Today, after our tea/coffee and cakes, we continued our look at Old Testament scriptures used by the Lord Jesus in His teaching. Reading in Matthew 9:12,13, Jesus compares Himself to a Physician/Doctor whose interest is in the unwell and sick, not the healthy.
It is in this context that He quotes the following:
‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice’ [Hosea 6:6]
As we saw last week, the meaning of ‘mercy’ is critical to a right understanding of this passage. If you think of ‘mercy’ only in the narrow terms of with-holding something deserved, then we will miss the point Jesus is making.
The word in the quotation is of course an Old Testament Hebrew word. it is the word ‘chesed’, which has a breadth of meaning that is hard to capture in English. One commentator though has translated it as ‘unfailing love’. Another as a ‘covenantal love’.
I like this description, because it describes the unchanging faithfulness of God’s love to us, and this therefore explains the type of response that God desires from us.
So often in life, just as in our spirituality, we look for a quick fix. “Just show me what to do and I can get on with it” is often our attitude and yet God desires for more. He desires a long term faithful and trusting relationship, and He knows where to look to find such people: it’s the needy, the sinners, the despised, the poor.
So very often we take pride in our religious activities, and feel we have no need of God. Yes, we’re likely trying to please Him, but yet our attitude is one of self-sufficiency.
Instead, the Lord turns in love and compassion to those who know their need of God, and reaches out to them with healing and salvation. He knows that they who having been forgiven and shown such great love will respond in kind to love the Lord with all their heart. We could paraphrase the verse in this way:
‘I desire your unfailing, covenantal love,
rather than your momentary religious sacrifices’
It is this daily commitment of love from us that He desires, not our flurry of energetic activity, and as we dwell in His presence, we come to daily enjoy the benefits of knowing the Great Physician.