1 Chronicles 21:24 (the message)
David replied to Araunah, “No. I’m buying it from you, and at the full market price. I’m not going to offer God sacrifices that are no sacrifice.”
In the 21st chapter of 1 Chronicles King David decides to take a census of Israel. The basic idea here is David wanted a count of his fighting men. This was very displeasing to God because David’s heart was exposed…he was putting his faith in numbers instead of God. Yes, the same shepherd boy whose audacious faith moved him to kill Goliath with a stone and sling shot.
The Bible says God was in fact offended with David and punished Israel. Then David came to his senses. Check it out:
Then David prayed, “I have sinned badly in what I have just done, substituting statistics for trust; forgive my sin–I’ve been really stupid.” (verse 8)
As God dealt with David He gave him instructions to go and build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When King David approached Araunah to buy his threshing floor, the man bowed before him and said just take it all! David’s response was the verse above, no way was he giving God what cost him nothing.
I have read and been struck before by David’s response. The kind of verse you might cringe at or be tempted to bypass because it’s old testament. But there is a rich and poignant message here. Our sacrifices to God are not sacrifices at all if they don’t cost us something. Oh I can anticipate the possible response…God is for us and wants to bless us but somehow we think in His grace and abundance we need not feel the burn of our offering. But you know what burns in the cost of our sacrifice? Our flesh. Our selfishness. Our comfort. And I believe, rather I know, the blessing He pours out on our lives when the sweet aroma of obedience and heartfelt offering reach His heart. To me, this idea of embracing that our sacrifice, or offering, to God may cost us is summed up in two words: radical obedience.
It sounds so fun, right? Smile. But there is something about crossing the line…making choices that go against the grain of normal, even Christian world normal. It can be glorious and set our lives ablaze with His nearness. Goodness how God draws near to a man or woman so enamoured with Him they let it cost them. Goodness the doors He opens, the walls He breaks down, the sweet rains of His presence flooding a life that willingly crawls onto the altar.
What causes a shift from a God meet all my needs lifestyle to a God here are my needs,hopes and desires and I place them on the altar…take them and let them burn? I humbly suggest it is the person, like David, who comes to realize they need not count their fighting men. No need to put trust in the statistics of stock markets, bank accounts, or what is left over of our time, energy and money after we take care of our wants and needs. I am not suggesting we not plan or save or use wisdom with our resources. I am pondering this idea that our God is powerful enough to care for and provide for us in ways we can’t imagine nor will we experience if we are not willing to lay our needs and wants on the altar. I don’t mean a tearful prayer and declaration of trust. I mean the shaky whispered prayer that says, God You can have my need for a new car. I’ll keep driving my old one as long as you make it go if you want my new car money to go someplace else. Or the butterflies inducing prayer that asks God, do You really want me to spend this money on technology and entertainment every month or is there someone or someplace else it needs to go? How about, God I really love this particular hobby or sleeping in on the weekend but are those hours You want me to spend doing something else?
And then we feel the burn. The cost roars at us. No, God cannot ask or expect me to give up, lay up on the altar what I need. What I deserve. Most of us will move on past it. God will love us like crazy and help and bless us. But a few of us, perhaps the most shattered of us even, will find deep within ourselves a compulsion, born of gratitude, to climb up on the altar. Not just our money or minutes. Our will. Our lives. We find our soul crying out to this Jesus who suffered for us…healed our marriages and healed our children…provided the job or the friend…took our shame and our addictions…gave us peace and overwhelmed us with grace…and we might look at our lives and cry out I will not, cannot, possibly give Him something that cost me nothing.
And the truth is we never out give Him. It just depends really on what we are looking for. The first step might feel like chewing glass. The devil will give us a million reasons why we don’t need to give and obey God in radical ways. But if we persist we find more and more evidence of this radical God at work and present in our lives.
Let me say I don’t live this out every day of my life. Not by a long shot. But the times when I have crossed the line into radical obedience have made way for amazing growth in my life. And doing it, letting our wants and needs burn on the altar, letting our obedience cost us just once, is enough to convince us we need not count our fighting men. It is God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. God who knows when a sparrow falls and God who dresses the wildflowers in resplendent beauty. It is God who knows the number of hairs on our heads and our God who keeps our tears in a bottle. It is the God of the galaxies who lived in a body and washed the mud-caked feet of His followers. It is God who slung the stars in space and paints the sky pink just for our pleasure. It is God who cares about every detail of our lives and God who is close to the broken-hearted. God who heals our sick bodies and calms our chaotic minds. God who commands silence in our storm and God who brings the rain in our desert. He is why we live and move and have our being. He is the beginning and the end. The first and the last. There is no place we can go and He is not there…Heaven is His throne and the earth His footstool. There is no depth of despair or height of success that can separate us from His love. There is none like Him…more precious than silver,more costly than gold, more beautiful than diamonds and it is true we can reach a place where nothing, nothing, nothing we desire compares to Him.
And so then our cost becomes our gift given with a spilling-over joy that cannot be replicated.