“‘But go and learn what this means: “I desire compassion, and not sacrifice”’” (Matthew 9:13).
Jesus never shied away from speaking directly and bluntly if the situation demanded such talk. Here He pins the Jewish leaders to the wall by quoting from their own most honored scriptural authorities. Their own prophets rebuke them for their spiritual ignorance and their lack of obedience to God’s clear commands.
Jesus paraphrases Hosea’s prophetic and divinely inspired words: “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). The perfect Word of God should have been the Pharisees’ supreme concern, as it should be ours, rather than the flawed words and ideas of humanity. Without true and godly compassion, all the Pharisees’ rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices were worth nothing to God. The person who is indifferent toward other people verifies that he or she is also indifferent toward God, no matter how correct their theology or impeccable their morality.
Ritual separated from righteousness and a concern for the downtrodden and lost has always been an affront to God. Through the prophet Amos, the Lord declared, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23–24).
In what ways have you let duty and religious reputation become elevated in importance beyond genuine love and compassion for others? What is so empty about the former . . . and so rejuvenating about the latter?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610