Daily Light from the Lighthouse
"But go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'"
It seems that people often try to define God based on their religious affiliation. They have made a journey trough their traditional way of thinking about God that they can pretty much summarize Him in a few nice and neat statements. They know what makes Him happy and what makes Him sad. They know what point of view that He would have on certain issues. Some of these individuals proudly boast that they are narrow minded. Others claim to be so open-minded that they can rationalize any view point. When you are genuinely trying to follow Christ and are confronted by all of these opinions, this can be a very frustrating world in which to live.
Jesus knew exactly what this was like. Every day He was confronted with those that had Him all figured out, and of course they were absolutely wrong. The God of creation in human flesh was being told by others how He should be doing things. The religious leaders who said that they were followers of the Most High God spent every day of their lives correcting that same God. When Jesus sat down with the "worst" of sinners, He faced the scorn and ridicule of the religious crowd. "How could He do such a thing? Doesn't He know what kind of people they are?" The truth was Jesus knew what kind of people they all were. That is the reason that He came to this sinful and fallen world.
He then challenged the Pharisees to go back into their scrolls and figure out what Hosea meant when he wrote, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." If there was ever a group of people that knew how to make sacrifice, observe rituals, and obey the letter of the law it was the Pharisees. They had it down to a science if not an art. They were the finest of the religious establishment, and they knew it. You could tell that they were "right with God" by the way they dressed, the way they spoke, and their understanding of Scripture. No one knew as much as they knew, but how little they really knew! It is not just possible but also highly probable that the most religious of us today know much about sacrifice but little about mercy. We have been so intent on observing the outer things that we have completely neglected the inner man. We try to lead men to a decision for Christ and that is honorable, but then we spend the rest of our lives trying to get them to comport to our religious standards. If the outside looks well, that is all that matters. It would be good for us to remember that Jesus Himself said that the Pharisees looked good and clean on the outside but inside they were filled with the rotting flesh of dead men.
Would you take the time to explore your heart and see if you are as intent on showing mercy and delivering that message as you are trying to get someone to view things as you see them? How liberating it would be if we all began to live for Christ and not men!
May you desire mercy today!