Counting the Cost

Where is my heart in this? That is the question I see being highlighted as I read 1 Chronicles 21.

Verse 1 says that Satan rose up against Israel and provoked David to take a census of Israel. We don’t know why, exactly, but it was wrong of David to do so. It seemed to be part of his preparation for his son to build the temple. The Bible Background Commentary explained that a census was preliminary to a tax, which would have gone into God’s treasury, and that if David planned to fund the building of the temple in that way, if was probably adding insult to injury because it was right on the heals of his affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 24). At any rate, God had not told David to take a census, and even his military commander carried out the orders very reluctantly, warning David that it would bring guilt on Israel (vs.3).

Verse 7 says that what David did was repulsive in God’s sight, so He punished Israel. He sent a seer to David and told David to choose his consequences. He gave him three choices, none of them easy, all of them painful. I always hated it when my parents made me choose my own consequences for wrongdoing. It was very convicting, and for David the choices were even more difficult because it was not just he who would suffer. Others would suffer because of his sin.

So what did David choose? He could have chosen 3 years of famine. Or he could have chosen 3 months of being overtaken by their enemies. But instead, he chose to give himself into the hand of the Lord, because he said that God’s mercy is very great. Even in bowing to consequences he deserved, David acknowledged God’s mercy.

An angel like the one that carried out the plague of death on Egypt struck Israel, and 70,000 men died. God sent the angel to completely destroy Jerusalem, but it grieved Him so much that he told the angel to withdraw his hand. Verse 16 says, “David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, with a sword drawn in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell face-down.” What a frightening, awesome sight to behold!

Skipping to the chase, God ordered David to build an altar on the threshing floor which belonged to a man named Araunah. When David told Araunah why he needed his land, the man offered to give it to David, along with the animals and everything else needed to sacrifice. But David told him, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

This reminds me of Mark 12, when Jesus pointed out the rich people who gave much and the poor widow who gave only two coins. He said the rich gave what they didn’t need, but the poor woman gave everything she had—her gift was greater. I think that David had learned his lesson. The temple would be built more through generous love offerings, whether earned or won, and not through forced, burdensome tax.

After studying this, so many times I have encountered situations where I have been prompted to ask, “What is my heart in this?”

**When given the choice of banana bread or pancake, my 13 year old happily chose the banana bread because she liked it better, but later told her brother that she sacrificed for him so that he could have the pancake. Let me tell you, he was not impressed. Instead, he was offended because even though he wanted the pancake, he knew that he was benefiting from her leftovers and not her generosity. My kids rarely fight, but I actually had to intervene in this situation.

**Sitting down with one of the young camp volunteers who was feeling down, we had an honest discussion about how they were “serving” behind the scenes, but realized that they wanted to be up front doing the job that was more enjoyable and that brought them attention. I was asked, “How do you serve in the background without wanting recognition?” We asked some probing questions, like, “Am I volunteering for me? Or for God?” and “Whose approval do I need and why?”

It’s easy to kid ourselves about the motivation behind our choices, especially if they look good to others, but we can’t fool God. Sacrifice is only sacrifice when it costs us something. Why should God value what we don’t value? He knows our motivation. We become God’s temple when we embrace Jesus as our Savior and Master. We are not forced, but rather, God wants us to give ourselves to him willingly. It’s the same idea.

James 4:3 says that when we ask for something and don’t receive it, it can be because we ask with wrong motives, so that we can spend what we get on our own pleasures. That’s James’ way of saying, “Hey, your motives are selfish.” When a heart check reveals that our motives are wrong, we can ask God to change us. You know what? He does. Not only does He change our hearts so that motives become pure, but afterward, if the thing we want is actually good, He very often grants our requests. He just loves us so much that He makes sure we are doing things in the right order.

Image by Pexels and Luis Ricardo Rivera and freestocks-photos from Pixabay.

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