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Mercy not Sacrifice

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Yet, the Old Testament prophets clearly understood the relationship between law and grace. Hosea and Micah, two of the “minor” prophets, represent clear statements of the relationship:

Hosea 6:6
6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Micah 6:8
8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

So, the law is not grace, but a set of instructions designed to point us toward a clear understanding of grace. Since we cannot keep 100% of the law 100% of the time, the law cannot bring us to a state of holiness, righteousness, or salvation.  The law can certainly help us along our walk toward holiness, but it takes grace to get us there.

This is seen most clearly in the New Testament in the debate between the religious leaders and Jesus.  The law of the Pharisees was a code of legalism developed over many hundreds of years. The code was comprised mostly of the traditions of the religious leaders. Simple statements of God’s righteousness had become complex sets of rules. A simple example of this is found in Matthew 12:

Matthew 12:3-8
3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

For the Pharisees, work on the Sabbath was defined by a complex set of regulations, all “designed” to honor the Sabbath. What these rules accomplished was the placing of a great burden on the people, a burden that, at times, was harmful. With Jesus’ teaching, the rules were placed in submission to the needs of the person. Jesus cut the red tape hindering the people from honoring God.




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