Our text tonight is taken from the final chapter of Micah, particularly the last three verses: “Who is a God like you, taking away guilt 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 return again. He will show compassion to us. He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins. You will show faithfulness to Jacob, steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old (Mic 7:18-20). These words, spoken by the Holy Spirit, are one of the most beautiful gospel passages in the Old Testament. They bring us great comfort and peace. They remind us of Christ’s victory on the cross over sin and death. They teach us that we are but pilgrims on earth, that heaven is our final home.
But there are days when these wonderful promises of God seem to fall short. Yes, it’s a great comfort to have the hope of heaven, but for most of us, that day is far in the future. What about today? Today, we suffer pain and sorrow. Today, we experience heartbreak and betrayal. Today, we know that we should feel thankful and blessed, but the troubles of life are relentless; they just keep piling on. There’s some comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one. At the beginning of Micah’s final chapter, he too cries out, “Woe is me!” Ever feel like this? Sometimes you take stock of your life, comparing your dreams with reality, and then you cry out with the prophet, “Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has already been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned: there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires” (Mic 7:1). You’ve seen the corn fields after the harvest – lifeless stalks in the dry ground. Does this describe you? Once everything was green and fruitful, but now the reapers have come and gone. Nothing is left except stubble and your enemy says to you, “Where is the Lord your God?” (Mic 7:10).
But look past your own troubles for a moment. Look around you at this broken world. “Woe is me,” cries the prophet, “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul” (Mic 7:2-3). These words, spoken by the Holy Spirit over two-thousand years ago, apply perfectly to us today. Our rulers and courts make unjust laws. The guilty are protected and the innocent oppressed. Gross sin is celebrated in our streets and virtue (when it is found) is despised. The name of Christ is blasphemed, his followers are persecuted, and your enemy says to you, “Where is the Lord your God?”
It hurts to look around at all the suffering in the world, but its hurts far more when that suffering finds its way into your home. The prophet cries out, “Woe is me! For the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for a man’s enemies are of his own household (Mic 7:5-6). This is the suffering that hurts us the most: estrangement, divorce, sickness, or death. The doctor finds a malignant cancer, or the other car doesn’t stop at the red light. The person you love most leaves you, or betrays you, and your enemy says to you, “Where is the Lord your God?”
“Why?” we ask, “Why am I suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people?” But we Christians know the truth: there are no good people. The root of the evil in this world, in our families, in our own lives, is not somewhere out there. The root is here, in my own sinful heart. “Woe is me!” cries the prophet, “For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips!” (Is 6:5). The problem with this world is not the Democrats or the Republicans. The problem with your family is not that teenagers are rebellious or Uncle Harry is a jerk. The problem is sin – not the sins of those people out there, but my sin, your sin. Woe is me! I am by nature sinful and unclean. I have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. I have not loved God with my whole heart. I have not loved my neighbor as myself. The good things I want to do I don’t do, and the evil that I don’t want to do I find myself doing (Ro 7:19), and my enemy says to me, “Where is the Lord your God?”
How do you answer? There is no one else to blame. There is no more pointing the finger. Woe is me! And it can’t be fixed. Your sinful nature can’t be reformed. Another broken promise to do better and try harder won’t help. Before the crushing accusation of the Law the only answer is to plead guilty. “All these charges are true, but I appeal to the gospel!” As for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. 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. 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 (Mic 7:7-9).
Your enemy says to you, “Where is the Lord your God?” How do you answer? Here! Here is my God – upon the cross I prepared for him! Here, in my stead, he became the field that was harvested bare (Mic 7:1). We were the reapers, and we took everything from him, stripping away even his clothes. It’s true – there is no one upright among mankind; the only godly man has perished from the earth, because we were the ones who laid in wait for his blood (Mic 7:2). We rose up against God our Father and Creator, and we treated his Son with contempt. Yes, the enemies of our Lord were the children of his own household (Mic 7:6). But, even so, we cling to hope, for though we were his enemies, Christ died for us. While we were lost in sin and darkness, our Shepherd came and sought us. We added sin to sin by crucifying our own God, but he bore our sins gladly. We sought his death, and in exchange he gave us eternal life.
Who is a God like you, taking away guilt and passing over transgression? He did not retain his just anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love. He has again shown compassion on you. He has trampled your iniquities underfoot. He has cast into the depths of the sea all your sins. He has shown faithfulness to Jacob, steadfast love to Abraham, as he promised to our fathers from the days of old (Mic 7:18-20, alt.).
We still live here in this broken world. We still suffer the effects of sin. We all have messed up lives and messed up families. Yet we do not suffer and grieve as those who have no hope. For we have a Great Shepherd who walks with us in every trial. We have a faithful High Priest who knows our suffering, and has suffered, himself, on our behalf. We have our brother and Savior, Jesus, who has gone ahead of us as the first to enter the glory of heaven. His promise cannot be broken. His Word gives you true comfort and peace – today, tomorrow, and always. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:10-11).