But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing.” So, David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. 2 Samuel 24:24 (NLT)
King David had gotten himself into trouble again. As if the Bathsheba debacle was not bad enough, later in his life, he was compelled by Satan to take a census of the available fighting men in his kingdom. While this act may have seemed harmless on the surface, it was, in fact, a horrible breach of faith in the same God who had given David victory after victory throughout his life. The resulting punishment was a three-day plague that almost immediately killed 70,000 citizens of the kingdom.
Compelled by the prophet to go to Araunah the Jebusite to build an altar on his threshing floor, David planned to offer a sacrifice to God to appeal to his mercy to relent from further death being necessary. Araunah, so honored by the king’s presence, graciously offers the property as a gift in order to facilitate the offering of the sacrifice. David could have invoked his royal privilege and simply taken the land, but instead he was intent on paying for it.
While David’s actions were, at times, devoid of any evidence of spiritual leadership, one aspect of his character that had never waned was his brokenness upon realization of his sin. He was fully aware that his own foolish actions had resulted in the grieving hearts of his people. Therefore, it was his duty to appeal to the mercy of God for the plague to stop. However, the key concept in this text is how he approached the worship he was about to offer to the Lord. To offer free oxen on a free altar would amount to little more than going through the motions with no personal investment or, as we say, “no skin in the game.”
Our church attendance can become the same thing that David was determined to avoid. God is far more impressed with a broken and contrite spirit that drives us to His feet than He is with what effort we may have put forth for our weekly rituals. Moments of humility offered to the Lord in recognition of His grace will never be considered worthless worship.