Today’s Bible Reading:

Genesis 35:1-36:43
Matthew 12:1-21
Psalm 15:1-5
Proverbs 3:21-26

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

Matthew 12:7 (NLT):” But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

For the serious Jesus-follower, God’s Word is our final authority for what we believe and what we do. It is like no other book in that it is God’s very words to us. Our only response is obedience and compliance … most of the time.

We are warned in Genesis 4:7 that “sin is (always) crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Sin will seek to destroy anything, especially a good thing, including our desire to comply with God’s Word.

How so? One of the many ways that sin can harm our desire to obey God’s Word is by encouraging us to become legalists.

What is a legalist? A legalist is someone who finds their worth in God’s eyes by how closely they comply with God’s law. There is no grace with them – only law. Further, they have elevated God’s law to the point that if obeying it means that someone will be hurt as a legitimate need goes unmet, then so be it. A legalist doesn’t really care about people, only whether there is compliance with the law.

Suppose we see God’s Word in this way, that our ultimate aim is obedience to God’s law even if that obedience hurts people. In that case, we need to listen to Jesus as He addressed some religious folks who believed this. 

In Matthew 12:1-14, Jesus confronted some Pharisees who had a problem with Jesus’ disciples eating grain as they walked through the fields on the Sabbath (a day of rest). They also had a problem with Jesus healing a man with a deformed hand on the Sabbath.

Those Pharisees were furious. All they could see was that Jesus was violating the 4th Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) to honor the Sabbath and to keep it holy by not doing any work.

As Jesus explained the flaw in their thinking, His reasoning is very insightful.

Matthew 12:3-4 – Jesus spoke of how King David and his men were starving. To satisfy their hunger, they ate the consecrated bread. It’s as if David could hear God saying: “I don’t want people eating the consecrated bread because I never want it to be treated as common. But of course, I will make an exception if people are starving.” So, God’s law can be suspended if people are in dire need.

Matthew 12:5 – Jesus spoke of how the priests work on the Sabbath in the Temple. Even God works on the Sabbath, the day that we are commanded to rest. So, exceptions are made to God’s law by people who, of necessity, must do what is prohibited.

Matthew 12:6-8 – Jesus, as God in the flesh, claimed that He had the right to determine when exceptions could be made to God’s laws. As He claimed this right to Himself, He reiterated that when someone is hurting or about to be hurt, there are certain instances where the law can be temporarily suspended. God desires mercy over sacrifice.

For the legalist, these exceptions are abhorrent. Legalists elevate the law above people and thus miss God’s heart. They fail to realize that God did not make people in order to obey the law; He made the law in order to bless people. He desires mercy to bless people, much more than religious activity and compliance with a rule.

So, how should we respond to this truth? Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Obey God’s Word but realize that God’s laws are intended to be a blessing to you and others.
  • Be gracious to others. Don’t be a legalist, quick to condemn. Be merciful.
  • Realize that there are a few times in which exceptions are made concerning God’s law. In those rare instances, “disobedience” is not sin. God desires mercy (that people are blessed) more than sacrifice (obeying a rule).

This is a vast topic. If you want to view a couple of sermons that I preached on this text, click on the following sermon titles. There are also sermon notes at the following links so that you can follow along.

“Law and Order … and Grace” (Matthew 12:1-8)

“God’s Laws, a Source of Blessing” (Matthew 12:9-14)

Photo by Luis Quintero on