The words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 9:
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As I was reading the book of Exodus recently, there was a phrase that caught my attention: “If I have found favor in your eyes….”. It dawned on me that I had seen that phrase before. So I did a little research and found those words repeated several times in the Old Testament.
When Abraham greeted the three visiting angels in Genesis 18:
“If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.”
A variation of the phrase appears in Exodus 33 when Moses was speaking with God:
If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.
When Moses spoke with God again after receiving the second set of Stone Tablets in Exodus 34:
“Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us.”
When Moses cried out to God because of the grumbling of the people in Numbers 11:
“If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
When Gideon answered the calling of God in Judges 6:
“If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.”
David speaking to Zadok the priest when he was fleeing from Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Samuel 15:
Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.
All the men in those passages; Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and David, were great men of God. Whenever they spoke the words, “If I have found favor in your eyes…”, they were acknowledging God’s authority and at the same time, they were also acknowledging their own imperfections. Each of those men had flaws……….and they knew it. So when they spoke to God (or spoke of God as David did in that passage in 2 Samuel), they knew better than to be presumptuous. In humility and out of reverent submission, they would say to God, “If I have found favor in your eyes…”.
In spite of their flaws, those great men of God knew how to approach God. But by the time our Lord Jesus Christ began his ministry, people were living in such darkness and their spiritual condition had caused them to become so far separated from God, they had no idea how to find favor in God’s eyes. From reading the gospels, it almost seems like they didn’t even know how to ask. And of course, neither the religious system or the religious leaders of the time were any help.
According to the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders, finding favor in God’s eyes meant performing useless rituals and adhering to an endless list of laws and rules. To be clear, we’re not talking about the pure Law of God that was given to Moses for the benefit of the people. We’re talking about laws that were man made. Those laws had become a burden, and finding favor in God’s eyes must have seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. After all, under a burdensome legalistic system that posed as religion, how can you know when or IF you’ve done enough? So they must have felt like many of us felt at some time in our pasts before we were saved; like all hope was lost. And under that system, all hope was lost until Jesus came.
Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, He came to fulfill it. And again we’re talking about God’s law, not the law of the Pharisees. Jesus fulfilled all of the Law’s requirements for finding favor in the eyes of God so that it was no longer necessary to perform useless rituals. Bulls and goats and sheep did not need to be sacrificed on the altar because the blood of Jesus fulfilled the Law’s requirement that there be shedding of blood as atonement for sin. In fact, Jesus made it very simple to find favor in the eyes of God. He gave us only one requirement; that we believe in Him and accept Him as our savior!
Hebrews 4:16 tells us: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
And that’s why the phrase, “If I have found favor in your eyes…..” does not appear anywhere in the New Testament. When we put our faith in Jesus, we also acknowledged our imperfections like those Old Testament saints. We acknowledged our sins and our need for a savior. We acknowledged God’s sovereignty and when we did all that, we found favor in God’s eyes!