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