One criticism often made of “the God of the Old Testament” (as if he’s different from the “God of the New Testament”) is that he’s a God of wrath, rather than a God of mercy.
I think the problem for the most part is that people don’t look closely enough at the Old Testament. They see the instances of God’s wrath, but miss the instances of mercy. (I could also say that many people see the instances of God’s mercy in the New Testament, but miss the instances of judgment — namely in Matthew and Revelation, but in other places as well).
But here in Micah, we see both God’s wrath and mercy. Micah says in verse 9,
Because I (that is Israel) have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath …
“See!” people will say. “Look. There it is! God’s wrath. I do something wrong, so God nails me to the wall for it!”
But look at the last half of that verse.
…until he pleads my case, and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.
As I read that verse, it calls to mind Romans 8, where Paul says,
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died — more than that who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (33-34)
What we see here in these two passages, both Old and New, is that while God brings judgment, he is also our lawyer for those who belong to him. Jesus stands by our side and argues our case. What does he say?
“Father, I have already paid the price for this person’s sin. His debt has been paid.”
And so the Father says, “Fine. Justice has been served. Your sins are forgiven and you’re free to go.”
I love the last part of Micah where he says,
Who is a God like you who pardons sins and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever 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. (18-19)
I love the picture here. Instead of stomping on us for our sins, God stomps on our sins. Instead of throwing us off the side of the ship bound in chains, he bundles up our sins and throws them over the side of the ship, sinking them into the depths of the sea. That’s our God. Not only a God of wrath, but a God of mercy.
The last verse in Micah where it says, “You will be true to Jacob and show mercy to Abraham,” holds true for us as well.
As John wrote,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Lord, I thank you for your mercy. That you stand by my side in the courtroom of the Father and that you defend me. I thank you for dying for my sin so that I might be forgiven. Lord your grace is so incredible. Let me never wallow in the guilt of my sin, but let me bask in your grace, free from guilt, and unashamed in your presence. In Jesus name, amen.