Matthew 9:13 "Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
Farmers live in a world of sacrifice and mercy. Sacrifice, because when its time to work the hours are often long, and the work must be done, while the weather permits. Mercy, because all of the work depends finally on God, to provide the rains and the sun the produce the crop.
I would expect that farmers would hear the words of Jesus and rejoice. For every other word in this world is a word calling for sacrifice in the hopes of mercy, or some other reward. In Jesus word, we find, not what we must do, but what God has done to bring salvation to us.
We live in a world of individuals, perhaps thatís the problem. We live in a world, where to become all that we can be, itís in our hands. And there is a notion that the way we can become all we want is by hard work. I find the way. I travel the way. I reach the destination. I earn the prize. But there are some things that you simply canít do yourself. If by nature, man is spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God, how can such a man find God, or make peace with Him?
You canít! Someone has to open your mind. Someone has to give you understanding. Someone has to teach you. Sure, many people read the scriptures, and the common complaint is that they canít understand it. Someone has to open their mind, the Holy Spirit has to come into their life, this was Jesus gift, to open our minds, to teach us, to guide us in the way of salvation, to create faith in our heart, to help us hold to the promise of God in Jesus Christ.
It has become fashionable, since W.W.II, for parents to sacrifice for their children, working extra hours, or extra jobs, so that they can buy those things which will please their children. But many have learned if you ask the child, the child would prefer to see their parents over the things which are bought. So also, for husbands and wives both to work. It is a sacrifice, but it enables them to buy big houses, new cars and many other things. Each sacrifices for the other to get them something that they would enjoy. But many have learned that joy in marriage does not come from possessions, but from abiding love, and time spent together in love.
So why is it, that when we come to God, that we are so surprised that God really isnít interested in our sacrifice, the only thing he is interested in is our steadfast love. And that dear friends, is what our text is saying. Think about it! How often do we come to God with a lets make a deal kind of prayer. You help me God, and Iíll sacrifice something thatís important to me, and Iíll go to church, Iíll pray regularly, Iíll read the Bible, Iíll tithe ... pick one, and Iíll do it, but I sure need that help now!
Now think about God, and all he has done for us in Jesus Christ. God didnít tell man save yourself, here, Iíll show you the way; No, he sent his Son to be our Savior. God didnít wait until we had turned from our sins, but while we were his enemies, when there was nothing good in us, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And when there was opposition, Jesus didnít say, hey, thatís fine with me, Iíll just go back to heaven, but he was faithful, even unto death. And so it was that Jesus died for our sins, and for the sins of all, not because we had earned it, nor because we deserved it, but simply because we needed it. From the beginning until the present day their have been numerous examples of Godís steadfast love and mercy upon mankind, and upon us.
Godís love is everlasting. Godís grace is new every morning, and all this is poured out for us without any merit or worthiness in us. God has shown us what steadfast love is, and in calling us by grace through faith to be his children, he is calling us to live lives filled with the steadfast love he has poured out upon us, and to be faithful unto Him, just as He has been faithful unto us.
You see the words of our text "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" are not new words. But Jesus is reminding them of the Words which God gave through the prophet Hosea. It had not been learned then, and it is a lesson we are still learning today. For Godís mercy is His steadfast love. And if we are the children of God, then not only will we have a steadfast love for our heavenly Father, but we will also live that steadfast love, loving in this world, not the things of this world, but rather the things of God. And it is because of this steadfast love of God, that as the children of God, we will love also our neighbor, for when we look at our neighbor we will see someone for whom Jesus shed his blood, someone in need of love, mercy, peace and forgiveness; the very things that can only be found in Jesus Christ. And so we gather, to be fed, to be built up, so that we can bring with us, whereever we go, the steadfast love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. And at the end of our life, we look forward to Christís return, to gather us up to be with Him in heaven. This is our hope. This is our faith. And this is comfort as we morn the passing of one who was dear to us. The resurection and the life that are ours in Jesus Christ.