does not this sound familiar? From Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” OK, OK! We just got through the Christmas season. Ok, Bible scholars – who said this and why? Hint, hint! No, it wasn’t John the Baptist. And it wasn’t Zacharias, Elizabeth, or Mary. [I guessed wrong, by the way]. It was indeed the Angel of the Lord, Gabriel! And yes, he WAS talking with Mary. And yes, the issue was what the God of the impossible can do! He can have a lady who was past the age of childbearing to get pregnant and deliver the one who would be called “John the Baptist”, the forerunner of the Savior. And then He can have a teenage girl get pregnant without any human intervention. Yes, Mary. How would you respond to this announcement by the angel Gabriel? In verse 38 “Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’” Her theology would “blow apart” the false teaching of one of the largest religions of our day. Her personal statement of faith asserts herself as a “maidservant”, an “handmaid”, one who served the One SHE loved and one who submitted herself to the One Whose Word she followed. And dear people – such a statement of faith should belong to each of us! Does it you?

How about the cross? Luke 23:9 is a most familiar passage, but did you remember the word “nothing” in it? “Then he [Herod] questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing.” Isaiah 53:7b gave us the introduction to this vivid period in the passion of the Savior, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” When faced with earthly incrimination, He said nothing. But when faced with any opposition to His Deity, He was quick to respond in return. What a wonderful Savior!

John 15:5 is a familiar verse in the section of the Gospel of John where the Savior is telling of His intimacy with His followers. He said, ““I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” The believer’s intimacy with the Lord Jesus rests upon “abiding” (or “dwelling” or “sojourning”) on a daily basis with Him. Did you catch the Savior’s promise? IF we so abide, the believer will bear fruit for Him. But then He adds a reality that might not have been seen: without the Lord Jesus, the believer cannot accomplish anything of eternal value. In fact, he can do NOTHING.

Finally, one of the more famous verses in the New Testament, much less in the Bible, is found in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…”. It is in the middle of a most amazing section of this Pauline epistle. Verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Verse 7: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Don’t you just love the Word of God? “Be anxious for NOTHING”. “REJOICE in the Lord…”. “…the PEACE of God…will guard your hearts and minds…”. What is he saying? The believer can be ANXIOUS for NOTHINGGGGGGG because of the One in Whom he abides! Are you enjoying that intimacy? Today?

NOTHING! Sgt. Schultz may have known NOTHING, but the believer in Christ has the privilege of entering into a closeness with his Savior! Have I? Have you?