Matthew 12:1-13 is an interesting passage. Actually, it became interesting to me today, because today is really the first time I read it in search of God’s heart. I’ve read it many times before, and kind of understood the lesson in it, but today I squinted, and I caught a glimpse of something else.
I wonder if Jesus knew His disciples were hungry when He decided to lead them through a grocery store even though it wasn’t time to eat, according to the rules (actually, it was a grain field, but I’m picturing myself following Jesus and I don’t know that I would break any rules just to eat grain. I’d like to think I’d at least need a potato chip aisle.). I wonder if He knew the Pharisees were lurking about, watching and waiting. I wonder if this was a set-up. But that’s not what I saw when I squinted. I just like to wonder about things.
I read the entire passage three times before I saw it. There, in five little words in verse 7, I caught a glimpse of the heart I am after. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice…”.
“mercy: kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them” “sacrifice: animal or other “sacrifices,” as offered under the Law”. (Hebrew/Greek lexicon)
I won’t go into how so many of us know God according to the “rules” of Christianity. We know what is required of us, and we definitely know what is required of other people. I won’t talk about our determination of how much we will help someone is often made by how much they are willing to help themselves, or by whether or not they are willing to start following the rules. Let’s not discuss how obsessive-compulsive we can be about rules and regulations, while completely dismissing the affliction of the alcoholic standing in front of us…or the one who can’t stop taking pain medication, or eating food…or the one who is losing everything because they don’t have a money management skill in their body, and they have an affinity for making bets. If they would all just follow the rules, they wouldn’t need our help, right? But I won’t go into any of that today.
Instead, I will stand in front of a mirror. I will watch as I continually beat myself up every time I fail to meet the requirements of the rules. I’ll listen to the chastisement of my own heart against me for being unable to go far without falling down. I’ll watch the look of contempt on my face as I see myself once again struggling to untangle things, knowing my entanglement was my own fault.
I have glimpsed God’s heart today. And now I know. The emotional beatings, chastisement, and contempt that I assumed were His, were only mine.
“I desire mercy…” It’s just a glimpse.