“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old” (Micah 7:18-20).
No God Like Our God
Micah asks a question that has certainly been asked often enough: “Who is a God like You?” And we asked that just a moment ago in the hymn: “Jehovah, let me now adore thee, for where is there a God such, Lord, as thou?” Though the question is one that may be put often, our concern is that it is so seldom answered with any accuracy or any great concern. People who have the evidence as to God’s person and status seem to respond with “SO WHAT?” God is God, but why get excited about that? Why should you present me with that question, and why should I try to answer at all?
Though people do not want to admit it, they are looking for an answer all the time, even while evading the scriptural truth. And even sadder to say, our own answers do not always satisfy us. We show it when we evade even the asking of such a question in our own hearts. That ought to embarrass us. We must feel ashamed to look up and ask it, because our God will look back down at us and say: “Well, what do you think about me?”
Perhaps we had better let Micah ask the question then, listen to him, and form some conclusions. “Who is a God like You?” he asks, and provides an argument very much in favor of God, which in turn helps bring us to settle any argument we have with ourselves about God’s personality, nature, and attitude toward us.
The prophet is acting as God’s lawyer, so to speak, presenting God’s claim to greatness. And like an able lawyer he marks off just those things which will best reveal the singular qualities of God, the outstanding traits upon which God’s claim to fame is based.
God’s case is a good one. Micah has a dozen important claims to make about God. You note that he does not say anything about God’s work of creation, or of God’s wisdom in the administration of this earth. The position of God as Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, is not what captivates Micah’s attention. Rather, Micah would plead God’s greatness to us entirely upon the merit of His dealing with sin. Here Micah reviews the entire wonderful story.
A God Who Pardons Iniquity
Two truths are emphasized, and they belong together also in the lives of the redeemed. The first is that familiar but amazing truth about God: He pardons iniquity and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage. He retains not His anger forever because He delights in mercy.
Here we see that God does not walk about on earth, stopping at the door of each household, examining each occupant, evaluating, and then piecemeal handing out some forgiveness here and there. God is not penny-pinching when it comes to forgiving sins, pardoning some who are lovable sinners or turning His back on others less lovable. HE PARDONS INIQUITY! That He has done wholesale as a universal act. He has redone what went wrong in Eden and has gone wrong ever since. This is a new creation done by God. We call it justification, of which we have here just the outline. We can fill in the details from our vantage point of scriptural knowledge, even as we have it summarized in Luther’s explanation of the Second Article, for example.
God has done this despite the fact that He certainly has just cause to retain His anger. Despite the fact that His universal pardon is rejected on all sides and spurned, He does not lose patience. “He does not retain His anger forever because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities.”
What an outstanding heart is God’s heart. He is absolutely unique in this that “He delights in mercy” towards humanity. This quality is non-existent in the idols of the heathen. This is a quality that is precisely non-human. Human mercy is too easily grudging, self-seeking, prideful. But not God’s! Much rather would He pardon, all the way, to the limit, as Jesus proved in the malefactor on the cross, in the publicans, in Mary Magdalene.
That is not yet all that Micah reveals to carry God’s case, which brings to a settlement any argument we may have with ourselves about God’s pre-eminence in all: He “will subdue our iniquities.” He will not leave His pardoned people under the grievous domination of their sinfulness. To do battle against the unconquerable is disheartening. But to be given God’s power to subdue, to overcome, the most persistent wickedness, to be given His strength to supplant our weakness–that is the second great gift of our God in His mercies. “Look, I am with you always” said the Savior, even as He ascended on high to make all things work together for good to those who are His dear children. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
Well, what do you think? Is God’s case a good one? Would you allow a substitute into your soul to displace this God?
May our hearts tremble in awe before Him who has redeemed us, called us by our name, sanctified and chosen us as His children. May our hearts thrill with joy over being claimed by such a God in such lovingkindness and warmth. For all of which it is our privilege to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
–Prof. Em. Paul R. Koch