“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.” (Micah 7:18)
The prophet whose name means, “Who is like Yahweh?” ends his prophetic message to God’s people with that question. It is the main theme of the book of Micah. Though Israel and Judah will undergo devastating discipline due to their grievous sins, God is not only going to save a remnant from them (2:12), but He is also going to send a King through whom even Gentiles will be saved and turn to the Lord (4:1-2). Who is a God like Him who is, “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exod 34:6-7).
There is no other god like God. What other god forgives iniquity? What other god removes completely the guilt of sin from their people by casting their sin into the depths of the sea? What other god continues to show faithfulness and steadfast love to his people even when his people are disobedient? Yahweh is not like the petty gods of Greek mythology, the limited, nationalistic gods of Assyria or Philistia, or any of the other gods that demand constant appeasement through works. No other god does forgiveness like Yahweh.
When Yahweh declares that someone is His—righteous, holy, innocent, and morally clean—they really are! When He forgives a person of their sin, those sins are removed completely. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:11-12). The question is, how can a holy, righteous, and just God pardon iniquity, pass over transgression, and tread our iniquities underfoot? Paul answers this question in Romans 3:21-26, what many Bible interpreters call the most important paragraph in the Bible.
After spending two and a half chapters meticulously detailing how all of humanity, Jew and Gentile, are guilty before God and that it is impossible to be justified by works (3:19-20), Paul writes,
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.Romans 3:21-26
God justifies the sinner, His enemy (Rom 5:6-11), by faith through nothing else than His sheer grace and mercy displayed in the all-sufficient, one-time, wrath-satisfying sacrifice of His own Son’s on the sinner’s behalf. Why would God send His own Son to die for His people’s sins? Why would He remain faithful to Jacob and Abraham when their descendants have continually broken their part of the covenant, thus giving God every right to abandon them? Because He “delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18). It’s not because we are able to perform enough sacrifices, or donate enough money to His causes, or have anything that is of equivalent worth to cover our iniquity (Micah 6:6-8), nor is it because we are special and God cannot live without us. Nor is it because we have some righteousness in ourselves that God looked down the corridor of time and saw that we would eventually come around to His way of thinking. No, God sent His Son to die in our place out of His own good pleasure and grace.
Who is a God like Yahweh? Who is a Savior like Christ? Who is a teacher like the Holy Spirit? Knowing that this is the one true God’s character, how can we not turn from our sin and fall on His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus?