Midweek 5 – 2021 LSB #’s 420:1-4, 544, 420:5-7
Text – Micah 7:19b
You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
LOVE THAT DEALS THOROUGHLY WITH SIN
In the name of Jesus, who shows us great love by thoroughly removing our sins. Amen.
In the midweek Lenten services, we’ve been describing the dimensions of God’s love. We’ve considered specific ways that God shows that His love for us, in Christ, is enormous. Last week we heard how the forgiveness of sins is the greatest gift we could receive, & how God displays His rich love for us in this, by bringing His forgiveness to us in a multitude of ways.
This week, I want to take you on a tour of the many ways that the Bible describes what God does with our sin, by forgiving it. When we’re done, I hope you will be encouraged, & assured, & grateful for just how abounding God is in love, just how rich He is in mercy.
As covered last week, the forgiveness of sins is the deepest & most desperate need we have. Everything else in life will fall into place if God is on your side, & when your sins are forgiven, He is on your side. That your sins are forgiven means that God looks on you with favor. Come what may, He will warmly welcome you into His kingdom on the last day.
To get rid of our sins – to deal with our sins – what can I compare it to, this great need, this deepest & most desperate need? There once was a man whose backyard was being churned up & ruined by moles. Their raised tunnels were everywhere, & their raised piles of dirt dotted the yard. He grew determined to rid that yard of moles. He placed rodent poison in the tunnels. He set up menacing looking traps with a trip lever & sharp metal spikes.
He tried flooding them out of their tunnels with a water hose & then whacking them, when they emerged, with a shovel. He tried gassing them out of their tunnels by hooking up a hose to the exhaust pipe of his car. He even read somewhere that Juicy Fruit gum would kill moles, so he put that down there. Determined to kill or to banish the moles, he went about it about in every way conceivable. Kind of like God, in His great love for us, gets rid of the guilt of our sin, in just about every conceivable way, as we’ll hear in a moment.
For the record, God is more successful with our sin than this man was in his crusade against the moles. And, for the record, Juicy Fruit gum doesn’t do much of anything. But our need to be rid of our sin before God – it can’t be compared to the nuisance of some burrowing rodents in a backyard.
To what can we compare it? To the frantic need to be rid of a cancer growing inside of us? That’s closer. To the need to do something about a huge asteroid rushing toward earth, on its way to obliterate us? Yeah, that’s closer. But finally, nothing that can truly compare with the need to have our sin & guilt before God dealt with & removed.
There’s also nothing we can compare to the joy & freedom & blessing & hope that comes when, through Jesus Christ, God does just that: grants full pardon & forgiveness to His child. The brief passage from the OT, the closing verses of Micah 7, share this good news with us:
“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity & passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance?
He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob & steadfast love to Abraham,
as You have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.”
The book of Micah is not all sunshine & roses. God sent the prophet Micah to rebuke His people for their injustices & their unbelief. The rich were oppressing the poor. The political rulers & the religious leaders had become greedy & corrupt. The people had turned aside to false gods & false hopes. Micah warned God’s people that terrible judgment was coming, & come it did. During Micah’s lifetime, the northern ten tribes of Israel were wiped out by foreign invaders, & the southern kingdom of Judah nearly was also. Yet, interspersed between Micah’s strong warnings & threats are repeated announcements of hope. A new ruler will come; a new king will be born, in Bethlehem, of Judea.
All nations of the earth will stream to the God of Israel – to know Him, to learn of His ways. As read in the beautiful closing verses of Micah, God Himself will take the great problem of the people’s sin into His own hands. He will show faithfulness & steadfast love to His people. He will take His anger over sin, & set it aside, because He delights in showing love.
Now, what about all those sins & iniquities, what will God do with sinners & with their sins? He will display the greatness of His love in this, He will grasp hold of their sins & throw them to the ground, so He can tread them under His feet. He will take their enormous sins, & will trample them into nothingness under His even-more-enormous God-sized feet.
“He will tread our iniquities underfoot,” says Micah. Have you heard anything so wonderful? In Christ Jesus, God has done it: He has trounced & trampled upon & danced upon & stomped into nothing, every shred of your sin & guilt! And that’s just one of the ways the Bible talks about what God has done in dealing with your sin.
In this passage, Micah adds another totally different & wonderful description of what God does for you when forgiving your sin in Christ. He has taken your sin from you & cast it, thrown it, hurled it way out into the ocean, so that your sins have sunk into depths, never to be mentioned or heard of or noticed again, never again to bother you or separate you from His love.
In Jesus Christ, God has trampled your sins underfoot. He has cast all your sins, Micah says, into the depths of the sea. And our passage from Micah is just a taste, just an appetizer, of the rich feast of ways that the Bible describes for us & assures us that God has thoroughly dealt with our sins. Isaiah tells us that Christ has carried them. They were too heavy for us, so God lifted them from us & placed them on His son. Jesus carried them as a sacrificial lamb – as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus is like the OT scapegoat. Once a year, the high priest would confess his sins, & the sins of the whole people of God, while laying his hands on the head of a goat. The goat would then be sent off into the wilderness, carrying with him, far, far away, the sins of the people. It pictured the way that God would deal with our sins in His Son Jesus.
God has taken our sins, & the commandments that condemned us before Him, & has nailed them to the cross. That’s what Paul says in Colossians 2:13-14. And we could add that God has buried our sins in the tomb of Christ that when Jesus rose victorious, our sins did not rise with Him, but remain buried forever in that tomb.
As we just heard from Micah, God has removed our sins from us & cast all of them, into the depths of the seas. Psalm 103 says something similar: “[God] does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities... as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” As far as the east is from the west!
If you go to Google Maps & check the distance between Holt & Chicago it is 224 miles. If you check the distance between Pittsburgh & Portland it’s 2571 miles. But if you ask Google how far the east is from west – it cannot answer that for you. In fact, if you Google it, it will just take you to discussions of the verse from Psalm 103.
Children of God, through the saving work of Jesus Christ, your heavenly Father has removed your sins far, far, far from you – as far as the east is from the west, which cannot even be measured. Galatians 3:27 says that sinners have been clothed with Christ, so that our sinful garments have been covered, & can be seen no longer. Isaiah says, God has clothed sinners in a
robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10) Acts 22:16 tells us that God has washed away our sins.
Isaiah was in terror when he saw the Lord. He exclaimed; I am a man of unclean lips & I live among a people of unclean lips, & my eyes have seen the Lord. Yet, in Zephaniah, God promises that in the day of Messiah, He will give the people a purified speech with which to pray & to praise Him.
God has made you pure & clean, dear friends, from head to toe, because of Jesus. Your life is clean before Him; your heart is pure in His eyes; your praises are acceptable to Him from clean & forgiven lips. And that is how God will see you in the great judgment, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:
“Christ loved the church & gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy & without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25–27)
The Word of God says that in His mercy, He will refine His people. As gold or other precious metals are corrupted with impurities, God’s forgiveness is like a fire which burns away all that is worthless & foul – our sins – leaving something golden & precious to God in its place.
Holy Scripture says that God “blots out” your sin. God keeps books, & in His righteous judgment He warns that the name of the wicked will be blotted out forever, erased from the book of life. But in His great mercy, in many Bible passages, God assures us that for Jesus’ sake He has taken pen & lots of ink to blot out all record, all mention of our sin from His books.
In this confidence, David prays in Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (51:1) And God not only blots out your sins in His books. God blots out your sins in His mind. Jeremiah foretells with joy the day when God, having sent Messiah, will forgive the people’s iniquity, & will remember their sin no more. (31:34) God, who sees all & knows all, who searches the depths of your heart, who knows the ancient past & knows already the things to come, the all-knowing God, for Jesus’s sake, in enormous love & mercy, has chosen to forget your sins.
That’s another way the Bible speaks of how God forgives, & it’s one of the best. He truly forgives & forgets! Because of Jesus, God will never mention your sins again. That’s because He’s already forgotten them.
Finally, the Bible says that God speaks your sins away. Because of Jesus’ saving work for you, God looks at you & declares, “You are righteous. You are without sin.” And if God says this, if God, who spoke all things into being, if he says to you, “For Jesus’ sake, you are righteous & innocent” – then you are righteous & innocent, without sin in His sight.
The Holy God encounters your great offense & sin. What happens when one encounters the other? With His mighty word, He speaks your sins away. Don’t picture God sitting still as a judge on His bench, whom you must stand before trembling, as he sits & looks on, perhaps doing you the favor of not damning you. The Bible paints for us a much different picture.
Our heavenly Father abounds in love & mercy. As Micah says, He delights in showing love & mercy. God doesn’t sit still at all, but is actively at work for your good. He has energetically dealt with your sins in Jesus Christ. And if God has borne your sins, & carried them off:
& nailed them to the cross, & buried them in Christ’s tomb,
& trampled them underfoot, & hurled them into the ocean,
& removed them from you as far as the east is from the west,
& covered them over, & clothed them with righteousness,
& washed them away, & purified & refined them,
& blotted them out from His book, & forgotten them from His mind,
& declared them gone --
then you can be very, very sure, dear friends, that your sins are gone.
Your sins that separated you from your Creator, which stood between you & your God, between you & joy in God’s presence forever – they are gone. And what remains between you & God is His enormous love, in Jesus Christ – forever. Amen.
O love, how deep, how broad, how high, beyond all thought & fantasy, that God, the Son of God, should take our mortal form for mortal’s sake! For us baptized, for us He bore His holy fast & hungered sore; for us temptation sharp He knew; for us the tempter overthrew. For us by wickedness betrayed, for us, in crown of thorns arrayed, He bore the shameful cross & death, for us He gave His dying breath. For us He rose from death again; for us He went on high to reign; for us He sent His Spirit here to guide, to strengthen & to cheer. Amen.
LSB 544:1, 3, 5-6.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet