In 2 Samuel 24 David had sinned by taking a census of the people (1-9). David was convicted of his sin and asked God to forgive his sin (10). God sent the prophet Gad to David and offered him three possible punishments for his sin and David opted for pestilence that ultimately killed 70,000 Israelites (11-15). Only the grace of God permitted an even great destruction of life (16-17).
Gad then instructed David to go build an altar to God and when he went to buy a threshing floor as a place for an altar, Araunah offered to not only give David the threshing floor, but also the oxen and wood for the sacrifice (18-23). David then replied in what has become a well-known expression regarding the nature of true sacrifice,
“No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
David paid a modest $400 for the threshing floor and oxen in today’s dollars. But the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:25 states that David also paid 600 shekels of gold for the entire site or more than $300,000. David could have gotten off very cheaply ($400) or even built the altar for free with the wood and oxen thrown in. But David declared that he would not “offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” Indeed, it cost him about the value of an entire home where I live in Frederick, MD.
David was forgiven but the fallout cost 70,000 lives and over $300,000. What is God after here? What can we learn? Sacrifice to God is costly and should be offered without any hope of it benefiting us. We don’t sacrifice to get from God. The real blessing of this passage is this: David made a sacrifice that really did cost him and he did it for the glory of God alone. And in return, God accepted David’s offerings upon the altar built on that site and did something wonderful. The site become the very place upon which God allowed Solomon to build the temple! A place where God would be worshiped through sacrifices and thanksgiving! I know, you can’t make this stuff up! God honored David’s genuine sacrifice and glorified himself and I trust he will do the same for me and you.