August 1, 2008

They sat across the table from each other, bodies tense, words few and carefully chosen, eyes penetrating, looking for the slightest hint of weakness in the other. One thing they both realized, these critical negotiations would test their individual resolve to the limit. Who would be the first to break under the pressure? Which one would walk away from the table with the better deal? Who would prove to be the master negotiator?
Who were the opponents in this delicate duel? Are we describing the negotiations between a labor union and some company official over a new contract? Are we perhaps talking about two warring countries working out the details to a peace treaty? Or could this be a depiction of a police negotiator working toward the release of some threatened hostages? No, we’re reporting on a test of wills that was far more serious, far more intense, with far greater ramifications when compared to those other minor contests. This duel involved me, and I was not about to lose!
The negotiations took place in the offices of a used car lot in our home town. Now you may be thinking that such a contest is hardly deserving of such a grandiose introduction. But you must realize how seriously I take such haggling and how wonderful it feels to actually get the better of some inexperienced opponent. On this occasion, however, I was not pitted against a novice. On one side of the table sat the seasoned, sinister, diabolical, used car salesman. Across from him sat the wary, determined purchaser. Outside the showroom gleaming in the afternoon sun sat the object of our negotiations, a late model, spirited, well-performing sports car which had caught the eye of our daughter, Trisha. Although it was several years old, the mileage was still low and it appeared to be in near-cherry condition. The vehicle would be perfect transportation for Trisha to take to and from work and school. Her mother and I would be co-signing the loan to enable her to purchase the car; hence we had a compelling interest in the bottom line of the contract.
“Your price is too high; this car’s not worth anywhere near that amount,” I complained, trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about.
“So how much do you think it is worth?” asked the salesman with an obviously feigned attempt at sympathy.
I made a proposal, he countered. I made another, he countered again. Back and forth went the verbal jousting until finally he stopped and refused to lower the price another penny.
“Do we have a deal?” queried the salesman as he pushed a contract toward my side of the table.
After a thoughtful, dramatic pause, during which I prayed that indeed the best deal was now being offered, I responded, “The deal is done!” Taking the salesman’s pen I signed the document that sealed our agreement. But as I was driving away from the dealership in my new purchase, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could have wrestled longer and squeezed out a better deal. Was the salesman even now laughing with his co-workers and bragging how he got the best of me? Was the car really worth that much or would it fall apart on my way home?
Well, that deal was struck nearly seven years ago and Trisha is still driving the same car. The vehicle has not been totally trouble-free, but by and large it has proven to be a good investment. I’m not certain who got the better of that deal but I’m confident that at least I didn’t get snookered by a superior negotiator.
As I have been reminiscing about my deal to purchase Trisha’s car, my mind has been speculating about the scene of another negotiation, a contest vastly different from buying a used car, immeasurably more intense with infinitely more at stake. This was a duel waged eons ago by the two toughest negotiators in the universe. Picture a vast expanse somewhere out of this world divided by two multitudes of witnesses facing each other arrayed for battle. Between the opposing armies the two contestants squared off being careful not to come too close together lest the contest suddenly become physical.
They sat across a massive stone table from each other, bodies tense, words few and carefully chosen, eyes penetrating, looking for the slightest hint of weakness in the other. One thing they both realized, these critical negotiations would test their individual resolve to the limit. Who would be the first to break under the pressure? Which one would walk away from the table with the better deal? Who would prove to be the master negotiator?
On one side sat the seasoned, sinister, diabolical salesman.
“Are you sure you want them?” he asked repeatedly shaking his grotesquely disfigured head in disbelief. “They’re nothing but trouble, extremely unreliable, and not to be trusted.”
“Yes, I know who they are,” came the reply from the other side. “I made them. Creating them was my idea. I know the evil they are capable of doing. Yet they are still of great value to me!”
“But they are rebellious, totally self-centered, incurable liars and incapable of consistent holiness,” badgered the salesman. “They are utterly worthless!”
“They aren’t worthless to me,” countered the Purchaser. “I love them and I will pay any price to get them back.”
A sinister smile crept across the face of the salesman. “Any price?” he asked, clasping his hands together while attempting rather unsuccessfully to hold back an evil laugh.
“No price is too high,” answered the Purchaser resolutely, knowing what was coming.
“Then here’s my final offer,” announced the salesman nearly bursting with glee. “I will take the death of your only begotten Son in exchange for their lives.”
“Yes, I know the price,” said the Purchaser as He lowered His voice realizing the gravity of this moment.
“Then do we have a deal?” queried the salesman pushing the contract toward his opponent.
After a dramatic pause, with a roar like a mighty hurricane, the Purchaser thundered His response. “IT IS FINISHED!!!”…and He slowly, deliberately signed the document with the blood of His Son.
A collective gasp rose from the ranks of the witnesses behind the Purchaser. The other side immediately erupted with shouts of joy and celebration. Quickly the salesman locked away the payment in his bank vault and sealed the door. The deal was done; the transaction was complete. The Son lay dead in the vault, and a doorway swung open allowing countless millions a way back to the home of their Creator.
So which one walked away with the better deal? Did the salesman gather his co-workers about him and brag about how he got the best of the Purchaser? Did the Purchaser walk away from the negotiating table with a smile and a wink to His associates? And what was the expression on the salesman’s face when he returned to the bank three days later and discovered the vault was empty? The Purchaser’s “check” had bounced…bounced back to life!
“The deal is off!” screamed the salesman. “You took back the payment!”
“The contract is paid in full,” answered the Purchaser with a hint of a chuckle. “You asked for the death of my Son, and die He did. You never stipulated how long He was to stay dead. So, I felt 3 days was sufficient.”
The salesman furiously retreated along with his minions to take out his vengeance upon those who were purchased. And the Redeemer sent forth His Spirit to convince as many individuals as possible to be included in the agreement.
Was this how the “deal” actually went down? Was this how Satan came to be snookered by the greatest negotiator of all times? I would have loved to have been a witness to that duel. I suppose in this life we will never know all the details of the negotiations, but some of the “fine print” of the contract has been preserved for us.
You are worthy…because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” – 1Corinthians 6:19-20. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ…” – 1Peter 1:18-19.

Yes, in the eyes of our Purchaser we really are that valuable. So how does it feel to be the object of such intense negotiations, to have the entire spirit world fighting over you, to have the Creator giving up heaven’s greatest treasure just to bring you back into fellowship with Him? Now let me ask a provocative question. In the years since you chose to be included in the greatest deal in history, how close have you come to continually living up to your purchase price? If your answer is “nowhere even close,” then welcome to the club. But just because we continually fail on a daily basis to reflect the improbable price placed upon our heads doesn’t mean our Redeemer will trade us in for another model. As long as we continue our desire to remain in the deal, He will continue to cover our purchase price, not because we deserve it, but because His grace demands it. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9.
So the next time life has you feeling worthless just remember the negotiating session that set the highest price ever paid for a ransomed soul. Yes, we are truly worth more than silver or gold! Yes, God has certainly lavished His love upon us! And yes, God did get the better deal proving He is the “Master Negotiator.” If only He could stand in for me next time I face a used car salesman.

Bill, a priceless child of God

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