God’s Law Is About Grace :: by Sean Gooding

Matthew chapters 12: 1-8 (continued)

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry and began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples are doing that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!’ But He said to them, “Have you not read what David and those who were with him did when he was hungry,  how he entered the house of God and ate the ritual bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for those who were with him, but only for the priests?

Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, but are blameless? I say to you, in this place there is One who is greater than the temple. If you had known what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” When He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.

And there was a man whose hand had withered. They asked Him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ that they might accuse Him. He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Then how much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and it was restored whole like the other. Then the Pharisees went out and took counsel against Him, how they might kill Him.”

We ended our talk last week with a discussion about rest and the Sabbath.  God established the Sabbath as a holy day of rest both for man and beast. It is very important to set aside time for rest and restoration.  Our bodies, minds and souls need to rest. This may mean sleeping, it could simply mean relaxing, it could mean doing something else to take our mind off of the normal work we do or it could mean doing less of what we do.

The idea is that rest should be an essential and scheduled part of our lives. We suffer when we don’t rest, our families suffer and our work suffers. The other more serious end of the ‘no resting’ lifestyle is that you are not truly depending on God for your needs; you are depending on you and your efforts. There is nothing wrong with hard work, in fact God encourages it but God expects hard rest as well.

Every 7th year in Israel the land had to lie fallow, it grew on its own untilled and untended.  God was responsible for the people; He made the crops of the 6th year enough to feed them for the 6th, 7th and then the 1st year of the next set of Sabbaths so that the people would not forget that it was God who provided and not man’s effort. We see this in Leviticus 25:3-7:

“Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. ‘Your harvest’s after growth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. All of you shall have the Sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.’”

God took the idea of the Sabbath very seriously and we should, too. Today we will explore    how mankind corrupts the law of God.  I think we have established that God wants us to rest.    Sadly, mankind takes all of God’s laws and adds his interpretations or adds his rules to God’s law so as to make them more of a burden than God intended.

Man wants to have some degree of control over people and I find that the more “religious” a person is the more rules they like to have for themselves and especially others.  If I recall my studies correctly there are 613 laws in the Old Testament, for mankind to add more rules to that to define and explain God’s rules usually makes life even more difficult.

In our text today Jesus will offer some godly insights into the Sabbath that we need to consider.  We will also ask ourselves about how we execute the other laws of God? And do we use the Laws of God as a battering ram to condemn or as a tool to win others. God`s laws were designed to help us see our need for Him not to push us away and turn into un-redeemable reprobates.

Judging the Judge, Verses 1-6

Self-righteous people are prone to judge everyone, even God.  This, I am sure is moderately amusing to God but probably more irritating.  What pride you must have to tell God how to execute His laws; to interpret His laws for Him so that He gets a better understanding of what  He said.

As usual man had taken the idea of not working to the extreme.  These religious leaders were upset that the Lord`s disciples has taken a few heads of grain and eaten them.  This in no way took away from the Sabbath.  They were hungry so they ate.  The Law did not forbid one from eating.  What it did forbid is servile work.

Today of course we here the stories of people being in Israel and observing the Sabbath, the elevators run by themselves, devout Jews don’t turn on the TV, but if a Gentile come over and turns it on that is okay and on and on we can go.  This is not the spirit of the Law about the Sabbath, in fact the servants were not allowed to work either, not just the Jews. We see this in Exodus 20:10:

“…but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work–you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates.”

This seemed to cover all the people, even the Gentiles. So you can see how man takes the Law of God and modifies it to meet his needs and wants. Well the religious leaders had modified the Law of the Sabbath so much that people were wearier of man than God.  Jesus used an example of man being the ruler of the Sabbath or the holy things of God from the life of David.

In 1 Samuel 21, we find David running for his life from Saul. He and his troop of men come to the city of Nob and ask the high priest for food, bread in particular. There was no bread there except for the Holy bread to the Lord. The High Priest gave David the bread that was intended for the priests only.

There was no law broken here, these men were hungry and needed food, the only food around was the Temple bread so that is what they ate.  God is a Holy God but He is also a practical God.  There is a Holy balance between God`s grace and His holiness.  We tend to have one or the other; we seem incapable of finding that balance.

Another example that I would offer is the battle against Jericho; the armies of Israel were instructed to march 7 straight days around the walls of Jericho, see Joshua 6:1-5:

“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho, its king, and mighty men of valor into your hand. All the men of fighting age shall march around the city. Circle the city once. Do this for six days. Seven priests shall carry seven ram’s horn trumpets before the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When they blow a long blast on the ram’s horn and when you hear the trumpet sound, all the people shall shout a loud battle cry. The walls of the city will fall down, and the people will go up, every man straight ahead.’”

In this case God actually tells the Jews to violate the Sabbath, they not only worked but they went to war, this was strenuous work.  Jesus made it clear that He was and is the Lord of the Sabbath. You see if the disciples had been doing something wrong He would have told them.   He was not afraid to set them straight.

But He did not condemn them so neither should have the religious leaders.  Now, this is where the issue comes to a head.  When we add man-made rules to the Laws of God we begin to bring guilt where there is not supposed to be guilt, and we actually make it easier to break God`s law. Let us look at the first ever example of this in Genesis 3:2-3:

“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the garden; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You will not eat of it, nor will you touch it, or else you will die.’”

God had said not to eat of the fruit. One could touch it or any array of actions with it just don`t eat it.  As such by adding the man-made clause what was to create more security actually opened the door to more sin. Once the manmade law had been broken the God made law was easier to break.

We see this today in so many of the Lord’s churches, they have this list of man-made rules that define that church`s version of Christianity and they often have an array of Scriptures to back it up, but nonetheless the rules are not the rules of God. The natural fruit of this is that people begin to obey the laws of mankind and not of God.

Jesus pointed this out in Mark 7:13:

“You revoke God’s word by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”

Soon we begin to judge people’s Christian walk by the Laws of men and forget the laws of God.  People can be ruthless, unforgiving, loveless, have no compassion and no mercy as long as they don’t go to movies, don’t drink, don’t smoke and wear a nice suit to church.

We, too, have usurped the Laws of God with a man-made righteousness that has nothing to do with Christianity.  Far too many of us are way more religious that we are Christian.

Loving Kind and Humble Service Is Never Out of Place, Verses 7-14

Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. Yes, Jesus commanded a man to be healed on the Sabbath. In one case he asked a man to take up his bed and walk (John 5:8)—this was work. Jesus set an example that it is always right to do good to our brothers, sister sand enemies no matter what day it is.

Imagine a doctor refusing to help you because it is the Sabbath, or a soldier refusing to defend his position because it is the Sabbath or a man leaving an animal in a ditch to suffer because it is the Sabbath? Yet these religious leaders would rather that Jesus put off healing a man on the Sabbath.  “Come back tomorrow Jesus, heal him on the Sunday, what could one more day as a cripple do to him?”

Yet, Jesus points out that these same men would gladly break the law of God for a sheep BUT not for a precious brother. They would have more compassion on an animal than on their own countrymen. Oh, how we have perverted the laws of God! The Law was never designed to make us righteous; it was designed to show us how sinful we actually are. We see this in Romans 3:20:

“For no one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.”

This is where modern Christianity has fallen into the same trap. We have made these rules to make us more ‘Christian’, when in fact the rules actually make us more sinful.  When one is truly saved the Holy Spirit along with the power of the written Word will move you to change. That change is MOST often from the inside out.  The way you think will change before you change the way you act, see Romans 12:1-2:

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

As we present our bodies to Christ we must also have a renewing of the mind or we end up just like these religious bigots who confronted Jesus, questioning God and condemning our brothers and sisters for nothing. Nothing does more damage to the cause of Christ than religious people.  People who exteriors have been regenerated by man’s laws but their hearts have never been transformed by God.  Oh how we do a disservice to God when we live like religious people rather than the regenerated people Jesus actually died for.

Yes, we have standards, yes we have “dos and don’ts” but before all of that we must have the LOVE of God in us through His Holy Spirit so that our behavior is tempered with His love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness anything less is religious not Christian. Live for Christ,  serve your fellow man.

“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).