Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2 Samuel 24: Costly Sacrifice

2 Samuel 24 lays the groundwork for the building of the temple. David takes a census of Israel with the wrong heart. Even Joab knows that David's command is sinful. [Note: If a deceitful murderer says you are wrong, perhaps you should listen!] God sends a pestilence through Israel as punishment, and relents when the destroying angel comes to Jerusalem. The 1 Chronicles 21 account allows your mind's eye to envision the terror.
    And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces...Now Ornan was threshing wheat. He turned and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves...And David built there an altar to the LORD and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the LORD commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath. (1 Chronicles 21:15-16,20,26-27 ESV)
David goes to build an alter on this land at Gad's direction and offers to buy it from Ornan (Araunah). Ornan is willing to quickly give it to David, but David insists on paying for the land saying:
     I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.
The narrative shows that God ordained this site for the Temple, but other lessons can be coaxed from the text.
  1. Obviously, our offerings to God must cost us something. If we do not sacrifice, it's not an offering. If your heart in giving to church is "I give what I can," then it's not really an offering. Consider Mark 12:41-44.
  2. The offering does not avert disaster. God relents from the pestilence first, then David is called to build an alter and sacrifice to the Lord. After the offering is accepted, the angel sheaths his sword. God demonstrates grace first, David responds to the Word of the Lord in faith, and then David and Jerusalem are saved.
  3. The grace offered to us in salvation through Jesus Christ is not free. It is freely offered, but it cost God dearly--the life of his only begotten Son. It is by the sacrifice of the infinitely worthy that we have hope in having our infinite debt satisfied.

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