Messianic Learning Feature Articles
Choose Mercy Over Sacrifice
(Matthew 9:9-13) As Yahushuah passed forth from there, He saw a man named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom. He said to him, "Follow me!" And he arose and followed Him. And it came to pass, as Yahushuah sat to eat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw [it], they said to His disciples, "Why does your Master eat with publicans and sinners?" But when Yahushuah heard [that], He said to them, "They who are well need not a physician, but they who are sick. But you go and learn what [that] means, 'I will have mercy, and not sacrifice!' For I do not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
At first glance, Yahushuah's command about the scripture quote, 'I will have mercy, and not sacrifice!' seems to be for the pharisees, who ask indignantly about His dinner companions. Those pompous, self-righteous religious leaders are known to have holier-than-thou attitudes, and evidently lumped publicans (government tax collectors, like IRS agents in America) into the same class as sinners.
Whatever a person's title, position or profession clearly doesn't matter to our Savior and King. If He says, "Follow me!" it's good to accept His invite. Remember that "following" in scripture pictures "traveling along the same road or path, going in the same direction, heading toward the same destination, sharing a common goal." If we "follow" our Messiah, we are on the Way to becoming like Him, spiritual sons or daughters of Elohim. Matthew, the tax-collector, and His other dinner companions, wisely said "Yes!" to the wonderful invitation we all are given: "Follow Yahushuah!"
Closely examine the pharisees' question. It came to Yahushuah via His disciples. Also notice that His answer is to them, not the pharisees. Thus, His message is for Bet Yeshurun Assembly (BYA) as students of His Word. So, let's look further into scripture to better understand His teaching on "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." The quote refers to what YAHUAH spoke through the prophet "Hoshea" (a Hebrew name that means "Salvation of YAH"). (Hosea 6:6) "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of Elohim more than burnt offerings."
In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), "mercy" comes from "khehsed" (H2617). It can convey two different scriptural concepts. In a positive sense, it pictures acts of love toward others. In the Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, khehsed is described as a "zeal toward anyone, love, kindness, specially of men amongst themselves, benevolence, as shown in mutual benefits, mercy, and pity to those in misfortune; or the grace, favour, mercy of God toward men."
That's the good sense Yahushuah spoke of, as seen in these examples: (2 Samuel 2:5) David sent messengers to the men of Jabeshgilead, and said to them, "Blessed [be] ye of YAHUAH that you have shown this kindness (khehsed) unto your lord, [even] unto Saul, and have buried him." (Psalm 36:7) "How excellent [is] your lovingkindness (khehsed), O Elohim! Therefore, the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings."
In a negative sense, khehsed can also mean "zeal, ardour against anyone, envy, hence reproach." (Gesenius) Thus, if not careful we can misapply the purpose of khehsed as the pharisees did in forming their opinion of sinners and publicans: (Proverb 14:34) "Righteousness exalts a nation. But sin [is] a reproach (khehsed) to any people."
Let's further research the meaning of mercy. The Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) translates "eleos" (G1556) as mercy. It describes "kindness or good will towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to help them; to exercise the virtue of mercy; the providence; mercy and clemency of God in providing and offering to men salvation; the mercy of Christ, whereby at His return, He will bless with eternal life." (Thayer's Greek Lexicon)
Remember YAH desires mercy not "sacrifice" which is "thysia" (G2378), a Greek noun derived from the verb "thyo" (G2380), meaning "to rush, breathe hard, blow, smoke, to sacrifice by fire, to immolate (slaughter for any purpose), kill or slay." (Strong's Concordance) Consider an example from scripture: (Mark 12:33) "To love Him (YAHUAH) with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul and with all the strength, and to love [his] neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices (thysia)."
These were the "sacrifices and burnt offerings" at the time of Yahushuah:
1. "Burnt Offerings" to atone for sin and to approach YAHUAH (see Leviticus 1; 6:8-13; 8:18-21: unblemished bulls, male sheep, goats, female doves or pigeons);
2. "Grain or Cereal Offerings" to demonstrate thanksgiving and dedication to YAH (see Leviticus 2; 6:14-23: meal, flour or grain);
3. "Fellowship or Peace Offerings" to demonstrate Israel's appreciation and desire to fellowship with YAHUAH (see Leviticus 3; 7:11-34: unblemished bull, male or female sheep or goats);
4. "Sin Offerings" to atone for unintentional sin (see Leviticus 4; 5:1-13; 6:24-30;8:14-17: unblemished bulls, male or female goats); and...
5. "Guilt or Trespass Offerings to atone and provide restitution for a specific sin (see Leviticus 5:14-19;6:1-7;7:1-6: unblemished rams).
While the pharisees obsessed over the practice of sacrificing animals and other burnt offerings, such acts would soon be unnecessary after Yahushuah's sacrifice: (Hebrews 9:11-14) "But Messiah being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to Elohim, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living Elohim?"
Indeed, YAHUAH sent His beloved Son, Yahushuah to be our sacrifice for sins: (Hebrews 9:23-28) "[It was] therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Messiah is not entered into the holy places made with hands, [which are] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of Elohim for us. Nor yet that He should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world. But now once in the end of the world has He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Messiah was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them who look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
His one sacrifice replaced the many Temple offerings: (Hebrews 10:1-18) "For the law (Torah) having a shadow of good things to come, [and] not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those [sacrifices there is] a remembrance again [made] of sins every year. For [it is] not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when He came into the world, he says, 'Sacrifice and offering you would not, but a body have you prepared Me. In burnt offerings and [sacrifices] for sin You have had no pleasure.' Then I said, 'Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do Your Will, O Elohim.' Above when He said, 'Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and [offering] for sin you would not, neither had pleasure [therein]; which are offered by Torah.' Then He said, 'Lo, I come to do Your Will, O Elohim.' He takes away the first, that He may establish the second by which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Yahushuah Messiah once [for all]. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering often times the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of Elohim, from henceforth expecting until His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He perfected forever them who are sanctified. [Whereof] Ruach ha'Qodesh also is a witness to us. For after that He said before, 'This [is] the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says Adonai, I will put my laws into their hearts and in their minds I will write them. Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.' Now where remission of these [is, there is] no more offering for sin."
Knowing the mission from His Father, Yahushuah teaches BYA to focus on sacrificing our innocence i.e. feelings, comforts, advantages and rights over one another rather than the slaughtering of innocent animals. (Hebrews 10:20-24) "By a new and living way, which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. And [having] a high priest over the house of Elohim; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering (for He [is] faithful who promised). Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
Yah wants us to look upon those suffering misfortune with mercy in the form of love, not righteous reproach. (Micah 6:6-8) "Wherewith shall I come before YAHUAH, [and] bow myself before the high Elohim? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will YAHUAH be pleased with thousands of rams, [or] with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn [for] my transgression, the fruit of my body [for] the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what [is] good; and what YAHUAH does require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your Elohim?
May our sacrifices to Elohim be offered with mercy toward others. And, may Yahushuah's mercy and grace be upon us all. Shalom, Elder Curt