Before we move on, it may serve us to consider a little more ancient/future back and forth. It was often stated and repeated in God’s story that He preferred obedience to sacrifice. It was a man named Samuel who asked, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying His voice?” The question begged: Which is better, religion or relationship? That’s what’s at the heart of the aforementioned verses from Isaiah. ‘My children rebelled against me? Why even an ass knows the hands that care for him!’ Where’s the relationship? Another ancient voice asked in Micah chapter 6, “With what shall I come before the Lord?” It was as if he were asking, ‘What will please God?’ He ran through a laundry list of possible religious observances only to conclude that what God really cares about: act justly, love mercy and walk humbly your God. Jesus himself echoes that conclusion in Matthew chapter 23, and we’ll get there eventually. But quickly here, I’ll reference a big but from that passage. Jesus spoke to the religious leaders of the day and called them hypocrites—the gloves are off. He said: You’ve given a tenth … but you have neglected the more important matters of the law—just as Micah had prescribed—justice, mercy and faithfulness.
As we began considering The Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5 we noted the life that Jesus calls his followers to live would be quite an exception in the world. True devotion and dependence upon God stand in stark contrast to life as usual. Entirely other. Jesus was presenting a new Kingdom’s economy—and promising that this new Kingdom is at hand. That’s some body of teaching. So what does it look like lived out? The answer begins in chapter 8. He’s taught us. Now he will show us.
AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER SEVEN, BIG BUTS OF THE BIBLE: A REVEALING LOOK AT JESUS CHRIST