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Not Without A Price - Consecration Sunday

SERMON

II Samuel 24: 18-25    Not Without A Price             October 25, 2015

 

There is a story behind the pericope today. King David has had many successful battles. In fact, chapter 23 of II Samuel is praising the bravery of David’s men. David then does something unusual. David has his general go out and count his soldiers. “Go far and wide. Tell me just what I have,” he says. Against their better judgment – I mean it isn’t the best use of their time – they go out and count. Kind of like stopping worship to count how many buttons are on our shirts. Now that I have said that, I know you want to count your buttons! It takes them nine months, but they get it done.

God isn’t pleased with David.

David is like the man who takes so much pride in his money that he lays it all out on his bed just so he can look at it. David takes a bit too much stock in his success. What comes to mind is the Kenny Roger’s song, “The Gambler:” “You never count your money while you’re sitting at the table. There is time enough for counting…..”

It isn’t enough that David is winning he becomes a bad winner. Maybe if no one noticed it wouldn’t have been a problem, but God notices.

The next thing we know, the prophet, Gad, is telling David that because of his pride, his people are in danger. Lives will be lost one way or another. Sure enough, a plague begins. After taking the lives of 70,000 people, God stops the plague at the site of Araunah’s farm. David is humbled. He realizes he should have given more credit to his soldiers and more credit to God than he was giving himself. So, he decides to build an altar at the place where God stops the tide of the pestilence. This is where we pick up the story.

 

We like things that are free, don’t we? Free refills. Free hotel breakfasts. Free oil changes. Free month’s rent. Bargains are nice. Free is better.

Problem is most of us know we get what we pay for. That e-mail from a prince in Nigeria might not be all is it cracked up to be. If we are offered something for nothing, well, beware. If we get something for a bargain there is a reason for it.

Kind of like the story of the man driving down the road and he sees a sign, “Talking dog, $5.” He can’t quite believe it. So, he pulls over the road goes up to the house and asks the fellow, “So, what about this talking dog for only $5?”

“It’s true.” He calls the dog over and says, “Show the man how you can talk.” The dog sits up straight and sure enough he starts to talk.

“My grandfather was RinTinTin. I swam the English Channel when I was just a pup. I am scheduled to go to Mars in two years.”

“Wow,” the guy says, “That is amazing. How come you only want five dollars?” The owner says, “Yea, can talk, but you can’t believe a word he says!”

So much for bargains.

But, we still like a deal when we can get one.

 

Yet, in the story today, David is NOT interested in getting a bargain. He is looking to build an altar for God. When king David asks the owner, Araunah, how much he would like for the land, at first Araunah tells David, “Take it, it’s yours.” In fact, Araunah even offers to throw in several buildings and even be the first to provide animals for the sacrifice.

See, Araunah is no fool. I mean he knows David’s reputation. King David is the one they wrote songs about, like the one which goes, “Saul killed thousands, but David killed tens of thousands!” It may not have been a catchy tune, but if you heard it, you knew enough to be wary when the king comes to visit. Araunah would have also known David had an affair with Bathsheba and then killed her husband, his own general, to cover it up. So, when that king asks you for something, you don’t dicker over price. You say, “Yes sir, may I have another!?”

 

But, instead of accepting this really great deal – all the land and buildings and animals – for free, David refuses. He says, “I will not build an altar to God on land which cost me nothing.”

David wasn’t looking for the best deal he could find. If anything, David was wanting to spend more. David wanted to demonstrate the sincerity of his faith. Getting a bargain would imply his faith was cheap. We simply don’t look for coupons when it comes to gifts for God.

Getting the land for free would be like when we re-gift something. David giving God a gift he got for free might be one way to save money but it would have been a poor way to show his devotion to God. Think about it, isn’t it true that usually when a re-gift something that someone has given us for free, it means we haven’t put that much time thinking about the gift or the person we are giving it too? If we grab the free doohickey we got at the last business conference and give it as a gift or if we give the hotel hairnet to our wife, that probably means we have not taken the occasion or maybe even the person very seriously. Right?

This didn’t seem like a good plan for David.

Probably, not a good plan for us either.

 

Maybe that’s bottom line for us to think about today on Consecration What is the price of our faith? The more important something is, the more likely we will sacrifice for it. Sure, we can go to the classified to find cheap used tools, or a second-hand bike, but we don’t go to the Penny Saver to find a wife and we don’t go to our change drawer for our yearly offering.

David would not build an altar on land which didn’t cost him anything. He insisted on paying. He knew genuine faith comes with a price.

Someone once said, “If we believe we can become closer to God without sacrifice, we are deceiving ourselves.”

The truth is, we make something valuable when we sacrifice for it. Something which doesn’t cost us anything may not mean that much to us. Something which comes at a price is important.

One of my most prized possessions is a gift from my middle daughter, Emily. It means a lot to me not just because it is from her, but because it was the first gift she ever bought for me with her own allowance. She was six years old. When you are in first grade you only have so much expendable cash. Emily bought me this little trophy which said, “World’s Best Dad.” Lord only knows I may not earn that honor ever again, but when she spent all her allowance to buy me that gift, it became very valuable to me.

The sacrifice is part of what adds value to the gift. Remove the sacrifice and we remove the value.

 

On Consecration Sunday, we remember David.  We are not looking for a bargain and we don’t want to honor God by worshipping for free. We show our devotion to our God by making a sacrifice large enough that it hurts. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t a sacrifice.

I think we intuitively know this. David knew it. He realized the only way out of the prideful corner he had painted himself into was to turn his attention, and his money, towards God.

I mean if we are going to spend nine months worth of time and money counting our stuff, we probably have too much stuff or our stuff has taken the place of God. David realized that and turned his stuff back towards God.

David set a good example for us today.

We are here because we value our faith and we believe that faith comes at a price. May we be willing to buy the land on which we will honor God.

 

                   To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

Rev. Dr. Stephen R. Melton