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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:There is none like the LORD!
Text:Micah 7:18-20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness
 
Preached:2014-02-23
Added:2014-03-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 Book of Praise.

Bible Translation: NKJV

Psalm 31:1,2

Psalm 79:3,5

Psalm 14:1,2,35

Psalm 103:2,4

Psalm 40:2

Read:  Micah 7; Romans 3:9-26.

Text: Micah 7:18-20

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The book of Micah can be a challenging read at times, but its message is one that blows the mind!  Micah preaches such dark words of judgment and of death and of the destruction and then suddenly it is as though the light bursts forth from the darkness and there are tremendous words of hope and restoration.  You can see this in Micah 2:12,13 for example as well as in chapter 4:1 and following.  And you can see this again at the end of the book, in Micah chapter 7.  Micah 6 describes the sins of God’s people and chapter 7 repeats those sins and describes how far God’s people had fallen. 

  But then comes the surprising conclusion to the book of Micah in verse 18 to 20.

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?”

Who is a God like You?  How can it be that after all that has been said – both Israel’s sin and the judgment that was to come – that there would yet be forgiveness for a remnant of God’s people, that God would have compassion, that He would “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea”?  How can this be?  And so while the Book of Micah alternates between judgment and hope, it leaves us standing in awe of the God whom we serve, leaves us with the question,  Who is like the LORD?  Who is like Him in His holiness, His wrath against sin, His power, but above all else His grace and mercy?

I preach to you the Gospel under the following theme:

There is none like the LORD!

  1. His assurance of mercy.
  2. His reasons for mercy.

 

1. His assurance of mercy.

His name was Micah and he came from a little town called Moresheth, 30 km southwest of Jerusalem and close to the old Philistine city of Gath.  Micah’s name means “Who is like Yahweh?”, “Who is like our covenant LORD?” and the words that the Holy Spirit gave him to speak made clear just who the Lord is – and that there is no one else like Him. 

   The days in which Micah was called to prophesy were difficult ones for God’s people.  It was about 700 years before the birth of Christ and a time when the enemy, particularly Assyria, was pressing in on them.  It was during these days that the 10 Tribes of Israel to the north went into exile to Assyria, and, although it was 100 years before Jerusalem would be destroyed and Judah sent into exile into Babylon, the Southern tribes of Judah were under great pressure.  But if they were under great pressure in those days – even with Sennacherib and the army of Assyria surrounding the city of Jerusalem and trapping king Hezekiah like a bird in a cage – if they were under great pressure in those days, this was nothing compared to what was yet to take place!

Turn with me in your Bibles back to the beginning of Micah, chapter 1: 2 – 4.

2           Hear, all you peoples!

Listen, O earth, and all that is in it!

Let the Lord God be a witness against you,

The Lord from His holy temple.

3           For behold, the Lord is coming out of His place;

He will come down

And tread on the high places of the earth.

4           The mountains will melt under Him,

And the valleys will split

Like wax before the fire,

Like waters poured down a steep place.

The LORD Himself was coming down from heaven in judgment against His people.  And it is a terrifying picture of the God whose power is so great that the mountains melt under Him into a mass of molten lava, the valleys split with the force of the most severe earthquake and the earth’s elements all pour together like wax before the fire, like waters rushing down a steep slope.  It is a picture of utter chaos, of total destruction.  And it is a picture of the chaos and destruction that is directed to the people of the LORD! 

That is frightening!  The words of judgment that were normally reserved for God’s – and Israel’s – enemies are now directed at the covenant people of the LORD.  And the reason for these words of judgment are clear.  Verse 5a of Micah chapter 1.

All this is for the transgression of Jacob

And for the sins of the house of Israel.

And as we read through the book of Micah we have to conclude that God’s people Israel deserved whatever punishment the LORD would bring upon them.  Micah 7 gives an incredibly bleak assessment of the people of the Lord.  Verse 2:

“The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men.  They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net.”

And verse 3, they successfully do evil “with both hands”!  Yes, verse 4, the best of them is like a brier and a thorn hedge: they hurt and they injure but they do not help, they do not bear fruit.  In Micah 7:1 the prophet Micah describes himself as one who went to gather summer fruits only to find that there was no fruit to eat.  What he meant by this is that he searched for faithfulness among the people of God but he could not find it.  As a nation they had collapsed.  Previously God’s people had been ruled by those who sought the good of Jerusalem, the good of the people of the Lord.  But no longer: princes were looking for gifts and judges were wanting a bribe.  Indeed society had collapsed so far that you could not trust anybody.  Verse 5,6.

“Do not trust in a friend; do not put your confidence in a companion; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom.  For son dishonors father, daughter rises against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are men of his own household.”

For that is where sin leads us when it is unrestrained.  That is the consequence of our total depravity.  And that is not just the case for Israel of old.  As we read in Romans 3:9, Jews and Greeks, you and I, are all by nature the same.  We are all under sin for we all share in the guilt and the condemnation of Adam.  As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:10,

“There is none righteous, no, not one.”

And then, quoting Psalm 14, Romans 3 describes the depravity of mankind with the same sort of language that Micah used against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.  Verse 13-18,

13         “Their throat is an open tomb;

With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;

“The poison of asps is under their lips”;

14         “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”

15         “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16         Destruction and misery are in their ways;

17         And the way of peace they have not known.”

18         “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Sin leads to destruction, to the collapse of all that is good and honorable to the point that good is called evil and evil is called good.  And do we not also see evidence of that today?  For truly our day is not that different from Israel in the time of the prophet Micah.  Just consider what is reported in the news and what is discussed by many of those around us.  What just a short time ago was rejected as vile and sinful is today presented as good and acceptable.  From abortion to the open abuse of drugs and alcohol to the promotion of voluntary euthanasia and the open acceptance and pride in the most perverse sexual acts, there is no fear of God.  And instead of a love to do what is right, those who stand up for what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord are mocked and even abused while those (such as Richard Dawkins) who push to eradicate God from public and private life are heralded as visionary leaders and heroes.  That is where things have come and that is why, knowing what was to come, our Lord Jesus Christ quoted from Micah 7:6 when He said in Matthew 10 that the days were coming when brother would deliver brother to death and a father his child, when lawlessness would increase, when the people of God would be persecuted by all.

But let us not simply point our fingers to the world and its growing lawlessness and violence.  Let us not forget that the prophet Micah was not preaching to the heathen nations around him but to the people of God!  In his commentary on Micah, John Calvin wrote,

“Now when we reflect on the corruption that dominated Micah’s time, let us take heed to ourselves.  For his passage is not referring to some savage group of people who had never received instruction, or who were the reprobate of God; they were of Abraham’s line, a people who had been chosen from among all the others to be God’s inheritance, a people who had been instructed in the Law . . . How did such confusion come about?  Because they turned aside from God.  Therefore, because they despised his doctrine of salvation and had turned aside from his righteous path, God was justified in leaving them in a reprobate state, subject to brutal affections and nothing but cruelty, oblivious to their call.  Therefore, let us be fearful lest, because we abuse God’s grace ourselves, God should have to make us equally blind and brutish.”[1]

You see, it is as not as though you or I are of ourselves any better than Israel in the days of Micah or the culture and society in which we live.  “All we like sheep have gone astray” the prophet Isaiah exclaimed in Isaiah 53:6.  And Romans 3:9,

“What then?  Are we better than they?  Not at all!”

And verse 23,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

And therefore we all, you and I, the people of Old Testament Israel and even the prophet Micah himself, deserve judgment. And judgment would fall upon the house of Israel, for God is just and He would punish those who had turned from in unbelief. 

But now comes the amazing good news:  in spite of all this, the LORD would save a remnant for Himself! 

“Shepherd Your people with Your staff”

Micah says concerning the Lord in Micah 7:14,

“Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your heritage, who dwell solitarily in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel; Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in days of old.”

The Lord would be a Shepherd to His people, He would gather them in from the furthest corners of the earth, the walls of Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the Promised Land would be filled with God’s people – even as far as Bashan and Gilead on the other side of the River Jordan! 

And that is why the prophet Micah exclaims in Micah 7:18, “Who is a God like You?”

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgressions of the remnant of His heritage?”

Who else is like the LORD who would still be true to His promises, would still redeem His people?  We have a God who forgives!  Yes, who forgives even the vilest, the most terrible of sins!  A God who does not stay angry with His people forever, but a God who takes delight in mercy.

The LORD is holy and the LORD is just in all His ways.  He can not and He will not overlook sin and leave it unpunished.  And indeed many of His people Israel would die in their sins either before or when Jerusalem would be destroyed and God’s people taken away into exile.  But the Lord does not delight in the punishment of the wicked; rather, He delights in mercy.  And He would show not just His wrath against sin but also His mercy, His forgiveness.  There would be a remnant, a small number of His covenant people whom the Lord would call back from bondage, back from exile.  He would redeem them and restore to them the joy of His salvation.  He would again have compassion on them and tread their sins underfoot, hurling their iniquities into the depths of the sea! 

And Micah knew not only that this would be so but also how it could be so, for the Lord had revealed to him in Micah 5:2 that from Bethlehem would come forth the One to be Ruler in Israel, One who would stand and feed His flock.  In order to redeem His people the LORD would send His Son.  This One would be born in Bethlehem and He would receive the name Jesus for He would save His people from their sin! 

“Yes, Who is like You, O LORD?  Who is like You who not only forgives sin but who does so by sending Your own Son to bear Your wrath against that sin so that in Him we Your people should not perish but have everlasting life!  Your love is amazing, Your grace is abounding, Your steadfast love endures forever!”

 

2. His reasons for mercy.

After all that the prophet Micah had revealed concerning the sin of God’s people, after all that we know of the total depravity of mankind, after all that we know that “there is none that is righteous, no not one”, having been convinced that God is both just and right to punish sin, we are left with the question:  why doesn’t He?  Why didn’t God just put an end to it all, give up on the world and everyone in it, destroy it with fire and leave every one of us to spend an eternity in hell?  Why doesn’t He?  Why does He instead “. . . pardon iniquity, . . . pass over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage, . . . have compassion on us, subdue our iniquities (that is, stomp them out so they never come back)” and even

“. . . cast all our sins into the depths of the sea”?

Why does He do this?  What are His reasons for mercy?

One thing can be sure:  it is not because of us.  Romans 3 puts an end to that possibility: we are not better than they for we all are under sin.  In fact Micah 7 makes that clear too!  Through the work of the Holy Spirit the prophet Micah does not place himself above the rest of the people of Israel, but alongside them, accepting his share in the guilt of His people.  And for that reason he declared in Micah 7:9,

“I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against Him.”

There was nothing in Micah, there was nothing in the rest of God’s people in Micah’s days and there is nothing in you or I that makes us more worthy of the mercy of God.   But our salvation, that is, the salvation of everyone who believes, of God from beginning to end.  Salvation comes from the LORD, and the LORD is delighted to save His people. He delights in mercy!  He takes pleasure in displaying His grace to those whom He has chosen. 

And that is how it has always been.  The salvation of the people of God is always on account of His grace, His mercy alone.  And that is why Moses and the people of Israel, when they had escaped from Pharaoh through Red Sea but the LORD had used that same Red Sea to punish Pharaoh and all his host, that they exclaimed in Exodus 15:11-13,

11         “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like You, glorious in holiness,

Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

12         You stretched out Your right hand;

The earth swallowed them.  [That is, the Egyptian Pharaoh and his army.  But listen to what comes next:]

13         You in Your mercy have led forth

The people whom You have redeemed;

You have guided them in Your strength

To Your holy habitation.

“You in your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed.”  You did this in Your Mercy, your steadfast covenant love.  The LORD had promised this of old to Jacob, that his offspring would be like the dust of the earth, that they would be the Lord’s forever. He had promised this to Abraham, that his descendants would be like the stars in number and that him all the nations of the earth would be blessed.  And the LORD would not give up on those promises for it was His plan to redeem a people for Himself. And the only way for the Lord to do that was to take our sin, the sin of His people and place that on His own Son Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 53:6,

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

And why has He done this?  Because He delights in it!  Because He is true to His Word always and He takes pleasure not in the death of the wicked, but that we might turn to Him and live!

But it will not be for everybody.  No, salvation will not even be for everyone born into the covenant of God, baptized into His church.  Whereas all Judah, Jerusalem and Israel would be punished and go into exile, it would only be a remnant, a small band who would return.  A blessed remnant and a remnant from whom the LORD would cause many more to come to Him, but a remnant all the same.  Do not forget that.  Do not make light of the justice and the wrath of the LORD as if your sin does not matter.  Do not be like the judges and rulers of Jerusalem who in Micah 3:11 judged for a bribe and taught for selfish gain, dishonoring the name of the LORD but all the while saying, “Is not the LORD among us? No harm can fall upon us.”  But rather let us take heed, let us repent and seek the LORD. 

Micah, like all of us, needed to do that too.  But Micah did this.  When the prophet Micah was faced with the sin and the evil of his day he wrote in Micah 7:7,

“Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.”

Micah looked to the LORD for his help and, verse 9, he repented of his sin.  And therefore, because the LORD is true to His Word, to the covenant promises He had made to Abraham and Jacob and to all His children, and because the LORD in mercy would send forth His Son that we might be “justified freely by His grace” (Romans 3:24) Micah could be sure that all his sins would be thrown into the depths of the sea, that the LORD would gather Him as Shepherd gathers His sheep and that he would dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

And now brothers and sisters, what about you, what about me?  Do you believe these things?  Do you too realize just how great your sins and misery is in the sight of our holy God, do you repent of it and seek your cleansing and salvation outside of yourself and in Jesus Christ alone?

  There is none other like the LORD.  There is none other who is both just in His judgment and great in His mercy.  And there is no other way to be received in His grace except through His Son Jesus Christ.  But when we by faith are received by grace in Christ, then we may be assured that He has taken our judgment upon Himself.  For us who are in Christ Jesus there is no further fear of judgment but only the sure hope that we who are saved by Him will live with Him forever.  Amen.

 

[1] Calvin as quoted in Richard Phillips “Jonah & Micah: Reformed Expository Commentary” p317.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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