" . . . neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing" (2 Samuel. 24:24).

David had sinned in numbering Israel, thereby displaying a momentary confidence in the arm of flesh rather than the Living God. The result was a grievous judgment upon the people. The Lord sent a three-day pestilence on Israel, during which 70,000 people died from Dan to Beersheba (24:15). Then the angel of the Lord stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem. In a singular act of mercy, "the LORD repented Him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand" (v 16). The angel, we are told, was "by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite."

David was so stricken by the sight of the dead, slain by the angel, he cried out to the Lord: "Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house" (v 17). The Lord sent Gad the prophet to David, who told him to "erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." David quickly went to do "as the Lord commanded" (v 18-19).

We are told that David did not simply erect the altar, but first sought to buy the threshing floor where the angel had been standing. As he approached the owner of the threshing floor, that owner ran to meet him. "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" Araunah asked. David speedily told him his intentions. "To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people" (v 21).

Being a gracious man, Araunah offered to supply everything required without cost, even down to the sacrifice and the wood upon which to offer it. "Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing implements and the yokes of the oxen for wood. All these, O king, Araunah has given to the king. And Araunah said to the king, May the LORD your God accept you" (v 22-23). An insensitive soul would have leaped at the opportunity, possibly even thinking the Lord had provided this benefit. But this was not the response of the man of God at all.

In a display of the nature of faith and the blessedness of a tender heart, David gave a reply that continues to bless the saints. "No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing" (v 24). David would not allow another person to supply his sacrifice, or the altar and wood upon which it was offered. He would only offer something to the Lord involving personal cost.

There is a Kingdom principle to be seen here. God is not pleased with offerings easily made–offerings that incur no personal cost or sacrifice. Even under the Law, the person offering a lamb to God was to take it "from the flock"–his own flock (Lev 5:6,18; 6:6) Deut 16:2). The very idea of "sacrifice" implies cost to the one making it. The notion of convenience is totally missing from the concept of sacrifice, and David knew it.

It is unfortunate that we live in a time of religious convenience–a time when the very thought of "sacrifice" is nearly extinct. All too many people offer to the Lord only what is convenient–something involving no personal cost or forfeiture. They go to the assembly only when they feel their best and have nothing else to do. They contribute to the Lord modest offerings that place no strain upon them, and leave plenty to be consumed on their own lusts. All of this may be readily received by a highly institutionalized church, but it is not received by God.

There is a reason for NOT offering to God things that really cost us nothing. Such offerings have nothing of us in them. They are in appearance only, lacking the involvement of the individual. For anything to be acceptable to God, it must be offered with the heart. A preference for the Lord above everything else must also be found. If this is not the case, God has been "honored" only externally, while the heart remains "far from" Him (Matt 15:8).

To assist us to make "acceptable sacrifices" (Phil 4:18), the Lord reveals the extent of His own sacrifice for us. He "gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). The Son "gave Himself for our sins" (Gal 1:4). In both cases, a significant forfeiture was made on the part of the Giver. The Father "made" the Son "to be sin," as well as "a curse"–an unfathomable cost to Himself (2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13). The Son laid equality with the God aside to enter the world as a servant, and become "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2:6-8). Who is able to calculate the vastness of that cost–and it was paid freely.

This is an area where how MUCH a person gives is not the issue. Rather, it is how much it really cost the individual to give it. A million dollars from a billionaire is a smaller gift that a small cake from a poor widow. You might say the measure of the gift is determined by how much is left in the hands of the giver.

PRAYER POINT: Father, grant me the grace to offer appropriate gifts to You through Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

-- Monday: THE EFFECTIVENESS OF FAITH #2, Faith Sanctifies the Individual --