Trinity 3 2021
June 20, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Do you know someone who no matter how hard you try, you just don’t understand them? The way they think, something they say or do, the manner they approach issues, or how they treat people. No matter what it may be, it just doesn’t make sense to you. The way they are is so different, so foreign, that you just can’t wrap your head around it all.
This is the sort of feeling we are left with after hearing from the Old Testament prophet, Micah. Micah poses the question, “Who is a God like you?” which is fairly humorous given that is what Micah’s name actually means. He poses this question because he, Judah and Israel, and all the nation of the world are just… flabbergasted.
This reading takes place at the end of his prophetic book. Micah is prophesying to Judah more than 700 years before Jesus’ birth. He looks around at this country and sees a mess. Micah rebukes the people of God severely for their idolatry. He holds before them in no uncertain terms the consequence of their sinfulness – idolatry leads to judgement, destruction, death. Yet throughout it all, Micah refers to the Messiah and His kingdom. His meaning throughout is that even though Israel and Judah will fall to pieces, the Messiah will come and make all things good.
Who is a God like you? This is mystery of faith. People seek to answer this question in all kinds of ways. The problem that Micah highlights though is that every comparison, every attempt of analogy or metaphor ultimately fails. Some of the most dangerous words are “God is like…” which more often than not, leads to misbelief or to an idolatry that seeks to make a god in our image according to our own understanding.
Micah doesn’t seek to answer his namesake question by comparing God to anything else. In fact, that is the whole point. God is so unlike everything else, His ways and His actions are beyond our understanding, “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways,” God says about Himself in Isaiah 55:8-9. Who is a God like you???
What makes our God different from all other gods, what makes Christianity different from all other religions is His very incomparability. Micah highlights two points, first, the incomparability of God in His power, in His victory that extends through all the world. Wars can be waged, laws enacted, mandates applied but none of these can deal with the human problem. The enemy here is not a foreign army, politicians, countries. Rather the enemy is man’s own sin. The enemy is your sinfulness. And this is an enemy that you cannot defeat and that you cannot bear.
Four times in our text Micah includes three of the most frequent terms for sin: “iniquity or guilt” twice, transgression, and sin/missing the mark”. This highlights the problem with our relationship with God – people are sinners, and it is sin which has caused all the destruction and woe described in this book, in your life, in all of creation.
And so Micah confesses, “Who is a God like you, who pardon’s iniquity? Like a burden, iniquity/guiltiness of your sin is that which each person must carry. God’s people temporarily bear the consequence of sin, we can never atone for them. But it is only our God who bear our sins and who can deal with them. The word translated here as pardon literally means to bear or carry. God takes your burden upon Himself. Upon the cross, Jesus bears the sins the world, carrying away your guilt and shame, He strips death of its power and its permanency. Tread our iniquities under foot. Cast sins into the depths of the sin. God steps forth on behalf of all people to fight our battle for us. Who is a God like this? None other than the Triune God – the Father who sends His Son, Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. There’s no other God who bears the sin of the world and conquers death by dying Himself. There is no other Messiah who died so that you may live. There’s no other Messiah who lives never to die again.
Likewise, Isaiah confesses of the great Suffering Servant doing what only God Himself can do, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted… 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.” (Isaiah 53:4, 6). Then again, John the Baptist confesses, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of world.” This is part of our joyful song as the Lord’s Supper is prepared as we prepare for Jesus to take the burden of our sin. This is a hymn of praise to God, who utterly baffles the world with His fierce and mighty power in subduing the nations, but especially in His steadfast love, compassion, in His faithfulness.
The uniqueness of God, His incomparability, comes not just in His power over sin and death, but in His completely undeserved favor toward sinners. He goes after wandering sinners, brings joy to the angels of God by bringing sinners to repentance and faith. Christ gives you His forgiveness of all your sins. While judgment comes over sin, God’s wrath serves His mercy, as people are brought to confession and repentance so that He may forgives and restore by holy absolution.
Forgiveness by Christ is not an abstraction, it’s not some words that are said that carry no meaning. But it comes to you as the concrete forgiveness of the very iniquity of which you stand accused. Your sin is cast away, drowned in the sea as hard hearted Pharaoh and his army during God’s deliverance in the Exodus, and when you were baptized into God’s triune name. Death is trampled underneath the nailed pierced feet of Jesus. No matter the evil in your hearts, no matter what you might have thought, said, or done God’s forgiveness is yours in Christ. Jesus died only for sinners and forgives only sinners. No one else does this. No one else can. Therefore standing in the stead, and by the command of Jesus, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.