We have finally lost our weekly trash/rubbish collections. In its wisdom, and in a never-ending quest to reduce costs, Herefordshire Council has issued homes in the county with black bins that will be emptied every other week. We already have green recycling bins that are emptied once a fortnight.
Monday 3 November 2014 was the day that the residents of Herefordshire were supposed to stop placing bin bags out for collection. In my part of Herefordshire it was also the day for green bins to be emptied. A good number of my neighbours put out green bins and black bags. The dustcart came and went. The green bins were emptied and the black bags were left behind. If people had read the information that came when the black bins were delivered they would have known not to expect the bags to be collected.
The morning before black bin day my father, who has been officially retired for nearly twenty years, preached in our church. His message was entitled ‘Broken Altars.’ Referring to the incident in 1 Kings 18 in which Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal, Dad highlighted the fact that before Elijah called on God he did two things. First he repaired the Lord’s altar, and next he placed a sacrifice on the altar. To make things harder for God Elijah also dug a trench around the altar, which was filled with water (a scarce resource in a time of drought) and he also soaked the sacrificial meat with water. Finally, Elijah asked God to demonstrate that He was truly the God of Israel. Immediately fire fell and consumed everything.
Dad made the point that we shouldn’t play with fire, but it was his final sentence that challenged me the most: “Maybe revival hasn’t come because the altar has not been repaired and the sacrifice has not been made.”
When I watched the bin men leaving the bin bags that should not have been put out, the thought occurred to me that so often we are haphazard in our relationship with our Holy God. This is the God who told Moses to take off his shoes in front of a burning bush. The God who sent fire to consume the sacrifice that Elijah offered. The God who sent tongues of fire to dance on the heads of the faithful after they had prayed obediently for ten days after Jesus ascended.
When we treat God like a bin man we are playing with fire. Just like the prophets of Baal! We claim to be in relationship with God but we want Him to listen to us instead of us listening to Him. It is a bit like putting out the trash on the wrong day in the wrong way and still wanting it to be removed. We try and give God what He doesn’t want at completely the wrong time, and with wrong hearts. And then we expect Him to turn up and do something anyway. I’m sorry, but that’s just rubbish.