A Brief Word on Matthew 12:5

Matthew 12:5  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 10
 
“Have ye not read in the Law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the Temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless.”
The disciples were an hungered, and had plucked the ears of corn on the Sabbath day, and the Pharisees had charged them with doing that which was unlawful to do upon it. It was quite lawful to “pluck the ears of thy neighbors’ standing corn” (see Deut. 23:2525When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbor, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbor's standing corn. (Deuteronomy 23:25)), but they made it an unlawful action when done on the Sabbath day. The gracious directions of God, were thus forced into the narrow lines of Pharisaism. The Lord does not vindicate the grace of Deut. 23:2525When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbor, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbor's standing corn. (Deuteronomy 23:25), but by recalling cast-out David’s course with the show-bread in the days of Saul the usurper, He shows that when God’s anointed king was a wanderer and an-hungered, the show-bread was in a manner common; there was no value in forms and ceremonies when God was rejected in the king of His choice. So by the force of reasoning when God was rejected in His Christ, the Sabbath was no more than any other day. He touches here the springs of evil in the “blind Pharisee,” and takes no notice of the plucking of the ears of corn charged on His followers.
But more, His answer in verse 5 conveys a fine and blessed principle not to be overlooked. The Sabbath, given with the law, was a command or claim upon man under that law. Priests and sacrifices were not contemplated under pure law at all. They came in as God’s provisions of grace when and after the law was broken! In fact, the whole ceremonial of Leviticus, and of Exodus after the giving of the law by Moses and its breach through making the golden calf, etc., with all that then happened, came in as gracious provisions for the approach to God Himself of those who had failed under law.
We might say in a few words as to verse 5: — The Sabbath was the claim of law; the priesthood and sacrifices were the provisions of grace, and while under the law and its demands the provisions of grace through priesthood and sacrifices took the upper hand, its claims had to stand aside, that these provisions might express themselves; how much more should the Sabbath now stand aside in its claim, when God Himself was there in their midst in lowly grace — in the person of Christ!
This system of priesthood and sacrifices is commonly called the “ceremonial law,” in contradistinction with that which is named the “moral law”; but we might the more correctly term them “ceremonial grace”!
Alas, when we look around us, in how much do we find the same thing under a different guise! God and his grace rejected that ordinances and ceremonies without meaning or value might have their place in the religious thought and practice of man!
Words of Truth, New Series 2:182, 183.