Micah 7:18 - Who is a God Like the God of Forgiveness?
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.Micah 7:18
Sometimes words are just not enough. God's creation – it leaves you speechless. Your spouse's strength of character – it bears no comparison. Your child's laughter – it tests your vocabulary. Sometimes words can't say enough.
The prophet Micah understood that concept as well. His prophecy alternates between visions of doom and hope. In chapter 7 he starts with a very bleak picture: "What misery is mine! ... The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains" (vv. 1, 2). The prophet sees both Israel and Judah in need of reformation. Both kingdoms were living in affluence, which produced selfish materialism. Morals floundered, and corruption abounded. Exile was awaiting. Yet Micah does not despair, but can end his prophecy with such great hope. He sees that God will graciously forgive his people and restore her fortunes, and this puts Micah over the moon. All he can really say is, "Who is a God like you?"
What a beautiful question! This exclamation is a play on the meaning of Micah's own name: "Who is like Yahweh?" Micah's question is one that other nations – Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians –also asked as a way of praising their gods. Yet Micah by no means implies that there are other gods. The one and only God is incomparable because of his forgiving character!
"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin?" Another way of reading this is, "Who is a God like you, who carries away sin?" We come across that phrase in Leviticus 16, concerning the Day of Atonement. Aaron the high priest was to lay his hands on the head of the live goat, confess all the iniquities of Israel over it, and thereby transfer those iniquities to the goat. Leviticus 16:22 says, "The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place." Through the high priest the Lord transferred the burden of Israel's guilt to another, and that substitute carried away all Israel's sin and guilt.
And that's what Micah is getting at. God "pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance." In mercy Yahweh preserved for himself a remnant, and he forgives that remnant! This applies to us today as the church of Christ. We are his possession by grace. We don't deserve forgiveness and salvation. But it has been promised to God's family, God's inheritance, in Christ! And it is given only to those who, like Micah, are deeply sorrowful over their sins, and cry out for forgiveness.
Micah's song of praise continues: "You do not stay angry forever." The remnant would experience the judgment and punishment of the Lord. But, marvel upon marvel, the Lord does not hold onto his anger. So the people of God could look away from their time of judgment and toward the Lord. They could rejoice that this was just temporary. "You do not stay angry forever, but you delight to show mercy."
This is all very remarkable. Micah is saying that the Lord acts this way – he carries away our sins, forgives our rebellion, shows his mercy – because that's just who he is. It leaves us scratching our head and asking, "Why is he that way?" The only answer we get is, "It is my delight to do it this way!" Our God, by his very nature, is so very ready to forgive sinners. That leaves us dumbstruck at the forgiving character of our God.
We see God's forgiving character especially in his Son. The words Micah uses in verse 18 are also used for the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Verses 10-12,
Yet it was the Lord's will (pleasure!) to crush him and cause him to suffer ... Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore (carried away) the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The LORD God does not wink at sin. He offered the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. He came to take our sin outside the city, to the cross of Golgotha. He shared in our sins. That is just who Christ is. It moves us to say, "Who is a God like you?"
Do you see his incredible mercy for sinners? See that your God is ever ready to forgive. Only when you see all this can you cherish a holy fear of our awesome God, only then can you worship him truly, in speechlessness. This is the God whom we adore. Cherish his forgiveness for repentant sinners!