I remember hearing many years ago a profound sermon delivered by one of my mentors, the late Rev. Dr. William Augustus Jones. In the sermon, Jones spoke of how some Christians tend to treat God like a “cosmic bellhop,” believing God is supposed to be always available to respond to our whims and desires. It is sad, but many who claim to believe in God only trust God for the next “blessing” or for what they can get from God.
I have come across many Christians who seem to cringe at the idea that being in a relationship with God requires accountability, responsibility and sacrifice. Several decades ago, Mohandas K. Gandhi warned against what he called the seven social sins. Among these sins was “worship without sacrifice.” Those who believe in God must recognize that sacrifice is a critical and vital element of one’s journey with God.
In the 24th chapter of the Second Book of Samuel in the Old Testament, there is a powerful story about the need for sacrifice. In this story, the anger of God was kindled against Israel because of King David’s transgression. David did that which was not pleasing in God’s sight: He took a census of Israel and Judah. The scriptures are not clear as to why David’s actions angered God, but what is clear is that David’s deed, in some way, was a violation.
David’s indiscretion proved to be tragic for the people of Israel and Judah. God sent a pestilence on Israel and 70,000 people died, from the territory of Dan to Beersheba. But as the death angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented and said to the angel, “It is enough; now stay your hand.”
David was stricken to the heart and overwhelmed with an incredible amount of guilt because he knew that lives were lost because of his recklessness. The prophet Gad approached David and told him that something had to be done as restitution for his imprudence. Gad instructed David, “Go up and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
With haste, David approached Araunah in order to purchase his threshing floor with the intent of building an altar and making sacrifice to God. Araunah was humbled by the presence of the king and not only offered David the threshing floor, but also offered him the oxen that would be necessary for the burnt offering. Araunah offered all of this to David at no cost. Although Araunah’s gesture was genuine and heartfelt, David realized he could not make a sacrifice to God that would cost him nothing.
The Hebrew word for sacrifice is “qorban”, which translates to “that which is brought near.” The word is used in the Old Testament to refer to anything that was given or devoted to God. In David’s case, it was as if David understood that one could not draw near to God without costly sacrifice.
So often we desire to draw near to God with full hands, unwilling to give up anything in order to experience intimacy with God. We want to draw near to God, but want to do it on our terms. We want closeness with God, but we sometimes refuse to believe that intense familiarity with God comes at a price.
Do you desire to draw near to God? If so, what is your costly sacrifice?