That Which Costs Me Nothing
November 17th, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
2 Samuel 24:1-25
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2 Samuel 24:1-25
11-17-63 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled That Which Doth Cost Me Nothing. These are pivotal days, epochal days. The message today concerns our response to an appeal from our Lord. The message next Sunday morning, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, will be in keeping with these critical times in which we live. It will be entitled For God and Country. I know either here in presence before the Lord or listening on the radio if we are not able to come, we all will share in lending God our ears to that message entitled For God and Country. In your Bible, turn to the Second Book of Samuel chapter 24, and we read almost the entire chapter, second chapter, 2 Samuel, chapter 24:
And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them . . .
For the king said to Joab the captain of the host . . . Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number . . .
And Joab said unto the king, Now the Lord thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?
Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel . . .
So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.
And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men – one million, three hundred thousand men able to bear arms.
And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: now, I beseech Thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Thy servant; for I have done foolishly.
For when David was up in the morning, the word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,
Go and say unto David, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, One, shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? Or, two, wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? Three, or shall there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to Him that sent me.
And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for His mercies are great: let me not fall into the hand of man.
So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men.
And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented Him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite.
And David spake unto the Lord when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? Let Thine hand, I pray Thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.
And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the Lord commanded.
And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground.
And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshing floor of thee, to build an altar unto the Lord, that the plague may be stayed from the people.
And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.
All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee.
And the king said unto Araunah, Nay, nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen . . .
And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
[2 Samuel 24:1-25]
In this unusual and moving story, we are not told why it was a sin for David to number the people. Evidently it was a part of a foolish military despotism, or it was a part of personal pride, or he intended it as Augustus Caesar did when Jesus was born. Augustus Caesar sent out a decree, the whole world was to be enrolled that they might be taxed for the vanity and the waste of his private coffers [Luke 2:1-3]. We are not told here why it was that it was a sin for David thus to number the people. They had been numbered many times before, even at the commandment of God. But whatever it was, it was something in David’s heart that was wrong. For in the tenth verse after he had done it, "David’s heart smote him, and David said unto the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in that I have done’" [2 Samuel 24:10]. So though we’re not told, there was something of iniquity, of pride, of foolish ambition, of distrust of God in what David did. After he had done it, there was sent to him, God’s prophet, Gad. And the Lord said to His prophet, "You go tell David that I give him three choices." And oh, what choices they were [2 Samuel 24:12-13].
One: seven years, seven years God withhold the rain and the earth turn to iron and the sky turn to brass, and everything that liveth dies, seven years of famine and want [2 Samuel 24:13].
Or second: that an enemy come into the land and for three months, they waste with the sword the people. They destroy, they cut down three months, and you, the king, flee for your life as the ravages of a foreign army waste and destroy in the land [2 Samuel 24:13].
Or third: that there be a pestilential plague to waste the people [2 Samuel 24:13]. What choices, what choices! And as David bowed before God, he chose the last, "Let us cast ourselves upon the mercy of God; perchance the Lord will remember us in our weakness and in our death, our misery. We shall cast ourselves upon the mercies of God [2 Samuel 24:14]. Let it be a plague. Let it be a plague." And the red crimson death of a plague began to roll over the land from Dan to Beer-sheba, from the extremity of the north to the extremity of the south. And the people began to be cut down and to die like flies, until seventy thousand men – how many families died? How many women? How many children? How many young people? Seventy thousand men had died in the plague, and finally, eventually, inexorably, inevitably, the red crimson tide of death began to roll toward Jerusalem, the city of the great king [2 Samuel 24:15, 16].
There stood on Mount Moriah, the highest place in the city, on the great rock where Abraham had sacrificed Isaac [Genesis 22:1-10], where Solomon’s temple was built [2 Chronicles 3:1], where the altar of sacrifice was later reared [2 Samuel 24:25], there stood there the angel of death with his sword unsheathed to destroy the great city of the great king [2 Samuel 24:16]. And when David saw him with his sword unsheathed to strike, David cried, "O God, it is I who have sinned. It is I who have done wickedly, but these sheep, these sheep, what have they done? Let Thine hand, I pray Thee, be against me and against my father’s house" [2 Samuel 24:17].
And the Lord God said to Gad, His prophet, "You go up and you tell David I have heard his prayer. I have seen his tears. I have listened to his intercession. You go tell David there on that threshing floor on Mount Moriah, tell David there to erect an altar unto the Lord and to offer a sacrifice" [2 Samuel 24:18], a type, a picture of the taking away of our sins on that other mount, in that other sacrifice, that of the Lord Jesus on Calvary [Luke 23:33].
So David made his way up to Mount Moriah to the top of the mount. For on the great rock there, as many of you have seen it, on the great rock there, Araunah, a stranger, a sojourner, an alien, Araunah was threshing out the wheat with his oxen and with his instruments. And when Araunah lifted up his eyes and saw the king coming, he bowed himself and asked the purpose of the visit. And David made it known, "I have come to buy of thee this place where God hath said to raise an altar and to make a sacrifice that the plague may be stayed and the people may be spared" [2 Samuel 24:20-21]. And Araunah bowed himself again to the ground and said, "Not so, my Lord, it is yours. This threshing floor is yours. These oxen are yours. These instruments of wood for sacrifice are yours. They are thine, taken them and make this offering unto God" [2 Samuel 24:22-23].
How easily it would have been, how easily it would have been for David to accept that proffered generosity of Araunah. He was a stranger. He was an alien. He was a Jebusite [2 Samuel 24:18]. And it was by sufferance of the people themselves that he lived there at all. How easily it would have been for David to have accepted this generous gift of Araunah. But David replied and said, "Not so, Araunah, not so, for I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing. I will buy the floor. I will buy the oxen. I will buy the threshing instruments. I will pay thee for them." So David bought them and built there an altar unto the Lord, and God accepted his sacrifice and the plague was stayed [from 2 Samuel 24:24-25].
There is a nobility about the answer of King David to Araunah that commends itself to every conscience. "Nay; but I will buy it from thee: for I will not offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing." And immediately it arises to a great religious principal, shall I give to God what is left over, what is unwanted, what is not needed? "Nay; but I will buy it of thee, neither will I offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:24]. And the Lord was pleased in the answer of the king. For 1 Chronicles 21:26 says, "God answered David by fire upon the altar of burnt offering." God is always pleased by such an offering at a cost and at a sacrifice.
Our Lord Jesus came into the temple and sat over next to the treasury and watched the people as they passed by giving to the work of the Lord. And there were those who out of there superfluity, and out of there abundance, and out of there affluence put in gold and silver. And there also came by a widow who sewed, who washed, who scrubbed floors, who labored for any little bit that she had, and as she came by, she put in to the work of the Lord, one half of one cent, two mites, that make a farthing. A mite is the smallest denomination of money that was ever made. She put in two mites and the Lord called His disciples and said, "Come here. Come here. I want you to see a great woman, a noble woman. She hath given to the work of God, all that she had, even all her living" [Mark 12:41-44], trusting God to feed her, to take care of her. God commended her gift.
That is the reason I had you to read in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Mark, the breaking of an alabaster box. It took one solid year’s wages to buy that much spikenard, and that dear woman broke it and poured it over the head and the feet of her Lord, and the Lord said, "Such a sacrifice, such a gift, at a cost, wherever in the earth this gospel shall be preached, this also shall be said what she hath done" [Mark 14:9]. And there is something about the sacrificial giving at a cost that moves any heart, any heart – any heart. Heart may be made out of brass, heart may be turned to stone, but there is something about a great gift at a cost that moves any soul, any heart.
As some of you know, this last week I have been preaching each night in Chicago. It is my last appointment until, up until the next and following year. And I kept it because for years I had promised to be there, our little struggling Southern Baptist churches around that vast metropolitan area. And I had promised to encourage them, and to help them, and to preach for them, and I kept that promise this last week. Every night I preached – Monday through Friday night. Such a little band, so small, in a vast, almost illimitable sea of paganism and heathenism and infidelity, such a small little band. But every time I walked into the little church, and every time I stood in their presence, I felt like bowing my head. Ah, ah, such commitment and such devotion.
There was a man seated right there, there was a man seated there; they had a six hundred dollar gas bill in order to keep the house heated. They had gone in debt six hundred dollars and they owed the gas bill. And that man had given fifty dollars on the gas bill to help keep the house heated. And the pastor lifted the telephone and dialed his number to thank him for the gift of the fifty dollars for the gas bill. The telephone had been disconnected, and the pastor asked why? And he learned the telephone had been disconnected because the man had not income enough to pay the telephone bill; so he gave to his Lord and disconnected his telephone.
Right back of me in the choir, immediately back of me, every night sang a girl, a young girl in the choir – working hard, a working girl. This last summer there was a convention, a convocation, a congress of Girls’ Auxiliaries in Memphis, Tennessee, and they had planned for the little group of girls in their little church to go and attend that great congress in Memphis, Tennessee. They lacked forty-five dollars that they could not go for the lack of forty-five dollars. And this girl, singing there right back of me in the choir, this girl placed in the collection plate the forty-five dollars and made it possible for them to go. And the pastor that day, the pastor that day, learning that the girl was going to walk home for miles, said, "Why are you walking home? Why don’t you ride a bus? Why don’t you catch a bus? Don’t walk that far." She demurred and he pressed the question. She broke into crying, and he learned from her she did not have the money to pay a bus fare to ride home. And he further learned, as he talked to her, that she was proposing to walk to work and back from work every day. And further, to go without a noon meal every day in order to conserve that forty-five dollars given to the church that the girls might make their trek to the great convocation.
And that, and that, and that, and that, and in everywhere I found as I looked at them and entered into their lives and their sacrifice. I never felt so unworthy in my life. "Neither, neither, will I offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:24]. There is a nobility, there is a godliness, there is a sanctity, there is a holiness, there is a heavenliness, there is a celestialness, there is a God-likeness in that sentence that appeals to every conscience and to every heart; it is sort of like religion itself.
In the first chapter of Colossians and the twenty-fourth verse is a sentence out of the apostle Paul that theologians have stumbled over for years and years. Paul says in Colossians 1:24, Paul says, "That I might fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ" [Colossians 1:24]. And the theological problem positive in the sentence is this, it is as though Paul is saying, the afflictions of Christ, the sufferings of our Lord, the atonement of Jesus was not enough, was not enough; there was something lacking in the atonement of Christ, and Paul felt that he had to add to the afflictions of Jesus and the sufferings of our Lord in order that the atonement might be complete. Just to say that is immediately to say no such theological persuasion could ever be thought of, it is inconceivable. When our Lord bowed His head and cried, "It is finished. It is finished" [John 19:30], all of the atonement ever needed for the washing away of our sins was offered unto God [1 John 2:2, Revelation 1:5]. There is nothing incomplete in the sufferings, or in the atonement, or in the sacrifice of Christ.
Well, what could it mean then? What could it mean? "I am to fill up that which is lacking in the afflictions, in the sufferings of Christ" [Colossians 1:24]. What could it mean? The meaning is very evident. It is very clear. This man Paul, pouring out his life for the preaching of the gospel in that Roman world, founding churches here, there, there around that Mediterranean sea. It is simple; it is plain. May I say it in a thing that happened? You can see it more clearly than if I expatiated on it for an hour.
Not our foreign mission board, but the foreign mission board of another denomination, another communion – the board had gathered to appoint missionaries to the foreign field. One after another they were brought in as they do in our foreign mission board, and each one makes his testimony, tells the call of God in his heart to go to the foreign field. The president of the foreign mission board had received a telegram from a pastor, and the telegram said, "Such-and-such girl who is to be appointed, be sure to ask her if she believes that Jesus died for our sins; be sure to ask her."
So they interviewed all of the other appointees and they left that girl last. And the president stood up before the board and he said, "My brethren, I have received a telegram that greatly disturbs me, greatly disturbs me. And I felt you must know of it before this girl is invited in." And he read the telegram from the pastor, ‘Be sure to ask this girl before you appoint her, if she believes that Jesus died for our sins.’" No girl who did not believe in the sacrifice of Christ for our sin could ever be appointed a foreign missionary; it would be unthinkable to go out in the name of Jesus not believing Him Savior of the world.
So the board was alerted and the girl came in, in a very hostile atmosphere. The men were very, very reserved and full of askance as they looked at that young woman. So when she stood up to give her testimony, the president asked her immediately that first question. "First of all," he said, "tell us, tell us, do you believe that Jesus died for our sins?"
And the girl replied in a way that overwhelmed them, and in the very theological content of this verse in Colossians 1:24, the girl replied, "Yes. Yes, I believe that Jesus died for our sins, but," she added, "I also believe that Jesus has called us to also die for the sins of the world, that they might know redemption and salvation, and that they might hear the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. And for that purpose," she says, "I am asking to be appointed as a missionary, and I am going, please God, to the foreign field, and I intend to give my life that they also might know this great redemption and salvation."
There is a sacrifice God demanded from His Son that we might be washed from our sins; there is also a great commitment and a great dedication that God demands of us.
I counted dollars but God counted crosses.
I counted gains while He counted losses.
I counted my wealth by the things gained in store.
But He valued me by the scars that I bore.
I counted the honors and sought for ease.
He wept while He counted the hours on my knees.
And I never knew until one day by a grave,
How vain are those things we spend a lifetime to save.
"Neither will I offer to the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:24]. May we pray? O Lord, these things bow our heads in humility, in confession, in shame. How many, how oft, how multiplied are those times when first and always we think of the ease and pleasure of life, and last and always think of Thee and Thy call, and challenge, and commission, and command? O bless us Lord, as we rethink our lives, as we search our souls, as we offer unto Thee what we are and all that we have. In these brief, so brief days that remain to us in this pilgrimage, O God, when life itself – God Himself says it – is like a vapor that vanishes in the morning sun [James 4:14]. O Lord, that in our time, and in our day, and in our generation, we might do a good thing and a great thing for Thee. Bless, Lord, this message; bless our people as they have so prayerfully listened. Seal it with a divine Holy Spirit of heaven in a harvest. Give us souls this hour. Thank Thee for answered prayer, in Thy keeping name, amen.
Now while we sing our song, somebody to give his heart in trust to the Lord Jesus; somebody to put his life with us in the fellowship of the church; somebody to regive himself to the Lord, as the Spirit of Jesus shall say the word, shall whisper the call, answer now, answer this day. Come and stand by me, and the Lord speed you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.