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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Who is Like God?

A God Like You

The Third Sunday after Trinity – 6/15/2024

Micah 7:18-20

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the book of the prophet Micah in the seventh chapter with special emphasis on verse eighteen which reads as follows:

 

“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.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                We often take it for granted that God is like He is. That is to say, we hear so often that God is merciful, loving, forgiving, and the like that it is second nature to us to think of God this way. And this is certainly a good thing! After all, this is exactly how God wants us to know Him in this way. This is the great motivation behind the incarnation, the becoming man of our Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. If God did not care for us such that His great love compelled Him to work His mercy on us, then we would not have seen the Lord go to the cross to do away with our sin.

                But, for the moment, lets suspend this biblical view of God. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of those who do not know God as He reveals Himself to us in the holy Scriptures. Instead, let us think of God in the manner of those people who have a view of God that we might call the pagan mindset. Let me explain what I mean.

                Paganism is something we often associate with the ancient world. And, to make sure we are all on the same page, we should recall that paganism is a religion that focuses on a few main things. Firstly, the pagans have a large number of gods that they worship. They do not care very much about which god or gods you follow unless you say things that would claim that your God is the only legitimate one. Basically, the pagan mindset allows for any and all religious claims and gods except for those that would claim that there is only one God or something like that. Secondly, paganism focuses on the here and now with little thought to the past or future. We Christians only understand the present in light of the past acts of God and the future fulfillment of His promises. Pagans do not think this way, they only worry about the present and the things needed for the moment. The corn harvest in a few months would be the extent of their long-range planning. As such, their lives are lived for the present only and their interactions with the gods are to make the present better. Thirdly, pagans believe that the gods must be interacted with by way of exchange. To put it another way, the gods will only help us out if we give them something they want, that is, sacrifices. Every pagan society I can think of has eventually gone the way of human sacrifice due to the high value of human beings making them a better offering to the gods than a pile of wheat.

                Now this view of things leads to a false understanding of God in one of two ways: either God is forgotten and buried under idols who blasphemously try to take the place that is properly His or God is viewed as being uncaring or disinterested in us. The first is characterized by false religion, the latter is distinguished by the lack of care given to truth in religion. Both are functionally forms of idolatry, that is to say, both are following of false gods whether one acknowledges their devotion or not.

The practical effect of all of this is that the pagan minded person lives a very shallow life, one that is not able to see beyond the immediate desires of the person. Certainly, this is something seen in much of the political discussions of our day: both parties are more than willing to make promises that seem great for those who benefit from them in the present but that will lead to harm down the road because of a profound lack of foresight. The same can be said of those who seem to make foolish decisions in health or finances without regard for their needs tomorrow.

But it is not just the pagans who have fallen prey to this: Christians too have allowed the pagan mindset to creep in. There is the obvious thing in those who blow off church for other things in the present. But, deeper than this, there are those times when God seems indifferent to us. Worse still are those times we let our feelings, which are by definition very focused in the present, dictate to us whether God’s Word and promises are true rather than the very Word Himself. More still we are constantly tempted to give into the pagan idea that doctrine is unimportant, that religion is just a set of personal ideas, and that it does not really matter who God is or how one relates to Him.

Make no mistake, the end of pagan thinking is death. And more than we would like to admit, we Christians too have fallen victim to the everything goes, feelings dominated, present focused, sort of thinking that characterized the pagan mindset. And our understanding of God suffers because such a view of things does not allow us to see God as He is, rather, it paints a picture of God as being disinterested or indulgent.

And such thinking would tell us that God is not in the business of mercy or grace, but instead, is in the business of either ignoring our plight or being a hard and exacting legalist. But this is not God. And, indeed, there are no gods like God. He is merciful and patient and long-suffering. He bears with us in our sins and trespasses, granting us mercy and grace that we do not deserve. We should never take this for granted. There are far too many times in our own lives and there are far too many people around us who do not know that God is merciful and gracious and loving toward us sinners who do not earn or deserve such treatment for us to become indifferent to this truth.

The gods of the pagans always demand sacrifice and otherwise do not care much for the plights of us mortals. The classic pagan gods like Thor and Zues and Baal had to be bribed to do anything for us. There really is no difference today. While most people who operate in a pagan way of thinking do not have gods that they would quickly identify as such, they still have them. Indeed, a god is that which you fear love and trust above all things, and everyone has something that fits that bill. And for those who live and think like pagans, there are certainly gods as well. It does not matter if the god is wealth, prosperity, indulgence, self, lust, or anything else, these gods do not care about those who follow them. They prove to be hard masters, always demanding more and caring little. The god of indulgence will give a good time for a weekend, but hangovers and empty pocketbooks are a hard dose of reality and the work needed to indulge enough to sate those desires is ever growing and hard to fill.

But the truth and living God is not like this. He loves us with a love so pure and perfect that it demands nothing from us to receive it. Faith is simply the passive receiving of God’s mercy and love. Where we and our idols all only extend love and care when it is earned, God freely loves us even that while we were still sinners He sent His Son to die for us and earn for us life and salvation.[2] God is love and because of His love, He is merciful and gracious to us. Who is like God? The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is no one. No one is like God. There is only One God. No one else rivals His power or His majesty. But even more, no one rivals His love, mercy, and grace for us sinners.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] Micah 7:20 English Standard Version

[2] Romans 5:8

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