Matthew 9:11-13 – When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? ” Now when he heard this, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
To those who would wonder why Yeshua was reaching out to those who were not considered worthy by the religious elite, Yeshua directs them to “go and learn what this means.” He then points them to a passage in the book of the prophet Hosea, which, when we read it in its context, helps us to understand what this emphasis is, and should be.
Hosea 6:4-6 – “O Ephraim, what shall I do with you? O Judah, what shall I do with you? For your wavering loyalty and kindness are transient like the morning cloud and like the dew that goes away early. Therefore, I have hewn them in pieces by the words of the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; My judgments pronounced upon them by the prophets are like the light that shines forth, obvious to all. For I desire and delight in steadfast mercy, rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”
Hosea then goes on to describe the heinous sins of Israel that they have committed and the justification of God’s coming wrath upon them. They claimed that they were righteous because they were doing all of the religious rites (sacrifices and offerings) and yet God was still angry with them.
This points to the religious hypocrisy of that generation which Yeshua then deftly applies to the leaders of his generation. They claimed to be righteous and yet were as compassionless as the generation of judgment pronounced by Hosea.
Matthew 23:13, 15 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!
Yeshua had no words to spare when it came to condemning the self-righteous hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day. Rather than endless sacrifices, God truly desired that they would learn of his mercy through the sacrifices, that they would come to understand he was allowing them grace and mercy through substitutionary offerings. Instead, they only took away from that process a legal code of rules that God requires to be appeased, and in the process of doing so they neglected the very ones whom God desired they would mimic his mercy to: the outcasts of his people.
The God of the universe is a God of mercy, and he desires we simply exhibit compassion to all others, especially those who may seem unworthy by any other religious standard. Instead of sacrifice, mercy; instead of burnt offerings, knowledge of him.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 – This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Through the knowledge of God’s mercy available to all through the life and ministry of Yeshua, God has provided the compassionate pattern for us to follow with all others to whom we can minister in our generation. If there are sacrifices involved, it may be the sacrifice of our social status in order to reach out with compassion to those who need it most, because the knowledge of God brings life.
Micah 6:6-8 – What should I bring before Yahweh when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is Yahweh requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.
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