And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
Matthew 12:7 ESV
The religious people of Jesus’ day prided themselves on their knowledge and interpretation of the law of Moses. As they read the Sabbath rule, they wouldn’t even allow eating from the fields on that day if you’re hungry. But Jesus rebuked them for their lack of knowledge of how to interpret the law.
God desires mercy. If someone is hungry, God would have them fed. It’s interesting that if someone ate from a field not their own when hungry, Jesus sanctions that in the name of merciful gleaning. Nowadays we’d call that stealing, but that’s because we’re unmerciful.
The law of God may provide perameters, but it’s not meant to be restrictive. It’s meant to mark out the path of righteousness for us. God doesn’t require us to be sacrificially jumping through hoops in a very narrow reading of His law.
God’s law is summed up as loving God and our neighbour. So it doesn’t justify us letting our neighbour go hungry. If my understanding of the Sabbath makes me unmerciful to my neighbour, then I’m the guilty one, not my hungry neighbour.
“Merciful God, may we increasingly be conformed to Your likeness. Please help us to rightly understand Your word, and to realise that You have made the sacrifice on our behalf, so we don’t have to. Because of Jesus, amen”