Sermon for October 23rd, 2016
2 Samuel 24:18-25
18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, ‘Go up and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’ 19Following Gad’s instructions, David went up, as the Lord had commanded. 20When Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming towards him; and Araunah went out and prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground. 21Araunah said, ‘Why has my lord the king come to his servant?’ David said, ‘To buy the threshing-floor from you in order to build an altar to the Lord, so that the plague may be averted from the people.’ 22Then Araunah said to David, ‘Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him; here are the oxen for the burnt-offering, and the threshing-sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.’ And Araunah said to the king, ‘May the Lord your God respond favourably to you.’
24 But the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer burnt-offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt-offerings and offerings of well-being. So the Lord answered his supplication for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.
David's Sacrifice: Counting the Cost
Is this not a beautiful church? A wonderful and fitting house for the Lord himself? You have no idea how much I wanted to build this church for the glory of God, and in gratitude for all he has done for me in my life. But in the end, it was not appointed to me to build it. God left that task for another. All the same... isn't it beautiful?
God did not let me build this church, but he did let me have one small part in it. Long before the walls and beams of this building were raised, this was an empty plot of land. It was here that I made a costly sacrifice to God. It was here that after a lifetime of taking, I learned to give.
My name is David. David Kingsley. If it sounds familiar, that's because I was the President and CEO of the Judah Group for eight years, then after the big merger with the North Israel Company, I was President and CEO of United Israel Incorporated--the largest conglomerate in the Middle East--for 32 years. But I wasn't always the high-paid executive in the corner office, you know. I began my rise to fame and fortune down in the stockroom, shepherding packages from one place to another.
Back in those days, our biggest rival was Goliath Industries. Goliath was a giant company with ruthless tactics. Not a single person in our firm wanted to take Goliath on in head to head competition... so I volunteered for the job. I was laughed at: "Hey stockboy, what are you going to do, throw boxes at them?" But none of the middle-management seemed to have a better plan, so eventually I got the job. And in a few months time, I had brought Goliath Industries to their knees.
People began to take notice of me then. There was talk of "young David, the rising star." Challenge after challenge I took on, climbing higher up the corporate ladder each time. What was my secret? I'll tell you: When I saw an opportunity...I took it. And I didn't stop to count the cost. Look, I know that sounds bad, but basically, I was a decent guy. A God-fearing Christian. Back then, I was a member of Jerusalem Presbyterian Church-- a new church plant that was meeting in the local elementary school. I even taught Sunday School there. But when it came to business? Business is business. You see an opportunity, and you take it. And you don't count the cost.
Fast forward a few years, and I was on the fast track to the highest levels of management. Whenever the CEO had a tough assignment that needed to be done right, I was the one he called. And again, people noticed. They said things like, "You know, the President has been off his game lately...maybe it's time for some new blood...Maybe David should be CEO...he already does all the work."
To make a long story short, when the opportunity to step into the role of President and CEO did finally come around...I took it. Some people said I was too young, too immature. Perhaps they were right, but when you're taking what's in front of you...you don't stop to count the cost. Eight years later my firm, the Judah Group, had the chance to acquire a much larger company, the North Israel Company, and together become the largest company that part of the world had ever seen. It was an opportunity. So I took it. I'm sure the acquisition was costly--for some more than others. They always are. But not for me personally. I was the youngest CEO of the largest company, and it was my time to shine.
Don't get me wrong! I was thankful to God for all those opportunities I was taking. I made plans to donate a significant sum of money to the Jerusalem Presbyterian Church so they could build a monumental building and not have to meet in an elementary school any more. I had it all figured out: It wouldn't even cost me a thing--I could do it entirely through my company, as a tax write-off.
Then one night, the Lord came to me in a dream, and he spoke to me. He said, "David, you are a man of business--you've spent decades chasing profit and position. It is not for you to build me a church. But one will come after you, your son, and he will be a man of peace. He will build me a house." And just like that, he was gone. I never doubted it was really the Lord. But his words stung--it seemed like there was something else behind his words. Rejection. As if my offering somehow wasn't right, wasn't good enough. And for the first time in my life, I wanted a son.
That opportunity came more quickly than I could have ever expected. Her name was Bathsheba, and she worked for me. Unfortunately, so did her husband, Uriah. But she was beautiful, and I couldn't get her out of my head. I was the President and CEO. The opportunity came, so I took it. And I didn't count the cost.
But this time, there was a cost. Word of our affair got out--somehow it always does. It destroyed her marriage. Still no great cost to me, but now when I overheard people talking about me, they weren't singing my praises. Then Bathsheba got pregnant, and people talked even more. It bothered her, but I was excited about a new opportunity--fatherhood. Maybe this was the son God had promised. When he was born, I could see myself in his features...beautiful...but he struggled for life. And seven days later, he died.
A son! What kind of promise was that, God!?! Was that supposed to be some twisted idea of a punishment!?! Because if it was, the cost was too high, God! The cost was too high. You see, I had finally counted the cost... but only after I took what was never mine. Was anything I took ever really mine?
I suffered greatly through those times. And my business suffered even more. Sales, clients, contracts... all in sharp decline. Whether it was really divine punishment or just the natural consequences of my behavior, it really doesn't matter. They were dark years.
Slowly, I began to pull my life together. The church had a hand in that. Bathsheba and I, now married, had another son: Solomon. His name means "peace." And indeed, the Lord had begun to give me peace. But he also gave me one more opportunity. It was the last time he spoke to me, as I was driving home from a long meeting one afternoon. I had been praying for my company, that those in my care would not suffer from my mistakes. The Lord spoke to me that day, and he said, "David... I want you to pull over. There is an empty field to the side of the road just ahead of you. I want you to go there, and in that place make an offering to me."
I didn't understand, but I did what the Lord had asked; I pulled over and found my way to the field. It was a beautiful piece of pristine land, stretching for several acres, with an amazing view of Jerusalem. But what kind of offering was I supposed to make in this place? It didn't make sense. And then I remembered my church, still meeting in the elementary school, and in the midst of their annual stewardship campaign, no less. The land! God had said I couldn't build a church for Him, but perhaps I could at least provide the land? Miraculously, there was a "For Sale" sign in the corner of the property, and as I looked at the name of the owner, I smiled. Araunah. Jeb Araunah. He worked for me. And he owed me a large favor or two, come to think of it. My smile broadened-- I bet I could get this land for next to nothing. I pulled out my phone and dialed Jeb up, told him I was standing right in the middle of his field. Told him what I wanted to do with it--donate it to the church and everything. Could he make me a deal? Jeb's answer surprised me: He said, "Take it, David. It's yours. May the Lord respond favorably to what you are doing."
This was it--this was my next big opportunity! Take it, he had told me. It wouldn't cost me a thing. And that's when it hit me: it wouldn't cost me a thing. I thought of my life, all the opportunities taken, never counting the cost. I thought about all the things that really matter in life, and all the things that don't. I thought of the high costs we pay for a moment's indiscretion, and all of the real, God-given opportunities we let slip through our hands because we're afraid the cost is too high. I knew in that moment that a gift to God that cost me nothing... a gift so small that I could make it and then forget about it tomorrow; a gift I didn't have to sweat about and pray about and worry if I could really afford to make it... a gift like that... an "easy" gift... was no true gift at all.
I paid full market value for that land, plus twice that much besides. Not because I had to, or out of guilt or pride... but because the Lord gave me one last, wonderful opportunity to do something for Him, and for others besides myself. The Lord gave me an opportunity. I took it. And I counted the cost. It's beautiful now, isn't it, this not-so-empty field? I pray the Lord gives you an opportunity someday, too.