Sunday, February 5, 2012

God is My Vending Machine…Or Lesson’s In Forgiveness

God is My Vending Machine…Or Lesson’s In Forgiveness

Judges 10:1-11:1-29

“When I saw God he was a vending machine, pop in a coin – he makes a scene.  Push the right button and what do you got?  Instant first aide right on the spot.”  Sometimes I think we see God like this; a sort of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.”  We think if we attend church, go to youth group, volunteer when needed God is obligated to fulfill our requests.  How small we must think God really is that the creator would be at our beckon call, sort of like a vending machine.

Ever get frustrated with a vending machine?  You put your $1.50 in  for that crunchy Kit Kat bar and one of the following happens:
1.      you push the button and that Kit Kat bar fails to drop.  “Give me a break!”
2.      You are capable of shaking down the Kit Kat and then the deposit door fails to open wide enough to fit your hand through to grab that chocolaty goodness. 

Now you are angry, you might cruse, maybe even punch or kick the machine…maybe some mixture. You think “I put in the required amount!  That machine just ate my money!”  You feel jipped.  That is sort of what we do with God, isn’t it.  We feel like if we do all that good little Christians do God is obligated to forgive our many sins.  We think because God has said he will forgive all things, it doesn’t matter what we so after our request.  But then, is that really an apology?

Most people believe an apology is simply asking, stating the words, and according to Webster they would be right. But according to Judges, something particularly important is missing in an apology that is only words.  Turn please to Judges 10.  The Israelites have just been attacked…again.  But this time, BOTH the Ammonites and Philistines are attacking on two different sides.  The Israelites had fallen back into worshipping other gods – SEVEN to exact: the Baals, Ashoreths, and gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammonites, and the Philistines.   If these names sound familiar, they are!  The Israelites have been attacked by these people before.  So, back in throngs of war, they keep to their pattern and cry out to God.  Turn to Verse 10:

“Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, ‘We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.’”  (Sounds like an apology, right?  But look at God’s response:)

“The Lord replied, ‘When the Egyptians, the Amonites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidoneans, the Amelikites, and the Moanites (sound familiar?) oppressed you, and you cried out to me for help, did I not save you from their hand?  But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you.  Go and cry out the gods you have chosen.  Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

Ouch!  What happened to that grace we are always hearing about?  Did God wake up on the wrong side of the bed that morning?  Maybe he had a late night out with friends and hadn’t had his morning coffee?  Well, if we look we see something missing from the Israelites apology. First, they are not completely honest with God.  They only admit to worshipping one god, the Baals – not the other six!  Notice in God’s response he mentions all the other gods the Israelites are worshipping.  He is telling them He knows the truth, and He knows their heart.  They were not truly apologetic. 

When I was in high school I dated this boy for four years.  We broke up my senior year for about six months, in the spring, when the most coveted date night dance in high school…Prom happens.  Clearly he wasn’t going to ask me, but guess who he asked instead…my kid sister to my senior Prom;  Now, I already had a decide to go with a friend of mine, who was dating someone else.  I remember being so angry at my sister for saying yes.  Strangely, I was not so much mad at Josh for asking as I was at Kim for accepting.  When I confronter her about it, she said, she didn’t care.  Josh and I were not actually dating.  So, they went together.  About two weeks later, Kim came up to me and apologized for doing something she knew visibly upset me.  But I knew she didn’t mean it.  You see she posted the pictures all over her room after wards.  Her actions told me she really didn’t care that she hurt me.  She kept te pictures up for another year and half (even after Josh and I got back together and started talking marriage).  I knew Kim wasn’t being genuine.

Turn with me to Titus 1:15. 

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.  They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.”  Like Kim, she claimed to know me (after all I am her sister), but her actions denied that.  They were a slap in the face, not a sincere apology.  Just like I knew Kim wasn’t being honest, God knows our hearts and when we are genuinely sorry for something.

In Psalms 44: 20 we are told:

“If we have forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of our hearts?”

Sound like what happened with the Israelites?  Did they turn away?  Yes.  Did He call them out on it?  Yes!

It seems to me God has a limit of sorts to what he will stand.  God cannot stand a fake heart.  He will stand for nothing but our complete heart.  He said no to the Israelites, not because He didn’t love them, because He did, but because they were not genuine, honest, and loving in their actions.  They were lukewarm.

BUT, and this is awesome, there is hope!  If we continue in Judges we see God’s ultimate grace.  In verse 15 we read:

“But the Israelites said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned.  Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.’ Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord.  And he could bear their misery no more.” 

God wanted to be with us so much, when He saw how genuinely apologetic the Israelites were, He was MOVED!  Some of your translations say he was GRIEVED or COULD BE IMPATIENT NO LONGER.  That is grace.  The Israelites did not deserve to be forgiven, after all they had repeated this cycle of violence nine times in the book of Judges alone.  We are just like the Israelites; we don’t deserve forgiveness but we are granted it anyway. 

Before graduation, Josh and I were pretty much back together.  The day after graduation Josh was suppose to go to a party with me.  Instead he called and said his mom was keeping in the house because he was leaving for the army in a month.  I decided to go to the movies with my parents instead.  When I got there, you can imagine my surprise to find him standing in line locking lips with an acquaintance of mine.  He went to the same movie and I watched two hours of him snuggling with her.  You can imagine how angry I was.  Much like God was forsaken for other gods I was forsaken for another girl.  I broke up with him again.  He lied to me and he cheated on me in my head.  He tried apologizing, but I knew he didn’t really mean it.  That is until about two months later. 

But, two months later, after apology after apology he wrote me this letter.  I still have it.  He apologized in a way that I knew he was genuine.  He wasn’t do it to save face or get me back, he was really upset about the hurt he had caused me.  We reconciled, got back together, I broke up with him awhile later and he ended up marrying the girl he dumped freshman year to get with me.  The three of us are still good friends to this day.  I was able to forgive him because he was genuinely apologetic.  He didn’t deserve it, he didn’t deserve to be forgiven by either myself of Veronica.  But that is grace.  That is what God does for us. 

Grace is not a vending machine!  Thank God!  When you put in your sin you are not given judgment, anger and oppression.  Instead we are given hope, grace, and love.  Perhaps, God really is bigger than what we conceptualize.  As you go out this week, I encourage you to see where you might be treating God like a vending machine and instead, thank God for NOT acting like one.  Really think about when you pray or come to worship if your heart is really in it.  Are you going through the motions?  Do you really mean what you are saying?