Matthew 12:1-21 Part 3

Matthew 12:1-21 Part 3


This morning let me take you first to First Samuel chapter fifteen, where I want to read here and there and make some comments:


“Samuel also said unto Saul, ‘the Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel:  now therefore hearken unto the voice of the words of the Lord.  Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember what Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.  Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’”


At that point in the text, we find Saul readying his army to obey the words of God through the prophet Samuel.  And Saul did destroy the nation – almost everything!  But he let the king live, and he allowed the troops to take the very best sheep and oxen and lambs as spoil to be sacrificed unto God!

As we pick up in the text, we find Saul reporting back to Samuel what he had done:


“And Saul said unto Samuel, ‘Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.’  And Samuel said, ‘Hath the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as opposed to obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams!  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.’” 


Let me just say here, as one comment only about this text, that obedience is required of God’s people.  Covenantal obedience from us isn’t an option, because rebellion against the words of God is as witchcraft; and stubbornness is as idolatry.  The sweet savor of the sacrifices in the tabernacle, coming from the hand of a rebellious and stubborn man were not a delight before God!  The sacrifices foreshadowed, as we learned last Lord’s Day, the sinless obedience of His Son.  And to participate in the sign of the coming perfect Son of God, while showing obstinance and stubbornness toward the words of God, is not received with delight by God.  He wants obedience with sacrifice, because that’s the nature of the One Whom the sacrifices foreshadow!

And now listen for a minute to the prophecy of Hosea:


“Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel:  for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood touches blood.”


Then God says,


“O Ephraim, what shall I do unto you?  O Judah, what shall I do unto You?  For your mercy is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goes away!  Therefore have I hewed by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; that thy judgments might be as the light that goes forth.  For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.  But they, like Adam, have transgressed the Covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against Me….”  (Hosea six, six)


Again, as in the situation with Saul in I Samuel, the leadership of Israel, and the people under them were participating in the ceremonial foreshadowings of the Coming Messiah, with all His perfections and obedience and mercy, and, at the same time, they had no intimate knowledge of God, did not obey His Words, and were not showing the mercy which was inherent in His Law-Word!

Why was God expected to delight in their ceremonies and their sacrifices, all of which prefigured the perfections of the God-Man, when they were hypocrites in their own behavior?  He desires, instead, mercy and knowledge of God and obedience with sacrifice!  Without mercy and knowledge of God and obedience, the whole sacrificial system portrays an inept and imperfect and merciless and disobedient God-Man!  Just imagine how distasteful and putrid the smell when His Own Son is signified with hypocritical and merciless and adulterous worship!  The Sweet Savor is turned into an odorous abomination!  God said He hated their sacrifices!

When we were back in chapter nine several months ago, we found Jesus associating Himself with the rejected and despised and unclean.  And the Pharisees came to His disciples and said, “Why does your master eat with publicans and sinners?”  But when Jesus heard this, He said unto them,


“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.  But go and learn what it means, ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’”


The Pharisees of Jesus time were the corrupt children of the religious leaders of Hosea’s time.  They did not know God, they were disobedient to the Law of God, and they were merciless in their oppression of the people.

But Christ, as clearly seen in the foreshadows of the ceremonial system, was perfect in His obedience to His Father, He intimately knew His Father, and He was full of mercy and truth!

In our text this morning verse seven, the Lord says,


“But if you had known what this is, ‘mercy I want and not sacrifice,’ you would never have condemned the guiltless!” 


He pulls this quote right out of Hosea chapter six which we read from a minute ago, and connects these Pharisees with the leaders of Israel in Hosea’s time.  Here these idolatrous, occultic, adulterous hypocrites had condemned the guiltless; they had condemned the Lord of the Sabbath, as verse eight says, and His disciples!  Abrogating the mercy inherent in the Law of the Sabbath, they condemned the Lord of the Sabbath!  And He is the One in Whom consists the mercy and rest of the Sabbath!

Now.  Since all these things are the case – since we’ve seen the Sabbath Rest in Christ, and since we have observed all the glorious things of the tabernacle and how they point us to the sacrifice and the perfect obedience of the Christ, and since we now know the mercy inherent in the Law, and since obedience to God’s Words is required of us all, and since it’s been powerfully compared here to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees by Christ Himself, what can we say about the state of the practice of Christianity in our own time?

The Covenantal lawsuit that Jesus came to prosecute focuses on hypocritical worship!  They did not know God (God was not in all their thoughts).  Their standard of law did not include mercy; and they were disobedient to the express words of God!  And they continued to practice the ceremonies and sacrifices as if those things were not the case!!  And the King cut them off the covenantal stalk and abandoned them eternally for their hypocrisy!

Now, I wonder if you can see the similarities as well as I can between the practice of religion in Jesus’ time and ours?  Listen to the frightening words of the apostle Paul as he warns us: 


“…because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.  Be not high-minded, but fear:  For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not you!”


In other words, if our practice of holy religion is similar to that of the occultic hypocrites of Israel, will God spare us?  If we have no knowledge of God, and we don’t emulate the mercy of Christ, and we’re not obedient to the words of God – yet continue to practice the religion as if these things were not the case, will God not cut off the hypocrites?

Do the pastors and elders and deacons and people of our Churches know God?  The Lord Jesus gathered the rejected and hopeless around Him to indicate that the poor in spirit (those mourning their depravity and iniquity) would inherit the earth.  They are the ones to whom God reveals all these things!  And He conceals Himself from all those who are filled with their own self-esteem and self-righteousness!  How many are there among us who are destitute and lowly and begging for the mercy of Christ?  If not, then they don’t know God, for Christ has not revealed the Father to them!  And they exhibit that lack of knowledge of the Father by the fact that God is not in all their thoughts!

Secondly, Jesus says that His Father desires mercy and not sacrifice.  In other words, the duties of worship can’t be separated from mercy, for worship is toward the merciful Christ of God.  But how many pastors and teachers and deacons and elders and church members would rather suffer wrong than to retaliate?  How many condemn their neighbors for things that God doesn’t disapprove?  How many know “Blessed the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”?  How many use every word out of their mouths for the edification of others, rather than filling up their own needs?  How many take the merciful Word of the Kingdom to society?

The King is merciful, but when we go to worship Him are we?  If there’s no mercy in us, then our worship is hypocritical!

And, thirdly, how often does the world order fit the elders and pastors and Church members like a glove the first thing Monday morning?  Worship on Sunday and no antithesis with world order on Monday!  Worship the Lord God of Heaven and Earth on Sunday, and disobedience on Monday!  Maybe even disobedience on Sunday!  God said He desired obedience rather than sacrifice.

Saul thought he had done well to destroy the Amalekites, but he also thought the circumstances merited a deviation from the commandment!  Was the deviation justified?  Well, he lost the Kingdom!  Christ did not deviate from the Will of His Father – and He gained the Kingdom!  Judicial sanctions in history!  Church people today think nothing of disobedience (deviations) to the express Will of God.  Some have even dismissed the Law of God so they can feel free to do it!  They go through the rituals of prayer and singing and giving and listening to preaching – and then they hypocritically disobey the very One they worship!  Hypocrisy!  Phariseeism!

God says, “I desire mercy, rather than sacrifice; I desire knowledge of God, rather than sacrifice; I desire obedience, rather than sacrifice!”  Your sacrifices are not a sign of My Son if you aren’t merciful; your prayers are worthless if you don’t know Me; What good is worshipping My Son, Who perfectly obeyed Me, if you don’t obey Me?

Obviously, this issue was an integral factor in the judicial separation of Israel from the Covenant.  Their worship was dishonoring to God.  He hated it.  It did not honor the coming Messiah!

And there was another result of their hypocrisy.  There was no light to the nations.  A glorious beacon to the pagan Gentiles they were not.  In fact, they were worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.  And even Nineveh repented at the trumpet of the prophet.  But Israel became the whore of the nations rather than a faithful witness to the righteousness of God.  And God was dishonored in public!!

Is there any doubt that ignorant, merciless, disobedient Church officers and members dishonor God in public today?  The world order is right when they say they had rather not go to Church “because those people are hypocrites!”  “They say they know God, but there’s no evidence of that,” they say.  They preach a good righteousness, but their business practices are just like everybody else’s.  They say, “I’ve seen more evil from good Church members than I have from all the rest of the community!”  And they’re right.  They see the rebellion of a man’s children; they see the anger and cursing that comes out of an elder’s mouth; they see the Church treasurer mercilessly ripping off a customer or refusing to meet a commitment; they see evangelists cavorting with prostitutes and pastors going through divorces; they see the “good” people not making enough effort to worship the King publicly on the Sabbath, and honor His “Rest” that He won for us.

So they say, “What good is it?  There’s no difference between that and anything else!”  And, you know, they’re right!  There isn’t any.  People flock to the Church to offer up spiritual sacrifices, but God prefers obedience!  He desires obedience and worship!

The Churches today aren’t beacons of light which honor the victorious King of Kings, just as Israel was no light to the Gentiles!  Worship is hypocrisy without the knowledge of God, and mercy, and obedience!  Those who are laden with corruption and laboring under the burden of their depravity won’t find the easy Yoke of Christ in the Church.  All that’s there is more of the same!  Oh, they’ll see great public displays of ceremony, but what they won’t find is intimate knowledge of God; and they won’t find mercy; and they won’t find obedience!  What’s there is hypocrisy!

And let me ask you where there is mercy in hypocrisy?  Let me remind you that this is the second time that Jesus has gone back to this quote from Hosea chapter six:  “For I desired mercy and not sacrifice.”  Hosea was the prophet with the broken heart, for his wife committed adultery time and again.  But Hosea had mercy upon her and forgave her.  And God had had mercy upon Israel and had forgiven her time and again – even though she had left Him for man-made styles of life!

And the final, and greatest, act of mercy to the world was the sacrifice of Christ for its salvation!  God desires mercy, and His Son provided the mercy required for God’s satisfaction.

And then He says, verse eight, “for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”  What does that mean?  Well, the Son of Man came, as we’ve seen several times in Mathew’s text, to Covenantally separate out the hypocrites and save the remnant – in order that they could be the refugees into the nations to bring salvation to the world!

And after that merciful work was completed, Christ ascended the throne where He sat down beside the Father in Sabbath Rest!  He perfectly emulated His Father’s work-and-rest pattern and He became Lord of the Sabbath!  Lord of the “Rest.”

But, now, where is the Church patterning itself after its King?  It’s preaching a Gospel which doesn’t reflect the text of Scripture; it’s not mercifully discipling the nations and institutions and governments of the Gentile world; and it’s not being obedient to the Father’s Law-Word!  And after the six-day work week is over, it doesn’t care very much to participate in the rest pattern established by Christ – and His Father before Him!

In addition to all of that, which are all the things at the root of the Covenantal Law-suit against Israel – in addition to those things, we have settled into this enclave mentality, where we view the state and society and corruption and disobedience from a distance!  And we live and let live!  That’s called pluralism – and it’s defeatist!  It’s a defensive position against the evil of the world order, instead of pushing the gates of hell backward as we’re commanded to do.

So we don’t know God, we don’t know anything about the mercy in Christ Jesus the Lord, and we’re overtly disobedient to the expressed will of God in His Word!  And, on top of all that, we’re pessimistic about our ever having any positive impact on society and culture!

Read Deuteronomy twenty-eight. 

Reading these words makes it very clear what the result – in history – is for not heeding all the words of God.  He has made it perfectly clear that if we do not turn – individually, and the Church, and the nation – and abandon our present course, we will be abandoned.  Let us humble ourselves and pray that we might not be cut off, but that God will again shed abroad the Spirit of adoption in our hearts – that we might be used once more to further His Kingly reign over the nations.  The final victory in history is inevitable.  Will we be hypocritical Pharisees, or will we be prophets, priest and kings in Christ?