[These thoughts follow a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church. If you would like to listen to that message, just click here and listen to "Christmas According to Micah."]
"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. He will again have compassion on us; he tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old." - Micah 7:18-20 (ESV)
The forgiveness of God is a wonderful thing. In this text alone, we read of God 'pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression.' We see that He does not stay angry forever, but He is steadfast in love. He treads iniquity under foot and casts our sin into the depths of the sea. These are wonderful words, and we must always remember that this forgiveness comes at a cost.
A cost is always paid by the one who forgives. If a bank chooses to forgive a debt, the debtor may be free but the bank has agreed to pay the price. If I offend you with my words and you forgive me, you are letting me off the hook...accepting the pain of my offense in exchange for a right relationship. God can be just in forgiving sin because He has paid the price for that forgiveness in the death of His son. At the cross, God laid our sin on Jesus (Is. 53:6; 2 Cor. 5:21), and He poured out His wrath on His own Son so that we might be justified(Rom. 3:23-26). The forgiveness of God is a wonderful thing, and it is a worthy theme on which to dwell.
But what about this idea in Micah 7:20 of God keeping His promises? Why is this important? Why does it matter that God will keep His promises? He did make promises, you know. He promised Abram that He would bless all the families of the earth through his seed (Gen. 12). He promised David that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever (2 Sam. 7). He even promised the serpent in the garden that one would come to crush his head (Gen. 3). Why does it matter if God keeps these promises?
Let's begin by thinking of promises made in human relationships. What do we think of one who always keeps his promise? Do we hold that person in high regard? How is the trust in that relationship affected by the fact that he keeps his promise? Now, what do we think of those who do not keep their promises? How does a marital relationship change when the promises made on a wedding day go broken? I think you see what I'm driving at here.
Those who keep promises are exalted in our minds and hearts, while those who break promises are not...they are shut out of the 'inner circle' of our lives. Why? Because when a promise is laid down, a person's reputation lays with it. If the promise is kept, the reputation is strengthened. If the promise if broken, it is weakened.
With this being said, why do you think it's important that God keeps His promises...even when these promises have been made to "our fathers from the days of old" (Micah 7:20)? When God made promises to Abram, He was not just trying to encourage Abram...telling him to 'hang in there' while God led him to a new land. God laid His reputation down with that promise, and if God does not keep every one of them, then His reputation will diminish...He would be less honorable...His glory would not shine as bright.
So, first of all, it's important that God keeps His promise to Abram and David and the other patriarchs because His glory is on the line. He is the only God. In Isaiah 42:8, God says, "I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols." If He fails to keep His promise, then His glory fades, and He is no better than idols made by human hands...who fail those who trust them constantly. However, BE CLEAR ON THIS...God will always be faithful to keep His promise. His glory will never fade...it shines brighter with each passing day. As men and women turn from their sin and trust in Christ, who came from the seed of Abraham, the number of Abram's true, spiritual descendants grows and more families of the earth are blessed. A great nation...a kingdom of priests...is built one soul at a time. In the conversion of sinners, God is glorified as the only Savior of mankind, and God is glorified as the keeper of His promises.
Closely tied to the first reason is the second (in reality, any other reason would flow from this first one). If God does not keep His promise, then we would question whether we could trust God at all. If He would not keep His promise to Abram, then why would we believe that He would keep the promise that 'whosoever believes in him may have eternal life' (John 3:14)? Or that if we come to Him we will find rest for our souls (Mt. 11:28-30)? Not keeping His promise would diminish God's glory and would give us reason to doubt Him...to not trust Him. This would affect whether we pray to Him at all, and if we did, how we prayed. As it is, though, we have EVERY reason to trust Him because He keeps His promises.
Even during this Christmas week...we look into a manger in Bethlehem and see a baby, born of a virgin. We see a baby who was born to save his people from their sins. We see a baby who was born to die, so that we might live. At Christmas, we see Jesus, and we remember just how important it is that God keeps His promises, because Jesus is the Promised One.