Search This Blog

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What Does Worship Cost?

“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.” [2 Samuel 24:24]

The story of David’s sacrifice to appease the hand of the angel of death in 2 Samuel 24 is captivating on several accounts. David is not a young man here, but an older king, maybe even going through a crisis of evaluating his life and trying to add up his accomplishments. His request was one to fuel his pride and ego: “How big is my kingdom?” Even Joab tried to mediate and deter this foolish action, but to no avail. Scripture simply says that the word of the king prevailed. When the act was all but done, David’s conscience was struck with the guilt and he confessed and asked for forgiveness for what he had done. The prophet Gad delivered to him the three choices God offered: 7 years of famine, flee 3 months from enemies, or 3 days of a plague. David threw himself upon the mercy of God, and the plague started. Some 70,000 people died because of the foolishness of David’s ego trip.

In 2 Samuel 24, David had sinned, had confessed it as sin, had asked for forgiveness, but the consequences of his sin remained. Much like disobedient little boy whose mother had run out of things to try to help her son learn obedience, told him that from then on, every time he disobeyed she would put a nail in a door. The child paid no attention and continued in his disobedience. One day, however, he was overcome when he passed by the door and saw it covered with nails. Realizing the gravity of his actions, he told his mother he was sorry, that he would not disobey anymore, and to please take out the nails. The mother agreed, and some time later the little boy came crying up to his mother saying, “but, mother, the holes are still there...” When we sin the consequences remain. For David, he died with the blood of thousands of his fellow Israelites on his hands. He confessed, and in obedience went to offer a sacrifice for this sin, following the commands of the prophet.

The place of the sacrifice was the threshing floor of Araunah. When David encountered him and explained the situation, Araunah offered to give him the oxen and wood for the sacrifice, but David responded, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” He paid him and made his offering and the plague stopped. However, that really isn’t the point on which I want to focus.

David’s sin was more than just pride, he failed to realize that his legacy was not to be found in his great actions, but in his character. Yes, he killed Goliath, and defeated his enemies and made the preparations for the Temple, but what God considered as the greatest heritage was that he was “a man after God’s own heart.” [Acts 13:22] It is easy to try to evaluate a ministry, a life in terms of the “great things done,” but miss the most important: that of integrity and godly character. When Luke was summarizing David’s life in the book of Acts, he did not pull from all his mighty acts, but from the very thing that made David favored in the eyes of God.

But the question remains, “What does worship cost?” For David, it was much more than the 30 pieces of silver to buy the threshing floor and oxen. David had to come to the point of surrendering his legacy to God. True worship costs giving up one’s reputation to God. We cannot rightly worship if we try to hold on to our attempts to create our own kingdoms, and define who we are in terms of what we do and not whose we are. In worship we must trust God to bring about a legacy and a heritage that is lasting and glorifying to Him alone. All of David’s victories could be misinterpreted as great acts of a great man or warrior, but a heart that seeks after God, a heart that longs to be obedient to God brings glory to God and is unmistakable. Worship costs the right to define our own reputation by our accomplishments. Worship also costs personal sacrifice. There are no short cuts to sacrifice. It is always painful, or would not be considered a “sacrifice.” Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we might not face eternal death, but have eternal life and a relationship with Him. Out of gratitude and awe of His grace and love, we worship Him. In that sense, there is no “sacrifice” that we could offer as great at the one offered already for us. But there will always be a cost.

The temptation of measuring the ministry by the numbers is constantly present. Growth can be an indicator of how healthy an organism is, but not always. Cancer cells have an enormous capacity for multiplication, but by no means can be called “healthy.” Churches whose growth is principally from other churches do not always represent a healthy church, if there is not at the same time regular conversions from non-churched people. Healthy ministries provide both for continued outreach and discipleship or mentoring ministries that help bring new Christians to spiritual maturity. The danger of basing self worth on the externals of numerical growth should be obvious from David’s example, not to mention that God is the one who “brings the increase,” not us. As we focus on a loving obedient response, God may or may not choose to extend the numbers, but regardless the fruit will be an obvious result of God’s increase, not human manipulation.

David’s example for us is to not try to define our lives in terms of our own accomplishments, but in terms of our loving obedience to God, and loving obedience always has a price. The reality is that failing in the area of worship has an even greater cost, one of lost opportunity, lost relationship, lost purpose, lost joy, and lost fulfillment. We can willingly surrender our “sacrifice” and receive the joy of identifying with Christ, or choose to hold on to those things that can never give the lasting peace or pleasure we thought they would bring. The question is “Are we willing to pay the price for what worship costs?

No comments:

Post a Comment