"I desire mercy, not sacrifice"

These are the words of Jesus.
I desire mercy, not sacrifice

He told them… “Go and learn what this means.”
He says it twice, in Matthew 9 and in Matthew 13.
But those words had never stood out to me before. I had heard and read the stories surrounding this phrase that Jesus said. But these words…. I desire mercy, not sacrifice, I had never taken much attention to.

On February 29th, I’d just got home from class and I was sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee, thinking about needing to study, but I just felt God drawing me near to Him. It had been a while since I really met with Him. I do my regular devotionals, Bible study, and prayers for about 10-20 minutes each night before I go to bed, but it was becoming ritualistic. What was I doing? He wants more than that.? And I should, too. I told myself I would grab my Bible and have some serious quiet time with Him that day. But first I jumped online to check my email. (Why is it so easy to get distracted). But  I get some devotionals and blog updates sent to my email. One of the blogs is by Sara fromeverybitterthingissweet.com. On that day, through her words, again I could feel God urging me to come to Him. So I got off the computer. I could so strongly feel God telling me, “Come.” So, I grabbed my Bible and my notebook, went out and sat in the sun room of our little condo, opened up the windows, and pressed play to the Jon Thurlow- Anointed One CD.

About a year or so ago, I challenged myself to read God’s word for my self. I had been using a daily devotional book for my quiet time for a couple years- it had one or two Bible verses and then a few paragraphs of encouragement or a lesson. But I rarely picked up my Bible to read it for myself. Then I began to hunger more, I had questions, I wanted to know His Word for myself, I wanted to be closer to Him. So that’s when I challenged myself to read it, front to back, for myself. No more he said she said stuff for now.

I read from Genesis to Judges. Then jumped to the New Testament. I had recently just finished reading through the New Testament, and planned on picking up where I left off in the Old Testament at Judges. But on this day, I decided (or rather God nudged me) to start reading in Matthew again. I’m pretty positive God made my Bible plop open to the first of Matthew. So I started reading. I read about Jesus’ birth, and when Satan tempts Jesus, and Jesus’ teachings about salt and light, the law, prayer, money, and so on. Then I find myself in Matthew 9. Jesus heals a paralyzed man. I had heard this story before. But I notice this time that it says “When Jesus saw their faith.” and their faith healed him. And Jesus says, “your sins are forgiven”. He was not only concerned with his physical state but his spiritual state. (LORD what are you trying to say?) I keep reading. Jesus goes on and eats at Matthew’s house with the disciples, tax collectors and the sinners. When the Pharisees {“the strict followers of God’s law”} saw this, they questioned why Jesus would eat with the sinners. Jesus’s reply was this… “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Now go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” Well I remember the part about its not the healthy that need the doctor, but the sick, but this was the first time that I really noticed that Jesus said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” And He said “Go and learn what it means.” So I decided to learn what it means.

Mercy is defined as forgiveness and compassion. Jesus desires forgiveness, which means to pardon ones sins, to free or clear from a charge or accusation, to release from debt, a state of being found not guilty. Jesus frees us from our sin, our filth, our debt, our guilt. He makes us free. He desires compassion. Compassion is defined as loving sympathy and empathy, a feeling of deep care, deep awareness and understanding of the suffering of another, with the desire to help, to relieve, to alleviate their suffering, to do something about it. Jesus desires this mercy.

He desires forgiveness, not judgement. He desires compassion, care, love, awareness, and understanding of others suffering, with the desire to do something about it. I want to do something about it. Not just sit on the sidelines and watch, expect other people to do it, or only be concerned with myself and my life.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

It says He does not want sacrifice. If you look at other places in the Bible where God is talking to His people about meaningless sacrifices and burnt offerings, you can see what He means. {1 Samuel 15:22-25, Psalm 40:6-8, Hosea 6:6, Isaiah 1:11-17, Jeremiah 7:21-23, Proverbs 21:3, Psalm 51:16-17, Micah 6:6-8}    The Lord does not delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying His voice. God wanted people to make sacrifices in the past, not because it pleased Him, but because they caused people to recognize their sin, repent, and refocus on living for God. They faithfully made the sacrifices but they forgot the reason they were offering them, and thus they disobeyed God and were falling away from Him. (Hello, what am I doing in my life that I think is right, but is actually a meaningless sacrifice?) Jeremiah reminded the people that religious rituals and going through the motions were meaningless. In Isaiah 1 they were bringing meaningless offerings and their prayers were only ritualistic, where was their heart? God said when they offered their prayers to Him, He would not listen. He said “Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow!” Micah 6:8 says “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That’s the key. Jesus said in Mark 12 that the most important law was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. And Hebrews 10 he reminds us again… sacrifices and offerings did not please Him, He simple wants us to obey Him, to do His will. And what is His will? Walk with Him, have mercy, forgiveness, and compassion.

God showed me that my time with Him had become ritualistic. He wanted my whole heart and my whole life. A new friend’s words seemed to say it perfectly, “{He revealed} truths about how one can become so focused on “working for Him” that we loose the greatest joy that comes from “being with Him”. He is still speaking, gently restoring and establishing me fully in His love!!!” I don’t want to be so focused on working for Him and doing ritualistic prayer and study time and going through the motions and doing “right” that I forget to love, that I forget to have mercy and compassion, and most of all… to be with Him. The abundance of joy in being with Him.

The next day I pick up where I left off at Matthew 9, and continue on and get to Matthew 12. Jesus and the disciples are walking through a grain field on a Sabbath. As they walked, they were hungry so they picked some heads of grain and ate them. The Pharisees were upset that the disciples were “harvesting on the Sabbath” and accused them of being unlawful. Jesus replied “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

He said it again “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” 

I go back to Isaiah 1 again. God wants mercy not sacrifice. And He says, “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.”

He brought me back to Him, and into His presence. I could feel God confirming the path He has us on.

“He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk his paths. Isaiah 2:3”

He revealed to me that I was slowly withdrawing from Him in my ritualistic ways, and He brought me back to Him. Refocusing on Him. And He reassured me of His path He has us walking down with Kenya with the focus on love and compassion. Have love, be merciful, compassionate, defend the cause of the fatherless, defend the weak, plead the case of the widow. Be with Him. He is our God and we are His people. I don’t want to miss out on the greatest joy of being with Him.

I desire mercy, love, compassion… not sacrifice, rituals, empty prayer, and going through the motions. He wants all of me.

Micah 6:8 says “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I desire mercy, not sacrifice


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One thought on “"I desire mercy, not sacrifice"

  1. arideb

    Enjoyed this article very nicely written and put. Thanks. It’s so important to realise this very important point. God bless you

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