Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I WILL HAVE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE

One of the attributes of our God is that He delights in mercy. But when we try to understand the mercy of God, we must be careful that we do not bring God down to our level of humanity. Our God is a Sovereign God who brought this world in existence, and He is still in control of the affairs of this world. Our God is not a spectator of this world’s affairs, but an active participant. And when we speak of the fact that God delights in mercy, we must not imagine a god who is wringing his hands because sinful man is really not cooperating with God. That is not the God of the Bible.

We may not take out of context God’s own words that say:

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

And we may not take out of context God’s own words that say: “God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth”, and we may not conclude that God would want to save every body, but He really cannot do what He would like to. God would like to save you but He cannot save you because you are not cooperating.

That is not the God of the Bible.

The God of the Bible is a sovereign and righteous God. He is fully described in the Bible.

God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD; For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

This is what we must keep in mind when we read about God’s MERCY. We may not bring God down to our human level. God’s ways are far greater than our human ways, far greater than we can think of. The Bible says that we have a Sovereign and Righteous God “who will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)

"I Will Have Mercy, and Not Sacrifice." These words are found in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 9, verse 13.

Matthew 9:13
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

The Lord Jesus is speaking here to the self-righteous Pharisees, and He is pointing out to them the errors of their doctrine. Let us read it in the context in which these words are found:

Jesus called a publican (Matthew 9:9-13, Titus 3:3)

He is called Matthew. This account is also in Luke 5 and in Mark 2. (There, He is called Levi, it is the same person)

Matthew 9:9
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

Matthew 9:10
And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

Matthew 9:11
And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

Matthew 9:12
But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

Matthew 9:13
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Our Lord Jesus saw Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom.

What is the receipt of custom?

You know, when you pass the border, you have customs. That is the Tax Office, where they receive the taxes for the Roman government. Matthew was a tax collector. Another name the Jews used for a tax collector was “Publican”. It is a bad name. Publicans were hated by the Jews, because they worked for the enemy: the Roman government. They occupied them for many years.

Then Jesus said to Matthew, the Publican: “Follow me.” Immediately he arose, and followed Christ. Now, you can surmise that it is possible that Matthew has heard about Jesus, before Jesus met him. It is possible that Matthew was sick and tired of this job as a tax collector. But all that is just speculation! It has nothing to do with the word of God. The word of God is very plain. The only information we have in the Bible is: “Jesus saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him”. That is all that the Bible says about it.

Why did God put these words in the Bible; what have these words to do with the Gospel?

Have they anything to do with the gospel?

Yes they do!

You see, the Lord Jesus is usually calling unlikely candidates to the ministry. Prior to this event, Jesus had already called four uneducated fishermen: Peter, Andrew, James and John. Now a tax collector is added to the circle of disciples; A despicable Publican, the lowest of the low; a traitor who had sold them out to the Romans. Publicans and Harlots were usually grouped together as the scum of Judaean society. You would not want to be called a publican or a harlot. They were the worst of sinners. They did not deserve this honor to follow Jesus! No one would want to associate himself with such people. But Jesus did!

Look at ourselves: Did we deserve to be followers of Jesus?

Not at all!

In the past we were haters of God. In the past, we were living a life totally contrary to what God wanted us to live. God created us for His glory, but that is not how we lived. Listen to what God says about us through the pen of the Apostle Paul in Titus 3:3:

Titus 3:3
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

God says this applies to all of us: We all were in the past just like Matthew, like the scum of Judaean society, and we also did not deserve to be called by Jesus to become His disciple. But Jesus did! He called us. He called us like He called Matthew.

Moreover, in this story of Matthew’s call, does this not show that God is drawing to Jesus those individuals whom God decided to save?

It is a special call of Grace, and it is an irresistible call. Matthew was called and immediately he arose and followed Jesus. In fact, we read in Luke’s Gospel account that “he left all, rose up, and followed Him”.

Is that typical of someone who is called by God to follow Jesus?

Is that typical?

Absolutely! A total abandonment of self, that is characteristic of the Christian.

To the world this is an impossible idea. But remember: It is God who does the saving! The Lord Jesus says at another place: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”. (John 15:16)

What did Matthew do when Jesus saved Him?

What does anyone do when they became saved?

We tell the world what great things God has done for us!

That is what Matthew did. Matthew made a great feast. Matthew introduced all his friends to Jesus. That is also what we all are called to do!

We read in Luke 5:29,

Luke 5:29
And Levi (another name for Matthew) made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

This was Matthew’s way of witnessing to his friends: to invite a big party. This does not have to be the way everyone of us does witness. Everyone does it in his own way.

But is it not true that feasting with Jesus and following Jesus is a wonderful combination?

Every Lord's day we feast here on the Word of God, because we celebrate that glorious day that the Lord Jesus rose from the grave. And what a wonderful day is this also to invite our friends to come and introduce them to Jesus. That is what Matthew did. That is a good enough reason to follow Matthew’s example. Invite them to come to Church with you on the Lord's day, and spend the whole day with them, and pray for them that they may get to know, Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, do not expect everything to go as perfectly as you have planned. It is God who uses us as human instruments to accomplish His goals. God says: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”. (Philippians 2:13) Conversion is entirely God’s action. We do not get the credit, and we do not get the blame. What a wonderful relief, if we make a mistake, that we do not get the blame either.

But who was on the guest list of Matthew’s feast? (Matthew 9:10)

Not the Pharisees! They were on the outside, looking in.

Matthew 9:10
And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

Publicans and sinners. Publicans and women of ill repute. Jesus was eating and drinking with them. Jesus did not reject them like society had done. With Jesus there was hope for them.

What were they seeking from Jesus?

What are you seeking from Jesus?

You are seeking what they were seeking, exactly the same thing: “Forgiveness of Sins”.

Here again, we marvel at the mercy of God. These people were the worst of sinners, but these were also the people with the greatest need. They had one up on the Pharisees. These Publicans and their companions knew that they were great sinners. And they had heard that the Lord Jesus was in the business of forgiving sins. Remember, that was last week’s sermon.

What was the outcome of this great feast?

And they followed Him, just like Matthew had done (Mark 2:15, Titus 3:4-7)

Mark 2:15
And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.

There is no sin too great that cannot be forgiven by Jesus.

But after they were forgiven, did they continue in their sinful lifestyle?

NO!

Because they followed him. Just think of our own situation for a moment. God allowed us to live a life totally contrary to Him, a life filled with sin until we were 30, or 40, or 50 years old, and then suddenly God saved us. And with that salvation comes a different lifestyle. First we were slaves of Sin and slaves of Satan, and now we are willing servants of Jesus Christ; we became followers of Christ. All those years God knew He was going to save us, but God patiently waited and waited and waited. We do not know why, but God has His perfect plan.

What an incredible Mercy of God to allow these sinful years to go on and on and on, knowing full well that the Lord Jesus Christ at the cross had to pay for all those sins the full price that the Law of God required: The equivalent of an eternity in Hell. And He paid it. Then He gave that to us freely!

Titus 3:4
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,

Titus 3:5
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:6
Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

Titus 3:7
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Look at verse 5; we could not do anything in return for our salvation. It is entirely according to His mercy that He saved us, not by our works of righteousness, but entirely by His Mercy and Grace.

Not by any good work that we can do, if that could be called a good work.

Not by an act of water baptism, although water baptism might be called a good work.

Not by service work in the church, although serving the church might be called a good work.

Not by drudging up a faith in Jesus Christ, although faith in Jesus Christ might be called a good work.

There is nothing we could DO that would make us justified in the eyes of God. It is all done by His Grace. In verse 5 it goes on: The washing of regeneration means the washing away of our sins through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, and which was applied to our souls at the time that God the Holy Spirit gave us a new soul. That was the time when our spiritual eyes and ears were opened. Drop down to verse 7. After He made us justified by His Grace, He made us heirs, inheritors, according to the hope of eternal life.

It means that God calls us Sons, and we are made heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We cannot even begin to imagine what a glorious blessing that would be. Given to us free! It is true that the Lord Jesus received Publicans and Sinners. He did, and He still does! It is also true that the Lord Jesus did not call the self-righteous Pharisees. And He still does not!

Why would people throw away such glorious Good News; such a glorious Gospel?

Why?

Because they cannot see it; they are dead, dead in trespasses and sins. As dead as these self-righteous Pharisees who murmured against Jesus and against His disciples.

Murmurers

We find this word in the account of Luke 5:30:

Luke 5:30
But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

Perhaps you remember that during the forty years of wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel that they murmured against Moses and Aaron. Murmuring is not such an incidental sin. It is a terrible sin! Murmuring, or grumbling, or complaining, leads to envy. And envy leads to murder in the heart. For example, when the leaders of the Jews wanted to put Jesus to death, they brought Him to Pilate, and “Pilate knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy”. (Mark 15:10)

I must alert you to the fact that murmuring is not some heinous sin OUT THERE; murmuring also occurs in the Church. And how devastating it is when children are present. They grow up in such an atmosphere, and they will turn out to be greater critics than their parents ever were.

Why were the Scribes and Pharisees such complainers, such murmurers, such critics?

They were used to doing things their way (Matthew 23:5-7)

What was their way?

If anyone was not doing things their way then they criticize that person, and they malign that person, and they destroy the reputation of that person, because that person is not conforming to their way, which they see as the only correct way. If they had been so scrupulous with the Word of God, then they would have received the praise of God. You remember, the Prophets Ezra and Nehemiah were scrupulous with the Word of God, and they received the praise of God. But the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ days were scrupulous with human traditions and customs that were designed by men. They were a people that were proud because they had attained to a level of religiosity that was far above that of the common population. The Lord Jesus described the Scribes and Pharisees of His days in Matthew 23.

Matthew 23:5
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

Matthew 23:6
And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

Matthew 23:7
And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

You see, most of the Scribes and Pharisees had as their first priority the outward praise of men. How they looked like, and how they were perceived in society, that was their highest priority.

Watch out now, how high on your list of priorities is your status?

Is your nice home, or your nice car, or your nice job very high on your list of priorities?

For example: Does your job have a higher priority than reading the Bible every day?

For example: Does your job have a higher priority than going to Church on the Lord's day?

For example: Does your circle of business acquaintances have a higher priority than your Church family?

Watch out now, that you are not sliding into the same attitudes that the Scribes and Pharisees had. Their social status was their first priority. According to Matthew 23, this is deadly! Therefore, they wanted nothing to do with Publicans and Sinners. These sinful people would drag them down. They had a status as holy men. These sinful people were living like the Gentile dogs. A Rabbi in good standing would not want to associate himself with one of these dogs.

But now, this Jesus, this Rabbi from Galilee, was eating and drinking with Publicans and Sinners; He should not do that, because that would put the Scribes and Pharisees under obligation to do the same. So, that was why they were murmuring and complaining against the disciples.

But Jesus was doing things His way.

What is Jesus’ way?

There are 3 Points Jesus brought up to indicate His Way that leads to Salvation.

The First Point is the principle that, “Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost”. Those Publicans and Sinners were lost. Then out there is where Jesus had to preach the Gospel. When Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 9:12: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick”, Jesus did not mean that the Pharisees were already spiritually healthy. What Jesus was referring to was: that the Pharisees, like so many millions of people now, were not sin-sick in their heart, but they were self-satisfied. Jesus did not come for the self-satisfied, but He came for those who heard that they were in need of a physician for their soul. Jesus came for those who were sick in their souls, who were on the way to Hell and they were pleading for mercy. Then Jesus said to the Pharisees:

Matthew 9:13
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

The Second Point, what Jesus said to them was: "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." (A quote from the Old Testament)

The Third Point, this is the application: Jesus said: “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. In the second point, Jesus said that He will have mercy on sick sinners, who have heard and believe that they are sick in their soul and without Christ they would end up in hell. Jesus will have mercy on every one of those sinners. But first they have to know that they are sinners. First they have to come to know that they are in need of the Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ. But Jesus will not receive the sacrifice of the self-righteous. Paraphrased, Jesus says to these Pharisees: “Ye who would be saved by your works, Go ye and learn what this meaneth”. Literally, Jesus quoted from Hosea 6:6.

But He could also have quoted from Micah 6:6-8. In Micah 6:6-7 are listed all the sacrifices that the works gospels want to offer unto God, but of course, God would not accept any of those sacrifices. Those are the sacrifices of the self-righteous. God says: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”. (Proverbs 15:8)

Micah 6:6
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

Micah 6:7
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?


In Micah 6:8 God contrasts these sacrifices of the self-righteous, with the salvation that the Lord Jesus Christ provides. This now is the Third Point, the application that Jesus introduced in Matthew 9:13, “For I am come to call sinners to repentance”. Here in Micah 6:8 it is worded a little differently:

Micah 6:8
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

He has already shown us what is Good. In Micah 6, verses 1-5 God repeated the many instances in Israel’s history where God miraculously saved them. And these were pictures of God’s salvation through His Grace alone. Only salvation by Grace through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ is Good, only that is Good, because only God is Good.

Then what does the Lord require of us?

Do you see Micah 6:8?

Can we do anything for our salvation?

NO Nothing! We cannot do Anything! It is Jesus Christ who must do all of the work. He said: “For I am come to call sinners to repentance”.

How does a repentant sinner live?

To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. That is how a repentant sinner lives. Micah 6:8 is not a requirement for salvation, it is a statement of fact. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who works in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Only then, when He works in us, will we do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. That is the only way in which all the glory goes to God. The comparison of Micah 7:18 with Matthew 9:13 is even more striking.

Matthew 9:13 Jesus said: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. It is showing the attribute of God.

We have a Merciful God

Micah 7:18
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.

Micah 7:19
He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:20
Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.

What is this passage saying?

First of all it says that: We have a God who delighteth in mercy

Micah 7:18
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.

How does God pardon iniquity?

Can He really pardon like the Governor gives a pardon to a criminal on death row?

Can He wave His hand and say: “I forgive you”?

NO! Our God is a Righteous God who requires that every sin must be accounted for. But our God delights in mercy so much that He is willing to send His only begotten Son to the cross to pay for our sins to make the payment the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, so that He can pardon us our sins. We are the ones who are pardoned.

Who are the ones who are pardoned?

Only the remnant of His heritage. Those who are saved by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ are only a remnant of humanity. Only a small fraction of mankind. But when you have heard the true Gospel, and you have checked it out in the Bible and you have found that it is true, and when you find in your life all the indications that you are not your own any more, but that you have been bought with a price, and you now belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, what a wonderful realization that you are among the remnant of His heritage.

Now, what happened to our sins?

Micah 7:19
He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue (lit: trample)our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Once our sins have been paid, He will trample those sins and cast them in the depths of the sea, never to rise again; buried out of sight in eternal oblivion. That is how great God’s compassion is upon us. We, who really have been the cause of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be adopted as Sons of God and shall be in the presence of Christ forever.

God has sworn unto our fathers with an oath that He will be faithful to the Israel of God.

He is not talking about National Israel. All the promises to Israel, in the Old Testament, refer to the Israel of God.

Micah 7:20
Thou wilt perform the truth (lit: the faithful promise) to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.

Why does God have to swear?

God swore in an oath to indicate that He is dependable, that His decisions are unchangeable. Our God is as unchangeable as a Rock. We can depend on Him.

By Alfred J. Chompff

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