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Real Sacrifices are Costly

9th September 2008

This story comes from 2 Samuel 24. In verses 1-9, we read that David had sinned against the Lord by counting the fighting men available to him. Iím not sure why this was a sin, although many commentators suggest various reasons. The point is: it was a sin. We read onÖ

Verse 10
David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing."

Here we see the heart of the man of God. David wasnít perfect. Just like you and me, he sinned sometimes. And this was by no means the first time. But when David realised that he had sinned, he was conscience-stricken. He was truly grieved by what he had done. He confessed his sin to the Lord and begged Him for forgiveness.

As Christians, we can fall in to the trap of not taking our sins very seriously. Paul quoted some people who had made this error in Romans 6v15:

ďShall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?Ē

Because Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, some imagine that it doesnít matter very much if we carry on sinning; after all, weíll be forgiven again, wonít we? But itís impossible to genuinely love God and at the same time be indifferent to our own sin! As Jesus said on John 14v15:

"If you love me, you will obey what I commandĒ.

God saw that Davidís repentance was real, and answered his prayer:

Verses 11-12
Before David got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, Davidís seer: "Go and tell David, ĎThis is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.í"

God, in His mercy, sent His answer to David through the prophet Gad. And Gad obeyed God. It takes courage to prophesy to a king:

Verse 13
So Gad went to David and said to him, "Shall there come upon you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me."

Itís true that God forgives our sin as a free gift. But itís also true that God sometimes requires us to do something about our sin. And, although our sin is forgiven, we are sometimes required to suffer punishment as discipline (see Hebrews 12v7-11).

Verse 14
David said to Gad, "I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men."

Wisely, David responded by saying that itís better to be chastised by God than abused by men. God is always merciful to His people, but sometimes men are not.

But Godís mercy doesnít mean we donít need chastisement.

Verse 15
So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.

And it wasnít only David who suffered; it was everybody whom he was responsible for. Pray for husbands, fathers, elders, kings, politicians and employers. When those in authority sin, we all suffer.

Verse 16
When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, "Enough! Withdraw your hand." The angel of the LORD was then at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

God doesnít enjoy disciplining His people; He does it for our good, not for His pleasure. And in His mercy, he disciplines us less than we deserve.

Verse 17
When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family."

David took responsibility Ė as those in authority should. And as we all should. David asked God to punish him alone. This was a brave decision but it was the right thing to do.

Verse 18
On that day Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite."

God had mercy on David. God decided to allow David to offer a sacrifice Ė a demonstration of worship and submission - for his sin. David gladly accepted Godís decision. He knew what he deserved Ė the wages of sin is death. And he knew he was getting off lightly:

Verse 19
So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad.

Verses 20-23
When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming towards him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?"
"To buy your threshing-floor," David answered, "so that I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped."
Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing-sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the LORD your God accept you."

Araunah, of course, also wanted the plague to stop. He welcomed King David, and offered to pay for the sacrifice himself. Hear Davidís reply:

Verse 24
But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.

When God calls us to make any kind of sacrifice to Him, itís supposed to be a sacrifice! Itís supposed to cost us something!

  • When we give our Sunday morning to go to the church meeting, we donít only go when we feel like it Ė we also go when itís a sacrifice.
  • When we offer Him worship in song, we donít only sing the songs we like Ė we sings the songs we donít enjoy singing Ė itís a sacrifice.
  • When we invite people to dinner, we donít just invite our friends, we invite those in need Ė itís a sacrifice.
  • When we give financially to the work of the gospel, we donít just give what we can easily afford Ė we give more than we can afford Ė itís a sacrifice.

And so on.

If we only do what we feel like doing, then weíre doing it for us. But our whole lives should be ďliving sacrificesĒ (Romans 12v1). We should do what God wants, not what we feel like. Or are we no longer grateful for His redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross? Are we prepared to disregard our Saviourís wishes?

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I commandĒ.

Verse 25
David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer on behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

Through this act of worship and submission Ė an act that was costly to the one who did it Ė all the people were blessed.

And when you and I live Godís way Ė putting Him first Ė then we and our families, and our churches, and our nations, will be blessed, too.