Devotional: ‘God is Pleased When We Are Merciful’

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Matthew 12:9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

How sad it is that we can sometimes allow our religion to keep us from doing what is good. Here was a man who was suffering from a physical infirmity and no one seemed to care. To them, even healing was a type of work and the Law of Moses prohibited any work on the Sabbath. Therefore, in their opinion, this man would just have to continue to suffer. Yet, regardless of the fact that it was the Sabbath, Jesus reached out and healed him.

Did Jesus do this because He was a rebel? Did He have no regard for the Law of Moses? Jesus said – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” [1] Jesus fulfilled the Law all the way down to punctuation marks. [2]  Yet Jesus also lived by a higher law. Jesus obeyed what James calls the ‘royal law’ which is to ‘love others as we love ourselves.[3] 

In order to help His disciples understand why He was healing this man, even though it was the Sabbath, Jesus quoted a passage from the prophet Hosea. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” [4]  The Jews were good at following the letter of the law. As if the Law of Moses was not strict enough, they elaborated on it and formed a list of over 600 commandments. [5] Yet they failed to understand the true heart of God. Hosea tells us that God desires mercy, not ritualistic sacrifices. God is pleased with act of love, not legalism.

[1] Matthew 5:17

[2] Matthew 5:18

[3] James 2:8

[4] Hosea 6:6

[5] Judaism 101, http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm, August 5, 2016

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