Monday, December 12, 2016

Who is a God like you?

I preached the last two chapters of Micah at Cowley Church Community yesterday.  A lot of the material was familiar to us from the last couple of weeks - Judah's sin, God's judgement.  But there were two main new things.  One is in Micah 6:6-8:
With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
This passage follows on from a plea from God, who recounts his history with Israel, and asks plaintively how he has burdened them that they should turn against him?  Judah's response should not be read as a genuine groping after some way to atone for sin and restore relationship with God.  It is rather an attempt to buy God off.  What can I give you so that you will leave me alone?  But God will not leave Judah alone; not for anything.  There is no offering they could give that would divert his attention from them, precisely because they are loved.  God will have their hearts and lives, entire and complete.  He will have them walk with him.  His determination to bestow his love on his people is what leads to his judgement on their sin!

Question: how do I try to buy God off?  What activities or things do I offer him, whilst still really desiring to maintain some little sphere of my own, independent of his love?

 The second really new thing is in Micah 7:8-9.  The previous chapters have shown that after judgement Judah will be restored.  But here is the dramatic revelation that God himself will turn from being their judge to being their advocate:
Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.
Because I have sinned against him,
I will bear the Lord’s wrath,
until he pleads my case
and upholds my cause.
Micah does not minimise either the horror of the judgement on Judah, or the extent to which it is well deserved.  But he looks beyond it, to the mercy of God which is sure to come.  And that leads to praise!
Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry for ever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Who is a God like this?  Who turns in mercy to his sinful, rebellious people?  A God who delights, not in judgement, but in mercy?

And then from the perspective of the New Testament: who is a God like this, who not only lifts us when we have fallen, not only gives us light when we sit in darkness, not only pleads for us after we have borne the wrath of the Lord - but actually comes down to us in our fallen state, actually sits in the darkness of the fallen world and finally the darkness of the tomb, actually bears the weight of his own wrath against sin in our place?  Who is a God like this?  Is there any but Jesus?

Question: does the God I worship and live for and preach look like this?  If so, why don't I worship him more joyfully, live for him more wholeheartedly, preach him more passionately?

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