“I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return? ‘
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you? ‘
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse –the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
“You have said harsh things against me,” says the Lord.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you? ‘
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape. ‘”
Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.
“They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
I would like to start today’s devotion by opening up to you and sharing something that is at the core of my being. Please consider that I am sharing this with you in confidence and please do not spread it around the office. Ok, here goes. I love Mountain Dew. There, I said it. I have put it out there for the whole world to know. I love Mountain Dew. Every different flavor they come out with is better than the previous. It is pure bliss as the citrus soda touches my lips. How refreshing it is!
On the other hand, I really don’t care about vending machines. It really doesn’t matter to me where they are or what they look like. It could be a brand new, fancy-shmancy, high-tech machine, or one that has been around since the 70’s. I really don’t care. I have no affection for vending machines even though it is the vending machine that gives to me my beloved Mountain Dew. The vending machine stores it for me; keeps it ice cold. The vending machine does not go anywhere. It’s always there for me, but I have zero affection for the vending machine while I long for Mountain Dew.
This conversation between the Lord and the Israelites reminds us that God is not a vending machine. A vending machine is the vehicle through which we get what we want or need or at least think we need J. But once we get what we want from the vending machine, we walk away. I know this is a very simplistic analogy, but I think it fits. We treat God like a vending machine. We expect Him to be there for us always. We expect Him to store our blessings that they will be there for us at just the right time. And once we have opened the top, we walk away in love with the blessing more than the One who gave us the blessing. We are more loyal to the blessing than we are to the Lord. We seek the blessing more than we seek the Lord. This does not work because God is not a vending machine.
The Lord does not only love, He is love. To be love and to love are two different things. God is love. Love emanates from His presence because He is love. Because He is love, He loves. Love is not something He dispenses that can be enjoyed outside of His presence like we might carry a Mountain Dew away from the vending machine. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord, but these originate in Him spiritually and to experience them, we must be in His presence. The Israelites in Malachi’s day did not understand this. They wanted a vending machine that would dispense what they needed and then they could walk away.
The Lord says to them, “Return to me and I will return to you.” They were shocked. They did not realize they had moved away from Him because do we ever really consider the distance between us and a vending machine? No we don’t. We know where it is when we need it. They were complaining about God because they saw no benefit to being the people of God compared to the wicked. It never occurred to them that by treating God as a vending machine, there was no difference between them and the wicked. The Lord’s call is for them to return and then “I will open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessings you will not have room for it.” The favor of God; the blessings of God are connected with His presence. If we are not in His presence, we will not experience anything good because everything good emanates from His presence.
How do I stay in His presence? In this interchange in Malachi, it was the tithe. A tithe is 10%, but I would suggest to you that God did not feel distant because they were not giving a full 10%. The fact that they were not giving their tithe reflected the vending machine attitude they had toward the Lord. The Lord says to prove your attitude is right, give 10%. He still tells us this today. It was one of the few things Jesus ever commended the Pharisees for. But even if I gave 20%, but did not honor the Lord with my heart, I would still be distant from the Lord. To remain in His presence, I must follow His statutes, not only with money, but with everything. And…and that is the key word: and. And I must have an attitude of honor, desiring to be with Him. We can do either or. We can give and not honor. We can also be affectionate toward the Lord with worship and emotion and not give. But we must do both. God is not a vending machine.