the weblog of Alan Knox

Mercy not Sacrifice

Posted by on Aug 6, 2008 in gathering, love, scripture, service | 3 comments

Next Sunday, we’ll be studying Matthew 9:9-13. I’m not scheduled to teach, but I’m continuing to study along in case God teaches me something that would transform my own life and perhaps that he would want me to share with others in order to build them up toward maturity in Christ. Here is the passage:

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13 ESV)

The quotation, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”, is from Hosea 6:

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love [mercy] and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. (Hosea 6:4-7 ESV)

For the children of Israel during Hosea’s time and for the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, following God meant offering sacrifices and attending religious festivals as well as living according to the law. But for all their sacrifices and attendance and law keeping, Jesus (and God through the prophet Hosea) says that they were actually “transgressing the covenant”. They had forgotten about mercy.

In Matthew 9:9-13, Jesus is eating with Matthew and some of his tax collecting friends. The Pharisees were appalled that Jesus would eat with that kind of low life scum. Everyone knew that tax collectors were cheaters and traitors – sinners. That is why the Pharisees would have nothing to do with them.

Jesus knew the deplorable nature of the tax collectors also. That is why Jesus spent time with them. Thus, Jesus turns the world upside down. The righteous one spends his time with the unrighteous, because it is more important for God’s people to offer mercy to others than to offer sacrifices to God (without mercy). The sacrifices and offerings and feasts and rituals meant nothing to God if the people were not also dealing mercifully with others.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were always getting mad at Jesus for hanging out with people like tax collectors and prostitutes and drunkards and lepers and others of an unsavory sort. He spent so much time with them, that the religious leaders started saying the Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard. But, Jesus knew that these were the people who most needed the love and mercy of God. These were the people who needed a true demonstration of God’s grace.

Today, there are many, many people who need a true demonstrate of God’s grace. They need to know the love and mercy of God. And, God’s children are the only ones who can demonstrate God’s grace, mercy, and love to them.

God desires for us to demonstrate his mercy more than we care about our religious gatherings and exercises. Which do we care more about?


3 Comments

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  1. 8-6-2008

    In a nation known more for its morality than mercy this is very difficult brother. I myself wrestle with this so much. I don’t if it is sometimes a lack of confidence in the Spirit or that my sinful (I might have to agree with Paul that if he was Chief I was second in command) will come back to haunt me. So I spent a great deal of my Christian life avoiding such people not because of them but due to fear that I may still enjoy this stuff.

    I think the Pharisees had the right motive but the wrong motion. Since holiness and morality goes hand in hand I believe they felt that morality produced the righteousness of God. I think many feel this way today. Many today rag on those who are buried up to their eyes in sin, not realizing that we too were dead. Others were raised in moral homes and this is how they believe they are to earn God’s favor. Since their youth they are fed this but things such as mercy, grace, love and ministering to others who lifestyles that are radically opposed to theirs is never practiced.

    In short we are overly moral and less loving and merciful. The problem is that isn’t what Christ’s models during His earthly ministry nor what God has practiced since the creation of man. God has continually showed us His mercy where the hieght of that is found in John 3:16. It is funny that a Holy God would condescend to man and be more gracious with sinners that sinners themselves.

  2. 8-6-2008

    Think this goes back to the heart. God cares not about our outward acts but the inner heart of showing mercy, kindness, grace, love to those who need it. May we have a heart of God as we live the christian life.
    Great post brother.
    Keep up the great work you do with your blog.

  3. 7-24-2011

    That God desires mercy, not sacrifice, I can see why. He knows how fragile we are. He knows the difference between God and creature, This said, I sense an evil attempt by some, to get away from morality “in God’s Name.” I am serious. The whole world tries to wrestle this shallow “victory”! So, as a Catholic theologian, I say: let’s be merciful always … but let’s combat evil! Let’s never justify immorality in the name of a false understanding of mercy! Hosea, through whom God spoke, did not mean that! He meant that we must have hearts of flesh, not stone, when it comes to sinners. We must reason with them, be salt of the earth for them. What we must never do, is to give up on evil! Jesus never did!