Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gifts to a King

When you are king of Israel you dare not make casual comments or hint that you would like something. King David learned this and we can read about it in Second Samuel.1 It was a warm fall day and David said something like, "You know what would taste good right now? Some water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem. Do you remember how good that water tastes? Oh, if only someone would go and get me a drink from there." Right away, three of his closest and strongest warriors jumped up and broke through the enemy line to get some water from that well and carry it back for their King. But David would not drink the delicious water. Instead he poured it out on the ground and said that it was "the blood of men who risked their lives for him." David did not accept what was offered to him because it was purchased at great cost to others and no cost to him.

Later, someone else offered him something for free that he wished to purchase.2 He wanted to make an offering to God on an altar; and he needed some land, stones, wood, and animals for this offering. He traveled to a piece of land owned by Araunah, the Jebusite. But before he could ask to buy the land and other necessary items, Araunah asked what he needed and offered to give it to him instead. David's answer is firm, " No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

There are a few important principles in this historical account. First, we can deduce that it is important to fairly assess what things cost. A jug of water may appear to cost very little but, when we consider the expense of getting that jug of water and the danger involved, we realize that it is costly indeed. The same may be true of what people offer to God today. When we see another's sacrifice, can we really see all that went into that gift?

Similarly, we must be certain of the cost of what we are turning over to God. Did that gift truly take sacrifice on our part or is it more of a re-gifting of someone else's offering? If an offering made to God cost us nothing it is not really our gift to God. Many of the gifts we give may be given out of our surplus and are certainly not worthy of being called a sacrifice.

Lastly, we see that God does not ask anything of us that he has not already done. If he asks us to make a sacrifice or give an offering, it is because he has already given his own son to die for every man, woman, and child on the planet. He offers to us life; and that life in him is costly for it was bought at great expense to him.


1 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem.  David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”  So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.
2 Samuel 23:13-17

2 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.” So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward 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 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 he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.”
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. David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
2 Samuel 24:13-25


Phil Letkeman said...

If someone works and earns a surplus ( the fundamentals of farming - one seed yields many) and from this surplus a gift or 'sacrifice' is given does that diminish the gift?
David refers to 'offerings that cost me nothing' meaning re-gifting - which isn't the same as offerings which comes out of surplus (surpluses are still earned).
I think that we are often caught up that gifts to God have to impede us or 'hurt' to be meaningful, I disagree.

Phil Letkeman

Keith Shields said...

Good questions Phil. Is a gift that costs us little or nothing a gift. Is a gift that is a sacrifice to give, like the widow's gift pointed out by Jesus, a more worthy or valuable gift? What do others think?

Keith Shields said...


I have given this some more thought and want to give you a better response. First, I would define surplus as greater yield than I require to take care of my own needs. This becomes difficult to define because it is easy to confuse my "wants" with my "needs." Gifts that cost him nothing are the gifts that David desires to avoid. If a gift means I am giving up a "want" or a "need" it is still costing something. My second response would be, as difficult as it is for me to assess my own gifts, it is impossible for me to assess the gift of another. David could see the value of the gift of water. He knew it to be costly. I do not know how much a gift might have cost someone else. I need to reserve judgement on the value of another person's gift and trust them to consider the cost. Thirdly, the most important principle of the gospel is that we have a God who chose to step down from inapproachable holiness and become a man who walked among us. This Son of God lived a life of sacrifice and gave the ultimate sacrifice of his life for us. Following his example we now seek to live generous and sacrificial lives. It is up to each of us to work at how we will live out this life of generosity.

phil letkeman said...

Surplus' cost us the effort we had to make to get them. How generous you are with the surplus is another question and I agree that judgement of another person's gift may be beyond us.

The term sacrifice seems to come with many meanings, old testament - giving something very good or your best i.e. kill a valuable animal or bring your first fruits. The fifty shekels of silver did not constitute all of David's wealth and in fact I doubt he would have noticed it, I'm sure it was market value, what it did prove up was the philosophy of giving God something of value.

OR the seemingly modern view of a sacrifice is giving until it hurts even to the point of being unsustainable - giving everything away like the rich young ruler.

I can teach my children to live generous lives, but it seems to be much more difficult to teach my children to live sacrificial lives, which perhaps requires more faith or has to align with God's purpose for their lives? I guess that is what is meant by having to 'work out your salvation.' Sounds like a good time to reread Philippians 2 and 3!

Keith Shields said...

I agree that the challenge is seeking to live sacrificial lives. The whole of Romans chapter 12 also comes to mind. If I could just do everything it says in this one chapter I would be closer to living a sacrificial life. Philippians 2 and 3 must be read along with Romans 12 or I will begin to think I can simply work harder at sacrificing and "have confidence in the flesh." Perhaps I would describe it as being called to generous, sacrificial lives, lived in the grace and mercy of the One who was generous and sacrificed for us.