Pastor Michael Bowman
“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. 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. 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)
Is there any God like the Lord? The obvious answer is no, but what sets him apart? In large part what sets the Lord apart from false gods is his forgiveness. In this passage, Micah draws on themes from many ideas in Scripture, and it would do us well to think through some of these ideas again even if we have covered them already.
First the Lord is a God who pardons iniquity and passes over transgressions. He does this for his people, “the remnant of his inheritance.” How does he do this? There is a hint in the phrase that he “passes over transgressions.” What does that remind you of? Hopefully it will remind you of the night of passover. Passover began after the final plague in Egypt, the Angel of death which claimed the firstborn of all the Egyptians. The only way the Israelites were kept from the same judgement as those around them was because, trusting in the Lord, their homes were covered by the blood of a lamb which was put on their doorposts. This was symbolic of something that God actually continued to do until the coming of Christ. The propitiatory work of Christ on the Cross was done in part, “to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Rom. 3:25) He passed over the sins of his people because they were covered in the blood of the lamb of God, the one who would come and make an end to their sin. That is why God could pardon them.
Second, the sins of the people would be cast into the depths of the sea. The idea here is one that we’ve already looked at. The sins will be taken far away. They will no longer define the people, they will no longer be central to their identity, they will no longer be held over their head. They will be done away with completely. To cast something into the depths of the sea was to cast it somewhere from which it could never return. There is no sin coming back to haunt you if it has been forgiven by the Lord.
Third and finally is this phrase, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot.” His compassion will be made known through treading underfoot our iniquities. I would propose that this phrase is also meant to remind us of something that God has promised earlier in Scripture. In Genesis 3:15 while God is cursing the serpent he includes a promise, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Someday a child born of the woman would come and crush the head of the serpent under his foot, though in doing so he would be wounded.
I think Micah is drawing on this image. Our iniquity, our sinful nature, God was going to crush it under his foot. He would make an end to it out of his compassion for us. This is exactly what forgiveness in Christ is. Christ was wounded on the cross, his heel was bruised, but he also dealt the finishing blow to our sin. The sin that once defined us was tread under the feet of God, his wrath was poured out, and it was done that you might be forgiven.