I just finished reading the story of Jephthah and his Rash Vow in Judges, where he makes a deal with God that he'd offer God whatever came out of his house in sacrifice if God would grant him victory over the "something-ites."
This story has me thinking, "How often do I make deals with God?"
"Oh God My Robot, grant that I might be able to get out of bed this day and I will do my best to not hate my fellow humans who have me under the covers in petrified fear in the first place."
"Oh God My Robot, grant that I might feel very good today, and I will do my best to have my devotions, write on my blog, make support raising phone calls today, brush my teeth, and try not to hate people."
"Oh God My Robot, grant that I might vanquish all of my foes of fear, resentment and worry, and I will quit doing all the fun stuff I like to do."
I believe that anytime I make deals with God, I do so from a position of gross misunderstanding of his revealed truth about himself. He is no Robot. He is no deal-maker. The only deal he made was a Covenant. And that wasn't a deal as we think of them. It was a one-way promise of steadfast love way beyond our puny comprehension. Or rather, it was two ways and he figured out how to keep both. How's that for our mysterious God?
God is a mystery. And anytime I reduce him to a simple wish or request granter I treat him like a robot.
It's funny, when I became a believer for the first time (I've prayed the sinner's prayer thousands of times since - because I believe I can save me - but really I only need have prayed once), my parents in the height of irony now that I think of it, gave me a robot. From their perspective they were giving me a gift to mark the occasion in my 4 year old brain. It really worked, and I'd recommend this to other parents, but the choice of a robot is funny.
It's funny now that I think about it for the first time, for perhaps it was prophetic of the God I would come to believe in as I grew older and thus more selfish. On an aside: I do believe in original sin, but I also believe in me, and "I" as I have grown up have done stuff that makes original sin blush. Somehow, I don't think that I was as sinful then as I am now.
But my belief in God as "Oh God My Robot" did begin relatively early. As I grew, I sought to put him on the bookshelf of my life and go on my business about me.
That's why I'm thankful for stories like Jephthah's Rash Vow. It was "rash" and in a very Ancient Hebrew Narrator sort of way. In fact it's so subtle they don't even say it's rash, they just say it's a vow. But it's begging to be uncovered. For it was an absurd vow! It was ludicrous! It went against everything God was for and about!
First off, God didn't need Jephthah, Jephthah needed God, and may I add a serious overhaul of his perspectives on God. Let's put on our pocket protectors and nerdy hats, and serious coffee breath for a moment: in my ESV Joshua commentary (Thanks Dad! My Dad helped write the bible!), it says that Jephthah's language in his vow implies that he may not have simply had animals in mind but said, in the original Hebrew, "whoever" might come out to meet him. In his vow he included the possibility of human sacrifice!
Umm, Jephthah, God is sort of against human sacrifice last time I checked. Even my Oh God My Robot could tell you that!
But then I do the same thing: sort of willfully fitting God into my categories, categories that fit neatly around my agenda. I do all kinds of damage. I don't sacrifice people. But I do sacrifice people.
Those around me hurt when I simply relate to Oh God My Robot, rather than God my loving father and LORD - you see it, all caps, that's very biblical!
I think I sometimes believe that since God gave his very own Son for me, we've entered into a one-way relationship in which he meets all of my desires all of the time. It's a horrific misunderstanding.
God gave me his son, not so I would do the further damage of viewing him as Oh God My Robot who would bequeath to me anything I want (I used "bequeath." I have a rich vocabulary, so why can't I win at Scrabble or Boggle? Will someone please answer this mystery?)
He wants his gift to reshape my heart, to take the blindfolds off my eyes and enable me to walk, skip and jump within His love. And to sing with "undumbed" lips (or not sing depending on whether I'm in the shower or not) about his never-ending, never-failing, always and forever steadfast love.
For the time being, I'm blessed with a God who condescends (in every loving meaning of the word) to my habitual address of "Oh God My Robot." But the more he's teaching me to relate to Him as "Oh God My Lover/Lord/Rescuer/Friend/Brother" the more life becomes less about me, and for that I am blessed. And for that, I have the hope that I won't sacrifice those I love, to the God of me.
Here's to NOT sacrificing people today!
"I said DON'T sacrifice Buddy. Aw man, will somebody please put Buddy out! Timmy, why are you smiling? How many times have I told you not to light Buddy? I know, he does have a terrifically funny scream and he bursts into a beautiful ball of flame, but it's not funny for him, alas."