One of a Kind
Passage: Micah 7:8–7:20
God is one of a kind in how he deals with our sin.
Put yourself in this parenting scenario. It’s Christmas time in Chicago. Kevin is eight years old and his house is crowded because his relatives are all spending the night to catch an early flight the next morning for a family trip together. The house is pretty chaotic because it’s a big family. There’s a lot going on. Plus there’s a pizza guy waiting to be paid and a police officer checking in to make sure the family has taken precautions to keep their house safe while they are gone. Kevin’s parents are trying to get the pizza guy paid, talk to the police officer, and get everyone fed. Kevin goes to the kitchen where the pizza is. He goes to the box of cheese pizza because that’s the kind he likes. He discovers that there is none left and asks, “Did anyone order me a plain cheese?” His older brother answers him, saying, “Yeah we did, but if you want any, somebody is going to have to barf it all up because it’s gone.” Then he begins to pretend to barf it up. It had been a rough day for Kevin and this was his breaking point. He let out a scream and ran at his brother, pushing him into the counter. This dumped over a bunch of cups of milk. Everyone started reacting. His dad noticed and jumped up, dropping the soda he was pouring. What Kevin did set off a domino effect of chaos.
Put yourselves in the shoes of Kevin’s parents here. How would you deal with this situation? How should Kevin’s misbehavior be dealt with? Should Kevin be punished? Sent to his room? Grounded? Or should he be let off the hook because in a way, he was the victim. It had been a rough day, there was no cheese pizza left, and his brother was being mean to him. What do you think? And is your answer different or the same as how your parents would have responded if you did this same thing growing up?
If you haven’t figured it out, this is a scene from a famous movie. Let me finish the scene for you and see if you get it. Kevin’s mom separated him from his brother whom he was still pushing and hitting. Then she asked, “What is the matter with you?” Kevin said, “He started it! He ate my pizza on purpose. He knows I hate sausage and olives and onions…” Just then his uncle Frank interrupted him with a loud voice, saying, “Look what you did, you little jerk.” Kevin looked around the room. Everyone was staring at him with a look of displeasure. His mom takes him up to the attic and he wishes they would all disappear. When he wakes up in the morning, they have all left for Paris without him and he is home alone.
Today, we are finishing our series called “Micah: Who Is a God Like You?” Micah lived 700 years before Jesus. He was a prophet, a spokesman for God. Micah’s purpose was to tell God’s people how they had turned from him and warned them of the consequences if they didn’t turn back to God. Micah wanted the people to turn back to God at hearing his preaching, but as we saw last week, he lamented the fact that his ministry did not bear the fruit that he hoped. The people did not change and would bear the consequences. And yet Micah had confidence in God. In 7:7, he said:
7 But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7)
The rest of chapter 7 tells us what Micah was looking to the LORD to do.
What we see in this passage is how God deals with sin in his people. In fact, that’s what we have been seeing throughout Micah. When God’s people misbehave, how does he respond? When God’s children disobey, how does he deal with it? When we sin, rebel, go astray, or give into temptation, what does God do? How does he treat us? Does he come down hard on us? Does he let us off the hook?
How we answer that is very important and we often really struggle with it. Our default way of viewing God is how our parents treated us. What did your parents do when you disobeyed? That’s probably how you think God responds when you disobey. Or you see God as the opposite of what your parents did because you didn’t like what your parents did when you disobeyed. Either way, your view of God is not coming from the Bible. We need to get our view of God from what he has revealed about himself. How does God deal with our sin and disobedience?
This passage has four parts to it. We will look at each part then consider its big idea.
Don’t rejoice: the situation will be reversed (7:8-10)
In verses 8 through 10, Micah speaks on behalf of Jerusalem. If the city could talk, this is what it would say. Remember, Micah has just finished telling them that the day of punishment is coming, which means Jerusalem will be destroyed by another nation. So here’s what Jerusalem says:
8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me. (Micah 7:8)
Jerusalem tells her enemy not to rejoice over her. Yes, she will fall, but she will rise. Yes, she will sit in darkness, but the Lord will be a light to her. Verse 9 is key:
9 I will bear the indignation of the Lord
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:9)
“Indignation” refers to God’s righteous anger. Jerusalem accepts it. She will bear it. Why? Because she has sinned against the Lord. This is the consequence of her actions - her idolatry, her unfaithfulness, her injustice, her lack of love for God and others.
How long will she bear this righteous anger? Until the Lord pleads her cause and executes judgment for her. The words for “executes judgment” are literally “do justice.” This brings us back to Micah 6:8 about what the LORD requires of his people. Jerusalem waits for God to “do justice” for her.
What will happen when he does justice for her? She says he will bring me out to the light. The Lord is her light and he will bring her out to the light from darkness. She says she shall look upon his vindication. The word here is “righteousness.” This brings us back to 6:5 where God said his actions in rescuing Israel from Egypt were so that they may know the righteous acts of the LORD. There God was providing evidence that he always does right by the people with whom he is in relationship. He always acts rightly. Jerusalem is expecting to see God act rightly on her behalf, to see God “do justice” on her behalf.
Verse 10 makes clear what that will look like:
10 Then my enemy will see,
and shame will cover her who said to me,
“Where is the Lord your God?”
My eyes will look upon her;
now she will be trampled down
like the mire of the streets. (Micah 7:10)
God uses nations to do his will in the world, like punishing his disobedient people. But those nations often also need to be judged for their own pride, wickedness, and worship of other gods. They showed their pride as they took control of Jerusalem by asking, “Where is the Lord your God?” They didn’t realize that the only reason they could take Jerusalem was because God let them.
But Jerusalem here says they will be put to shame and she will look on them trampled down in the mud of the streets. She will be lifted up and they will be brought down. Their situations will be reversed, so she says don’t rejoice over me now. This is how God will do justice for her: he will judge the enemy’s wickedness while also lifting her up.
Announcement of What That Day of Reversal Will Be Like (7:11-13)
Verses 11 through 13 are an announcement to Jerusalem of what that day of reversal will be like:
11 A day for the building of your walls!
In that day the boundary shall be far extended.
12 In that day they will come to you,
from Assyria and the cities of Egypt,
and from Egypt to the River,
from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.
13 But the earth will be desolate
because of its inhabitants,
for the fruit of their deeds. (Micah 7:11-13)
Jerusalem’s broken walls will be rebuilt. The borders of Israel will be extended. Other nations will even come to Jerusalem, a sign that they have put their trust in God and abandoned their gods.
But everything outside of Jerusalem will be desolate - a wasteland. Why? Because of its inhabitants. It’s the fruit of their deeds - their pride, their injustice, their selfishness, and all that defines humanity living without God. This is the reality outside of God’s kingdom: it’s a kingdom of death.
Prayer to God (7:14-17)
The next section starts with the prayer Micah was confident God would hear in verse 7. Verse 14 says:
14 Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
who dwell alone in a forest
in the midst of a garden land;
let them graze in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old. (Micah 7:14)
All throughout this book, Micah has dropped messages of hope. Sometimes they were short and sometimes they were long. One of the consistent themes in those messages was the hope of God coming to shepherd his people (2:12-13, 4:8, 5:1-6). Here, Micah prays to God as their shepherd. He calls them “the flock of your inheritance”. Throughout the Bible, God says he will give his people an inheritance to look forward to and take possession of. But God says his people are his inheritance that he looks forward to and takes possession of.
Bashan and Gilead refer to land on the east side of the Jordan River which is technically outside of the Promised Land but when Israel was about to enter, two of the tribes asked to settle out there. It was rich, fertile land. This is a prayer for God to protect and guide his people with his staff and to lead them in green pastures.
Verse 15 is God’s answer to the prayer:
15 As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
I will show them marvelous things. (Micah 7:15)
This is exodus language. God is going to do a new exodus, defeating their enemies, rescuing them and redeeming them.
In verses 16 and 17, Micah describes the results among the nations of the world:
16 The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;
they shall lay their hands on their mouths;
their ears shall be deaf;
17 they shall lick the dust like a serpent,
like the crawling things of the earth;
they shall come trembling out of their strongholds;
they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God,
and they shall be in fear of you. (Micah 7:16-17)
Anyone who felt proud of their greatness and might will be ashamed. They will be speechless. They will bow down in the dirt like snakes in submission. They’ll come trembling out of their fortresses, turning to God in dread and fear.
This is what happened in the exodus. With his might and power, God brought them out of Egypt and he defeated other nations along the way. The people of Canaan trembled in fear at what they heard about Israel’s God.
The cross is our symbol of salvation. We have art and t-shirts and keychains and tattoos and whatever else with the cross on it. If Israel had these things, the exodus would be on it. The exodus is their symbol of salvation, especially the moment when they crossed the Red Sea and God drowned the armies of Egypt in the water.
God says he is going to lead them in a new exodus. The salvation that Micah looks for is another exodus out of slavery with the defeat of the enemies who oppress them. If you remember from Luke 1, this is exactly what Zechariah’s song was about: God was doing a new exodus through the birth of Jesus.
Concluding Praise by God’s Remnant (7:18-20)
The book concludes with a praise for the whole community of the faithful to recite together. In the previous verses, Micah talked about how God was going to put the other nations to shame with his power, cause them to be speechless, they’ll bow down in submission, they’ll come trembling from their strongholds, they’ll turn in dread to God and fear him. Then in verse 18, Micah asks: “who is a God like you?” It’s a rhetorical question and rhetorical questions have an assumed answer. When he asks the question “who is a God like you”, the assumed answer is “no one”. No one is like God. This book ends with a reflection on what makes God completely unique.
After what Micah just said, we’d expect him to reflect on God’s power and might to defeat their enemies: “Who is a God like you, powerful enough to defeat all our enemies, making all the nations bow in fear of you?” But that’s not what Micah does. Of course, no one is as powerful or as mighty as God. But what really makes God stand out? Let’s read and see:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)
So what makes God like no one else? It’s the way he deals with sinners. Here’s our big idea for today: God is one of a kind in how he deals with our sin. God is one of a kind in how he deals with our sin. There’s no one like him. He is completely unique.
Israel is suffering the consequences of their unfaithfulness to God. But that’s not the end of the story. Micah’s name means “who is like the LORD?” and his book ends asking that question. He doesn’t reflect on God’s judgment or his power over enemies. He reflects on how God deals with our sin. The words here are inspired by God’s own description of himself in Exodus 34:6-7, which become words that the people of Israel cherished. They came back to them again and again because they show up all over the Old Testament. They needed the reassurance and of these words that tell them their God is one of a kind in dealing with sin.
So how does he deal with our sin? He pardons. He passes over transgression. At this moment, Israel was bearing the righteous anger of God, but God will not be angry forever because he delights in steadfast love. This is our word hesed we’ve seen so many times recently: God’s compassionate, loyal love for his covenant partners in dire need. He cannot stand by and do nothing when the people he is committed to need him. Compassion wells up within him, he does not break his commitment even though they have, he will come to them in their dire need. He will again have compassion on them.
I love the image in verse 19: “He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” When Moses led the people through the Red Sea, the armies of Egypt were drowned in it. But what gets drowned in verse 19? God will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. In this new exodus, God not only defeats the enemies who oppress his people: he defeats their sin as well. God does all this in showing faithfulness and steadfast love to Israel’s ancestors: Jacob and Abraham. He is keeping his ancient promises to them.
When Jesus showed up, people expected him to defeat Israel’s enemies in power and glory. They expected him to free them from the Roman Empire that oppressed them. But what did he do? He came as the Good Shepherd to shepherd the people of God. He came to tread our iniquities under his feet, to cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. He came to show that there is no one like God when it comes to pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression. We are a whole world that has turned away from God but what does God do? God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Through Jesus, people of all nations are turning to God in faith. And at the end of history when Jesus returns in glory, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. his Lordship will be undeniable
So how does God deal with us when we sin? When you disobey God this week, what will God do? When you sin in thought, word, or deed, how does God react? How does he treat you? What does he do about it?
We tend to have an inadequate understanding of how God responds to sin in his children. It’s rooted in our misunderstanding of grace. We go between the extremes of legalism (all law) and licentiousness (no law or lawlessness).
If you think God deals with you using all law, then you have an easy time believing that God sees your every sin and mistake and that he takes it very seriously. But if you see him through this lens, you probably have an unhealthy fear of him. You think that his love and affection for you goes up and down based on your obedience. You think that he is always disappointed with you and waiting for you to get your act together. You think that God is fed up with you and it’s up to you to make him happy. If that’s you, you are missing grace in your life.
If you think God deals with you using no law, then you think God forgives everything automatically and never sees your sin so he is always pleased with you. You think God accepts you just as you are; there’s no need to change. You see God as totally loving and he couldn’t be any other way. God is never displeased or disappointed with your actions. You think this is what it means for God to be gracious. If that’s you, you are misunderstanding grace.
Some of you may start as the first one. You might sin and feel really bad about it. You wallow in guilt and shame. You beat yourself up. But then you realize: “No, God gives grace.” So then you swing over to the second one and tell yourself that everything is ok, Jesus died for your sin. You don’t need to feel bad about it or feel guilty. God isn’t bothered by it so you shouldn’t be either.
Let’s be clear: that’s not grace. These are two opposite and unhealthy extremes and neither one of them is biblical grace. Neither one of them is what a relationship with God looks like. Neither one is how God deals with our sin once we have trusted in Jesus.
Grace means your sin doesn't put your relationship with God at risk. Your relationship with God isn't in jeopardy and at risk of falling apart every time you disobey. Grace means that God isn't done with you when you sin. Grace means you don't have to be afraid God is going to reject you, condemn you, abandon you, or hate you because of your sin. Grace means God isn't going anywhere. Grace means God doesn't deal with us as our sins deserve. Grace means God's love doesn't fluctuate based on your obedience. His commitment to you doesn't go up and down depending on how good you are. You are no less safe with him and no less loved by him when you sin. That's grace.
Some people apply the teaching of the Bible by saying: "When God looks at you, he doesn’t see your sin, he sees Jesus." That’s not true. What is true is that when God looks at you he doesn’t see a sinner. That’s not who you are to him anymore. You are no longer a sinner, enemy, and rebel. When God looks at you, he sees his beloved child. In union with Christ, you have his status, standing, and position before God with all its rights and privileges. That’s who you are and what you do doesn’t change that.
While this is true, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t take our sin seriously. We tend to think it’s either one or the other: either God takes my sin seriously OR God loves no matter what, I am safe with him, and I have nothing to worry about in my relationship with him. In other words, we don’t believe what this passage teaches us: that God is discipling them AND that he still loves them, is committed to them, and isn’t done with them.
We have a hard time believing both can be true: that God takes my sin seriously and that he loves me and I’m safe with him. Why? Because so few people do both well. When you were growing up, you might have had one parent who felt safe and let you get away with a lot and another parent who was the rule enforcer. Or one of your parents might have swung back and forth between the two.
God can be grieved by our sin. God can be displeased by our actions. God does discipline us as a good and wise Father. But grace doesn't mean that God ignores our sin. In fact, grace means God is committed to freeing us from our sin. Titus 2 says that the grace of God has appeared both bringing salvation to all people and training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives (Titus 2:11-12).
What Micah wrote here helped those who were still faithful to God look to him with faith and hope in the middle of the discipline. They also would help those who repented and turned back to God. So what do they tell us about responding to God’s discipline in our lives?
First, accept God’s discipline. When Jerusalem is talking, she bears God’s indignation because she has sinned against him. God is acting faithfully in the relationship. He is doing what he said he would do. He is relating to them how he said he would relate to them. He’s upholding his end of the covenant.
Second, believe God is near. Notice that the faithful aren’t asking, “Where are you God?” Their enemies are asking them where their God is, but they aren’t asking that. Hebrews 12 says in our relationship with God, we should expect to be disciplined. In fact, it’s a sign that we are in relationship with him. If he wasn’t disciplining us and just leaving us to our own sin, he wouldn’t be treating us as sons. Discipline comes from a Father who loves us, not from a Father who has left us or is fed up with us.
Third, trust God’s good purposes. The nation of Israel was a mixture of people who were faithful to God and many who were unfaithful. But the punishment affected all of them. This passage is for those who are still faithful to God. It is full of hope even as they undergo the punishment for their sin. God is not done with their nation. God is not done with Jerusalem.
We may undergo God’s discipline as a church together. We may undergo God’s discipline as individual children. In all of it, we can be full of hope knowing that God is not done with us. Hebrews 12:10-11 says:
[B]ut he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10b-11)
In order to make us into who he wants us to be, we often need to be shown the emptiness and destructiveness of the path we are on. God needs to let us experience the ugliness of our sin for ourselves before we will turn from it. God loves us enough to not rescue us from all our sinful decisions.
Fourth, pray his promises. As they went through God’s discipline, the people of Israel prayed for restoration and for God to shepherd them. This is what he said he would do. We hold onto all that is true about what God has said. It doesn’t change.
Lastly, be amazed by God’s grace. Are we a people whose jaws drop at God’s grace? Do we say, “I don’t deserve this relationship. I’m such a mess. On my best days I’m a million miles from living up to earning anything God has given me. My whole life is a living testimony to God’s grace. I’m called a beloved child of God. That would be the biggest joke in the universe if it weren’t true!”
How does he deal with our sin? Yes he disciplines us so we can be free of sin. But he isn’t angry forever. He doesn’t hold a grudge and hold it over you. He doesn’t carry bitterness or resentment. He pardons us. He forgives us for our lack of commitment. He remains committed when we are not. He delights in steadfast love. He has compassion. He get rid of our sin - he casts all of them into the depths of the sea. He doesn’t trample on us under his feet - he tramples on our sin!
God is one of a kind in how he deals with our sin. There’s no one like him.
As a community, we can show each other and the world what our God is like by being radically committed to one another even as we correct sin in one another and work toward transformation. What does grace look like, sound like, and feel like? Grace says, “You sinned. You really messed up and that’s not ok. I still love you. I’m committed to you. You are safe with me. I’m not going anywhere. I want to work through this. I want to walk alongside you in this.”
Never addressing sin isn’t grace. Overlooking sin and tolerating sin isn’t grace. A community where sin is never corrected or talked about isn’t a gracious community. The person sinning never gets to actually experience grace because they are just doing what they want to do and think it’s fine or are hiding it or hoping no one noticed. But when it’s brought to the light they have to choose whether they are going to receive grace or not or whether they are going to fight or run away. And the people correcting have the opportunity to actually show grace.