Have Mercy

“If you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)

I have a confession to make. I am a Pharisee. I may not tithe my spices or pray loudly in public to be heard, but I am a stickler for the rules. At least on the highway. When I drive, my most pharisaical tendencies shine. Turn signals are required before changing lanes, speed limits (and speed minimums) are not merely suggestions, and I’m not going to let you in if you decided to wait until the last minute to try and sneak in the exit-only lane for the off-ramp.

As much as I am a Pharisee in the car, my wife, Laurin, is a good Samaritan, slowing down to let people in and never holding a missed turn signal against someone. When we ride together, she’s quick to remind me, “Maybe that person is just having a really bad day” or, “They could be on their way to the hospital.” My bride’s default setting seems to be compassion—and I’m pretty sure Jesus likes that.

One time, when a group of Pharisees spied Jesus’ disciples picking the heads off grain on the Sabbath, Jesus defended His friends by reminding everyone of a time in the Old Testament when David entered the tabernacle and ate the consecrated bread of the Presence when he and his men were in great need (Matthew 12:1–4; cf. 1 Samuel 21:1-6). Jesus was not saying it’s okay to break the law whenever we feel like it, but He was pointing out that God’s heart is merciful—and we too should be merciful. Obedience is important, but God takes more pleasure in people who are compassionate than in people who are merely legalistic. “I desire faithful love and not sacrifice,” He says (Hosea 6:6; cf. Matthew 12:7). That goes for every part of life—even while driving.

Brimming with poetry and praise, prayers and prophecy, the book of Psalms is an invitation to walk with God and experience his overwhelming love. The Ascent: A Devotional Adventure through the Book of Psalms is now available.

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