Micah 7:18

Sermon preached on April 7, 2002 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Shortly before C.S. Lewis' wife died, she was in terrible pain. This greatly distressed Lewis. He hated to see his wife suffer. He wished he could do something to relieve the pain that she was enduring. It is reported that he sympathized with her so much that he actually asked God that he be given some of her pain in order that her suffering would be reduced.

I think that many of you can relate to his sympathy. If you've had someone close to you suffer terribly, I'm sure you felt the same emotions that Lewis did. You love the person who is suffering so much that you wish you could suffer instead of them. You want to enter into their suffering so that their pain would be relieved. Your heart goes out to them. You sympathize, you love. Your heart breaks. You do the best you can for them, but it seems too little.

God feels some of those emotions too. But God is not helpless. He not only has compassion on us when we suffer, but He has also entered into our suffering in order to deliver us from it. There is no only like the God that we serve. Listen to Micah here. He exclaims, (Micah 7:18)

"Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives
the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy."

The great truth that we see in our passage is that

our God is a God of mercy.

Now as we begin our look at God's mercy the first thing I want to say is that

it's vitally important that you have a good understanding of this attribute of God.

It's vitally important that you have a good grasp of God and His mercy. There are two reasons for this. First of all, mercy is one of the most wonderful and praiseworthy characteristics of God. A.W. Pink writes, (The Attributes of God, p. 72)

"For this perfection of the divine character God is greatly to be praised."

If you have a proper understanding of God and His mercy you will constantly be lifting up praise and thanksgiving to God. If you don't have a good understanding of God's mercy, you'll rob Him of the glory that is due to His name.

The second reason you should have a good grasp of God's mercy is because if you do, you'll be better able to point people to Christ. Even though God's mercy is one of the perfections that we human beings should be most praising Him for
—yet many people are so blinded to it—that they reject God and Christianity precisely because they don't see God as being merciful. Rather than accept that, we need to show them the glory and wonder of the mercy of God.

Some people look at the great suffering that exists in the world and they are disturbed by it. They ask,

"How could God allow this?"

They conclude that He couldn't so they end up denying that God exists. They're atheists in part because they don't see this glorious attribute of God.

Others believe in God, yet they are perturbed that God allows such suffering. In order to make things fit, they end up changing their conception of God. Because they don't have a good understanding of God's mercy—their conception of God becomes distorted and the God they end up with is nothing like the God of Scripture.

You'll remember the book from a few years ago, "
Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People". It was written by a rabbi who was struggling with the suffering of his son. His son had a disease which caused him to age very rapidly. His suffering was great and I believe that he died when he was in his early teens.

Rabbi K. struggled to make sense of the suffering of his son. He basically thought of it in terms of a dilemma. Either God was all powerful and not altogether good, or God was altogether good and yet not all powerful. He chose the latter solution. He concluded that God was totally good, that He didn't want all the suffering that existed in the world to exist, but that He wasn't powerful enough to stop it.

That's nonsense. The Bible teaches that God is all powerful and the He works all things after the counsel of His will. (Ephesians 1:11) The Bible also teaches that God is altogether good. Indeed, mercy is one of His perfections. Who is the God we serve?

He is a God who delights in mercy.

Think about it, God delights in mercy. He delights in showing mercy.

What do you delight in? Think of something that you absolutely delight in. What is it like to delight in it?

One of the things I delight in is new computers. Whenever I get a new Mac it's one of the most delightful experiences I know. Most of you have heard about the new flat-panel iMac. It's the coolest little computer ever. It's so cool, (according to what I read on the web) that many people who buy them are having what they call, "
Unpacking parties" when they receive their iMac. When it arrives they don't take it out of the box right away. Instead, they call their friends and neighbors and they wait until they all arrive and then they unpack it in front of them and have a party.

Now I didn't do that when we got our new iMac. I should have. But I never thought of it. I didn't know you could do that. But if you could have seen me unpacking our new iMac, you would have seen pure delight. I absolutely loved it.

But think about something you delight in. What's one of your most pure delights? Think of how much you enjoy it.

Now think of God and understand that He delights in mercy. It gives Him unbounded pleasure to show mercy. It delights Him. It gives Him the greatest joy. He delights in mercy.

Now what this means is that our God does not have a cold heart.

He has great sympathy for those who are suffering, for those who are in distress. Not only that but He is anxious to deliver them from their misery.

That's what God's mercy is all about. His mercy involves compassion. It involves kindness. It involves tenderness. It involves deliverance.

To understand this let's look at a few Scriptural passages. In Luke 7:11f we read,

"Soon afterward,
Jesus went to a town called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd
went along with him.
As he approached the town gate,
a dead person was being carried out —
the only son of his mother,
and she was a widow.
And a large crowd from the town was with her.
When the Lord saw her,
his heart went out to her..."

His heart went out to her. The sympathy that He had for her. What did He do? He went up to the widow and said,

"Don't cry."

Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

That story should move you to tears because it gives insight into God's mercy. It shows us that God is moved with compassion when He sees our suffering.
James 5:11 says that,

"The Lord is
full of compassion and mercy."

Notice how it puts compassion and mercy together. Compassion is an element in mercy. It's something that comes from His heart. Louis Berkhof writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 72),

"In His mercy God reveals Himself as a compassionate God, who pities those who are in misery and is ever ready to relieve their distress."

In Luke 1:78, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, referred to,

"the tender mercy of our God..."

Isn't the expression, 'tender mercy' wonderful? The NIV translation there actually reminds me of some of the phrases in the older translations that perhaps emphasize this more than the newer translations. The KJV of Psalm 25:6 reads,

"Remember, O LORD,
thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses;
for they have been ever of old."

I love those terms, 'tender mercies' and 'lovingkindness'. Those terms are all about mercy.

Indeed, He is the source of all mercy.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3 the apostle Paul speaks of how the Father comforts us in affliction. He writes,

"Praise be to the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion
and the God of all comfort,"

He is the Father of compassion. Today we're all familiar with the expression, "The Mother ofÖ" If something is so great that it is viewed as the source of all that class, we use that expression. For example, one could say of the harnessing of electricity, that it's, "The Mother of all inventions."

Our God is like that. He is the Father of all compassion and comfort.
Ephesians 2:4 tells us that our God is a God who is,

"rich in mercy."

John Calvin notes that God's fatherly love is,

"the source from which all other blessings flow."

Think of the nicest acts of mercy and kindness you have ever seen or heard about. Think about the most tender act of compassion you know of.

2 Corinthians 1:3f tell us quite clearly that they had their source in God. The people that did those things were enabled to do so because God gave those characteristics to them. Those acts of mercy didn't have their origin in them—but in God. Indeed, the demonstration of these characteristics were but faint shadows of the reality that exists in God.

He is the father of compassion, comfort and mercy. These things flow from Him. People can only display them because God gives them to them.
People who look at the suffering in the world and who are filled with compassion toward those who are suffering and who are perturbed that God allows it—are making an assumption that is totally wrong. They're assuming that they're more compassionate than God. They're assuming that they're more concerned about it than God is. They couldn't be more wrong. Their 'drop' of compassion comes from God's huge ocean of compassion. God has given them that compassion. He's given it to them out of His storehouse.

But there's even more. What has God done about the suffering in the world? He did something that astounded the heavenly host. He did something so great that it was the most wonderful thing that could ever be.

God Himself entered into the suffering of the world.

In Acts 20:28 the apostle Paul said to the Ephesians elders.

"Be shepherds of the church of God,
which he bought with his own blood."

God Himself came down from heaven and took our nature upon Himself. Jesus, who is nothing less than God incarnate, died for our sins. He died for our sins and was raised for our justification.

The greatest act of mercy that ever took place was what God did in Jesus Christ.

As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

"God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God."

Why is God able to show mercy?

One of things about mercy is that it presupposes sin and misery. Louis Berkhof summarizes the biblical teaching. He writes(Systematic Theology, p. 72),

"the mercy of God contemplates him [man] as one who is bearing the consequences of sin, who is in a pitiable condition, and who therefore needs divine help."

We see this quite clearly in Psalm 41:4. The psalmist said,

"O LORD, have mercy on me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you."

Mercy has to do with sinners. We also see it in Daniel 9:18 where Daniel prayed saying,

"Give ear, O God, and hear;
open your eyes and see
the desolation of the city that bears your Name.
We do not make requests of you
because we are righteous,
but because of your great mercy."

Daniel admitted that they were not righteous, that they were sinners. Hence he asked for mercy.

We also see this in
Psalm 51. David began that psalm with these words,

"Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions."

Mercy consists of God forgiving sin.

But how can God do that? The wages of sin is death and God's justice must be satisfied.

Why can God show mercy?

He is able to show mercy because He Himself paid the price that was due to our sins. You were redeemed with nothing less than the precious blood of Jesus. In 1 Peter 1:18f Peter wrote,

"For you know that it was not with
perishable things such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed
from the empty way of life
handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ,
a lamb without blemish or defect.
He was chosen before the creation of the world,
but was revealed in these last times for your sake."

What a God we have! Who is like Him?

"Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives
the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy."

Christians, praise God for His mercy.

Where would you be without it? We would be in absolute misery. We would be in hell. Why are we saved? In Titus 3:5 the apostle Paul wrote,

"he saved us,
not because of righteous things we had done,
but because of his mercy.
He saved us through the washing of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,"

Christians, praise God for His mercy. Isn't that what Peter did. In opening his epistle, he wrote, (1 Peter 1:3)

"Praise be to the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth
into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead,"

For you who are non-Christians,

God's mercy means that you should go to Jesus for salvation.

Don't abuse God's mercy. He has been so good to you. He has been merciful to you even though thus far you have rejected Jesus. We read about this in Psalm 145:9,

"The LORD is good to all:
and his tender mercies
are over all his works."

So far God has been merciful to you. Today He offers you even more mercy—He offers you salvation through Jesus Christ. He offers you the greatest offer of mercy that could ever be. Don't reject Jesus. He's your only hope.

Also, be assured that,

if you go to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, you should be absolutely sure that God will accept you, that God will forgive your sins.

In Isaiah 55:7 Isaiah said,

"Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD,
and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God,
for he will freely pardon."

God will accept you and grant you mercy. Do not waiver on this point. Remember Paul. He described himself as the chief of sinners. Yet what did he say about it?

"But for that very reason I was shown mercy
so that in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience
as an example for those
who would believe on him
and receive eternal life."

Paul was shown mercy so that you might know for sure that if you go to Jesus He will accept you. Go to Him. Go to Him now.