It is recorded in the Gospels that on one Shabbat when Messiah and His disciples were walking, they became hungry and began to pluck grains of wheat and eat them. Some Pharisees observed this and accused Yeshua and His disciples of profaning the Sabbath claiming they were “working.” Messiah responded to this accusation saying:
Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:3-7)
There are several issues addressed in this passage. First of all, Messiah points out to the Pharisees that, when looking on the surface of things, we usually miss what is most important. The Creator wants us to see the weightier matter which is, in this case, mercy. To make that point, Messiah calls attention to two instances where, on the surface, it seems that people broke God’s laws, yet they are considered to be guiltless. This is particularly interesting given that He drew attention to the innocence of the priests who were working in the Temple on Shabbat.
The issue here is that it is one thing to break God’s law, but it is another thing to break man’s interpretation of God’s law. Mankind is infamous for forming opinions about what God has said and then elevating those opinions to the status of being God’s law. If we are not careful, sometimes we can allow those traditions, interpretations and opinions – though inspired by what God said – to be equal to or greater than what God said. For centuries this has made life very difficult for those who want to please the Creator. In fact, this bad habit of elevating our opinions into law is became that “middle law of separation” that Yeshua came to break down (Eph. 2:14).
There’s another very important point to make about what Yeshua said to these men. Contrary to the opinion some, God’s laws do not inhibit life and bring us into bondage; God’s laws always promote life and blessing. In the same conversation, Messiah goes on to ask these same men:
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? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:11-12)
With that statement Yeshua proceeded to heal a man on the Sabbath, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders. Again we see that God’s instructions are always about life and living it abundantly. The only thing that God’s laws are intended to restrict is the evil inclination of man. As we strive to keep God’s instructions, let us keep in mind that our Father is the God of the living, not the God of the dead. His laws are life. His instructions are life and Messiah came that we might have life and live it more abundantly. May your day be full of life.