Text: Micah 7:18-20
“Who is a God like you,” the prophet Micah asks, “pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression…[for] You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” These beautiful words were spoken through the prophet Micah some 700 years before our Lord took on flesh. In his ministry he prophesied that Jerusalem and the surrounding country would fall as punishment for their sins. But, then he also preached these wonderful words – and more like them. The Lord will not retain His anger forever or always punish, for He delights in showing mercy and steadfast love. In His great compassion, He will take all His peoples’ sins and cast them into the depths of the sea. This, He would do by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
I love this imagery – something being cast into the depths of the sea – because, even though I haven’t done that, I have dropped things to the bottom of lakes. Maybe you have, too. The idea is that, once it sinks, it’s gone. Of course, you can hire a diver and such – but for most things, we wouldn’t bother. Once something sinks to the bottom of a lake, it’s gone. Such has happened to our sins through Christ. Though we deserve, for our sins, to be cast ourselves into the depths of hell, the Lord has shown His steadfast love to us by casting our sins into the depths of the sea in Christ.
Micah is a prophet we don’t hear too much from over the course of the Church Year. We have this text today, and then we’ll hear from him once again toward the end of the year. Micah prophesied around the same general time as Isaiah, some 700 years before the birth of Christ. Other than that, we don’t know too much about him. What we do know about him is that he preached both Law and Gospel. Like Isaiah and like Jeremiah – who, a hundred years later, cited Micah’s sermons – much of Micah’s preaching is devoted to the Fall and Restoration of Jerusalem.
After the Exodus, God led His people for generations through Moses and Aaron, and then Joshua and Caleb. There were some rough spots during these times, but generally they were okay. Then, for centuries God led His people through the Judges. These were times of feast and famine. The people would abandon God, and He would allow them to be conquered. Then they’d pray, and He’d rescue them. But after a while, Israel asked for a king – and God knew that this would lead them down the wrong path. Still, He granted their wish. With few exceptions, as each king rose and fell, Israel grew farther and farther away from the Lord. They embraced sinful lifestyles.
Micah preached the Law to God’s people. It’s hard to hear his preaching and remember that Israel had further still to fall before its destruction. You don’t have to go far into the prophet to hear the chief source of Israel’s sin: idolatry. They had learned idol worship from the surrounding nations and embraced it. And, like we’ve learned before, transgressions against any Commandment are ultimately transgressions against the First. It’s also true that if you have the First Commandment wrong, the rest will follow. And so, they did in Israel. During Micah’s time, the people of God were promiscuous, covetous; they worked injustice toward each other, and, as a whole, had a general disregard for the Lord and His Word. Because of these things, Jerusalem would – and did – Fall.
But Micah is not a prophet of doom; he also preached the Gospel, as in our text today. The Law Micah preached was that, for their sins, Jerusalem would fall. The Gospel was that the Lord would return them from exile. He wouldn’t be angry at them forever. But, then it goes further. We heard these words, “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.” That’s the returning part. Then it goes further, “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.” Not only would the Lord not retain His anger against His people, but He return them from exile, He would also make their sins plain disappear – like treading them underfoot and casting them into the sea.
The thing is, we shouldn’t hear the preaching of the Law to God’s people in the Old Testament as if it’s something alien from us or has nothing to do with us. The same things which happened among Israel and led to the Fall, are present and continue in our lives. We do the same things. Maybe we think we’re better than they were because we can more easily sin in secret. Let’s examine ourselves for a moment and see where things really stand. A few minutes ago, I mentioned the sins that were prevalent among the people of Jerusalem; let’s compare ourselves.
The people of Jerusalem committed idolatry. They built idols and worshipped them. In our lives, what do we value above all other things? What do we spend our money doing, improving, and protecting? Be honest, if the answer isn’t Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, we’re committing idolatry and we are idolaters. Have we been as faithful to our spouses and as supportive of God’s institution of marriage as we could be? If not, we’ve broken the Sixth Commandment. Have we returned to the Lord in our offerings as regularly and as much as we should? If not, we have been covetous of the money and possessions that really belong to the Lord. That’s Commandments 7, 8, 9, 10, and 1. The same things which God’s people did then, the same sins they committed, we also do. That’s the second function of the Law. The Law first says what we should and shouldn’t do, then it shows that we still do them. We are sinners.
The wonderful thing, though, is that it’s not just the Law that Micah preached that also applies to us, but the Gospel, too. “Who is a God like You,” Micah asked, “pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression.” Though we deserve God’s anger and wrath, because we have transgressed against God’s Commandments, He has made His anger pass from us. Rather than demand our deaths for our sins, the Father placed His anger, wrath, and the punishment we deserve on His only-begotten Son. Jesus bore our sins and the sins of the whole world most willingly, because He knew that His death and His resurrection would bring this result, “our sins [are cast] into the depths of the sea.”
In Christ’s death, all our sins were cast as into the deepest, darkest, and furthest depths of the ocean. There is no sin that He did not die for, no transgression for which He did not atone. By nature of His being God, His death covers all sin, even our own. By His grace, through faith in Him, we are spotless in God’s eyes. Through Christ, God looks down upon us with only His Fatherly, divine, goodness and mercy. He does not wait and watch to use our sins against us, but He delights to show His steadfast love toward us. He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.
In this, God has made good on His promises. He has shown His faithfulness to Jacob and His love to Abraham. In Christ, God has tread our sins and Satan underfoot, just like He promised in Genesis 3. In this the love of God has been shown to us: He has taken our sins and thrown them into the depths of the sea. Instead of anger, He shows us only compassion and steadfast love. And, just like when we drop something in the lake, once it’s gone, it’s gone. So, also, our sin and guilt. Thanks be to God.
 Micah 7:18-20, English Standard Version.
 Micah 7:18-19.
 Micah 7:18.
 Micah 7:19.
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