10/02/2011

How Great is our (Incomparable) God (Micah 7:18-20)

Micah7

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression…?” (Micah 7:18)


Micah’s name means “Who is like the Lord?” As the prophet completes/concludes his book he identifies himself with a question, which is also his name: Who is a God like you…?” (Mic 7:18) It is a rhetorical question that is an assertion of God’s incomparable glory and greatness. Micah is really saying, “There is no one like the Lord, for our God is greater than all gods!” The book of Micah reveals our God in 3 ways:

  1. Our Incomparable God.
  2. Incomparable Grace.
  3. Incomparable Faithfulness.
I. Our Incomparable God


What does the Bible teach us about who God is? What does Micah reveal to us about God? 3 thoughts:

  1. God’s holiness.
  2. God’s almighty power.
  3. God’s sovereignty.

1. God’s Holiness. The book of Micah emphasizes repeatedly that God is a holy God, a God in a unique category, set apart from all others. God's thoughts/ways are never man’s thoughts/ways (Isa 55:8-9). The whole Bible sets “forth the awful gulf that separates the creature from the Creator” (J. Gresham Machen, 1923). It relates to God’s absolute separation from all evil and sin. “…he is exalted above the possibility of sin—in him, as the absolutely good, evil cannot enter” (Gerhardus Vos, 1994).


Micah confronts us with the reality of God’s holiness all through his book. God appears in frightening cataclysm, where “the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open” (Mic 1:3-4). The reason? “All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of…Israel” (Mic 1:5). The holy God is always grievously offended by all sin. God is a just God who judges sin with great severity (Mic 2:1), until he regards his sinful people as an enemy (Mic 2:8).


2. God’s Almighty Power. The holy God also has power to judge sin. “I will make Samaria a heap…and uncover her foundations” (Mic 1:6). No one can match God’s power. No foundation can withstand God’s power. When Sennacherib, the Assyrian conqueror, besieged Jerusalem, the Lord struck down 185,000 soldiers of his army in a single night.


3. God’s sovereignty. No human king or authority determines the fate of peoples. Only God in his sovereign majesty reigns supreme. God is omniscient, knowing all our secret thoughts (Mic 2:1), while we know not his (Mic 4:12). God’s absolute sovereignty over all history includes the minutest details of the affairs of men and nations, as seen in the many and specific prophecies Micah makes regarding the future.

  • He foretold the judgment of wicked Samaria (Mic 1:6).
  • He predicted details of the Assyrian advance prior to the event (Mic 1:10-16).
  • He prophesies God’s deliverance of his people when the enemy comes to the very gate of the city (Mic 2:12-13).
  • He sees the Christian age of the gospel, when people from all over the world will come to God to worship and learn (Mic 4:2).
  • Most dramatically, he provides one of the most detailed and accurate predictions of the Messiah’s birth, nearly 700 years in the future (Mic 5:2).

Micah spoke boldly about specific events that have not yet happened because he speaks for a sovereign God, who exercises perfect control over all things, past, present, and even into eternity.


II. Incomparable Grace


Is there 1 thing about God that causes Micah to celebrate his incomparable glory? The answer is in his final verses (Mic 7:18-20). It is that the majesty of the holy, almighty, sovereign God is seen most wonderfully in his grace. Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression…?” (Mic 7:18). We observe 4 things:

  1. What God forgives.
  2. How God forgives.
  3. God’s attitude in forgiving.
  4. The finality of God’s forgiveness.

1. What God forgives. What is it that God forgives? Micah uses 3 terms to describe sinful man’s offense to God.

  1. God pardons “iniquity” (Mic 7:18). ‘Avon (Hebrew) refers to our guilt. Our sins incur a debt to God’s holy justice that must be paid.
  2. God passes over “transgression” (Mic 7:18). Pesha denotes rebellion against God. We reject God’s right to govern our lives. In the parable of the 10 minas, the rebels insist, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (Lk 19:14), which incurs the king’s rightful response of judgment and destruction (Lk 19:27).
  3. God casts our “sins” into the depths of the sea (Mic 7:19). Chatta’ah refers to wickedness or evil, which God, as ruler of creation, cannot tolerate but must destroy.

All 3 of these terms—guilt, rebellion, and wickedness—have been ascribed not to pagans but to God’s people residing in Jerusalem where they worship in the temple of God. Judging by the standard of God’s perfect law, no one is righteous, not even one, and no one does God, not even one (Rom 3:10,12).


2. How God forgives. How can a holy God ever forgive his people’s sins? Micah’s language is vivid and instructive, containing the very heart of the Bible’s gospel. He virtually uses NT language that only Jesus is able to fulfill.

1.       God pardons our iniquity/guilt. Nasa’ literally speaks of God lifting our guilt, taking it away (Jn 1:29). An Israelite would naturally think of the Day of Atonement, where the high priest sets the scapegoat free (expiation), while slaying the other (propitiation), which shows that God takes away our sin/guilt by the substitutionary death of a God-appointed sacrifice (Lev 16:8-10; Rom 3:21-26). God had to both bear and take away our sins (Bruce Waltke, 2007). The NT applies this directly to the cross, where God cancels our record of debt by nailing it to the cross (Col 2:14). This transfer of our sins to Christ is imputation (2 Cor 5:21; Isa 53:6).

2.       God passes over our transgression/rebellion. The language here also points to the cross, through the events of the Passover (1 Cor 5:7; Mic 7:18). This passing over of our sins happens for those who have confessed their sins and believed in the gospel of Christ. What other God or deity ever responds to our wickedness against him by placing our guilt onto himself? This is the main difference between Christianity and all other faiths.

3. God’s attitude in forgiving our sins. Does God forgive begrudgingly, resentfully, or halfheartedly? “He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love” (Mic 7:18). Micah’s hope is in the incomparable God whose heart is moved by grace. Chesed, is the great OT word for covenant mercy and love of God, for God delights in tender, loving, mercy for his people. This word is so rich that it can hardly be given a single English translation. It is rendered as:

  • “steadfast love” (ESV),
  • “faithful love” (Holman-HCSB),
  • “unchanging love” (NASB),
  • “mercy” (KJV, NIV)

Seemingly, no godly people were left in the land (Mic 7:2-3). How could such depraved people be spared by a holy God? It is ONLY because of God’s mercy (Tit 3:5). Micah’s hope lay in God’s delight in mercy, and there he rested his burdened heart.


4. The finality of God’s forgiveness: God casts away our sins…

·         God “will again have compassion on us” (Mic 7:19).  Racham speaks of tender affection, the way a mother loves a child.

·         Like a conqueror and a liberator, God “will tread our iniquities underfoot” (Mic 7:19). When God takes away the guilt of sin, that it may not condemn us, He takes away also the power of sin, that it may not rule us. Thus,

o   Our guilt he takes away to the cross;

o   Our rebellion he covers with Christ’s blood; and

o   The corrupting power of evil in our hearts he treads underfoot.

·         God casts “all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic 7:19). This allusion is to Pharaoh’s chariots in the Red Sea. Just as the Egyptians were prevented by God from catching the Israelites to destroy them, God will not allow our sins to catch up to us.

This knowledge is crucial to our relationship with God, and to our peace and joy in salvation: the finality of our forgiveness in Christ. Heb 8:12 echoes Jeremiah when God declares to us: “I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” How can an all-knowing God forget that we have sinned against him? In Micah’s language, God has:

  • Lifted our sins and taken them to the cross;
  • Covered our sins with the blood of Christ;
  • Trodden them under his own foot;
  • Cast them into the sea of his incomparable grace.

III. Incomparable Faithfulness


How can we count on God extending such grace to us, when we stumble and stutter in sin? Only by God’s incomparable faithfulness to his covenant promises of old in the Bible (Mic 7:20). “Faithfulness” is emet, which also means “truth.” God will be true to Jacob (Gen 28:14) by working salvation for Jacob’s descendants. God will show steadfast love (chesed) to Abraham (Mic 7:20) to fulfill God’s promise to him (Gen 12:3; 15:5). God has sworn this to our fathers from the days of old (Mic 7:20). Thus, we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Heb 6:19).


In conclusion, God delivers us from the power of sin by first assuring us of our complete forgiveness through the blood of Christ. Why would he do this? Because “he delights in steadfast love (chesed)” (Mic 7:18). When we behold the cross, we can praise God like Micah and say, Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression…?” (Mic 7:18)

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