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November 25, 2018

Sermon Micah 7:18-20 . . .“Bible places:  the sea of forgetfulness”

“Bible places:  the sea of forgetfulness”

Micah 7:18-20

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Just off the coast of Japan, east of the Mariana islands, there’s a crescent-shaped trough about 1,500 miles long and 40 miles wide.  It’s called the Mariana Trench.

And it’s deep.  Really deep.  In fact, at a place called “Challenger Deep,” it’s the deepest place on earth.  Like seven miles deep.  To give you an idea of just how deep that is, if we were to drop Mt. Everest down into it, it would still be covered by another mile of water.

That’s deep.

And while thousands of climbers have scaled Mt. Everest, only three have ever descended to the bottom of the trench.  And while it took two men five hours to reach it back in 1960, James Cameron did it in 2012 in an hour and a half.

And what did he find when he got there?  Not much--just some sea cucumbers, bacteria, and some awfully hardy shrimp.  After all, the pressure down there is so great, it’s like having an African elephant stand on your big toe!

The Mariana Trench is not a place any of us would ever want to go.  It’s just too cold, (a little over freezing), too dark, and too deep.

But you know, there’s something else down there at the bottom of that trench, something that you’d never expect to see.  Please turn in your Bible to page 992 and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ll start where it says, “God’s Steadfast Love and Compassion.”  Micah chapter 7, verse 18:  “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 will tread our iniquities underfoot.  You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

The book of Micah is one of thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, that tells of the coming of Christ.  It’s in this book that we find words like these:  “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”  And he wrote:  “He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord...and He shall be their peace.”

We don’t much about the prophet Micah.  The Bible simply tells us he came from a little town called Moresheth-Gath, some twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem.  It was a small town made up mostly of farmers, far from the religiously, politically, and culturally elite.

Still, the Lord called him to preach to his people, the kingdom of Judah, of judgment that was about to come.  The northern kingdom, Israel, was soon to fall.  And the southern kingdom, Judah, was next.

That’s why he said, in chapter 1:  “I will make Samaria a heap in the open country...all her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, and all her wages shall be burned with fire.”  And in chapter 3:  “Zion shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins.”

Yet in spite of their idolatry, sin, and wickedness, Micah promised here in chapter 7, verse 19:  “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.”

Imagine for a moment you’re standing before a very large sea that no one could ever visit, or even step into.  And at the edge of that sea, there was a sign that said:  “No wading...no swimming...no boating...and no skiing.”

You might ask, “Why can people only look at the sea, but never wade into its waters?”

Because it’s into this sea that God has placed all our sins, iniquities, and transgressions.  And once He put them there, He remembers them no more.

But how often we do.  

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped Jews escape in the days of World War II.  

But in 1944, when she was fifty-two years old, she was caught and captured, then taken to a prison camp herself.  But due to a clerical error, she was released, while all the other women in her age group were sent to the gas chamber.

And in her book, Tramp for the Lord, she tells of returning to Germany a few years later, in 1947, to share the gospel of God’s forgiveness through faith in Christ.  

This is what she said:  “I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.  It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and so I gave them my favorite mental picture.  Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I like to think that that’s where forgiven sins are thrown.”  And she said:  “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.  Then God places a sign out there that says, ‘No Fishing Allowed!’”

It’s been said that elephants never forget.  That’s why, circuses love to use them.  They have an amazing ability to memorize a large number of commands given by their trainers.

And apparently, elephants even remember their exact place of birth!  No matter how old they are, (they live for some fifty to sixty years), no matter how many things they’ve done in life, and no matter how many places they’ve been, they never forget.  So just before they die, they make their pilgrimage back to the place that they were born.

And in many ways, we’re just like elephants.  We have a long memory when it comes to the ways other hurt us, but we have a very short memory when it comes to remembering to forgive.

Maybe your wound is old.  A parent abused you.  A coworker hurt you.  A teacher was cruel.

Maybe your wound is fresh.  The one who owes you money just drove by in a new car.  Your friends planned a weekend away, but didn’t invite you.

Part of you is hurt.  Another part is bitter.  Part wants to fight.  Part wants to cry.

And you’re left with a decision.  Should you put the fire out or heat it up?  Do you get over it or do you get even?  Should you let your hurts heal or should you turn them into hate?

As one author put it:  “Unfaithfulness is wrong.  Revenge is bad.  But the worst part of all is that, without forgiveness, bitterness is all that’s left.”

Think of a boy who was in the supermarket one day with his mother.  And he was having a particularly bad day, so his mother told him to not touch anything in the store.

And sure enough, just as she was walking down an aisle, she heard a huge crash.  Then she turned to see her son holding a can in his hand beside an aisle full of cans.  Apparently, he had decided to grab one from the bottom of the display and had sent hundreds of others tumbling down.

Immediately her face turned bright red from anger and embarrassment.  She stormed down the aisle, picked the boy up and plopped him down firmly in the cart.  She threatened, “Don’t you dare move another inch young man!”

A few minutes later, the boy got up enough courage to say, “Mom, didn’t you say the other day that when God forgives our sins, He buries them at the bottom of the deepest sea?”

“Yes, son,” she replied through clenched teeth.

“And you said that it didn’t matter what we did, God would never drag those things up again, didn’t you?”

“Yes, son.”

“Well, mom, I’ve got a feeling that when we get home, you’re going to go fishing.”

Why does the Bible say God casts our sins into the depths of the sea?  Why not the city dump?

Because if He put them in the dump, they just might reestablish a root system and start growing all over again.  But if He throws them in the water, the salt in the water will kill them, and we’ll never see them or hear from them again.

And notice that little word in the text--the word “all.”  It doesn’t say “You will cast some of our sins into the depths of the sea,” and neither does it say “most.”  Instead, it says, “You will cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea.”

That is, after all, what John wrote in his first epistle:  “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

And not only does He cast them into the depths of the sea, He covers them, (Psalm 32:1), He removes them, (Psalm 103:12), He nails them to the cross, (Colossians 2:14), and He sweeps them all away, (Isaiah 43:25).

Let me take you back in history, for just a moment, to early in the 14th century, when “The Black Death” swept across Europe, when John Wyclif translated the Bible into English, and when the French and the English were fighting the “Hundred Years’ War.”  And right about that same time, a man named Robert the Bruce of Scotland was leading his men in a fight for freedom from England.  

And near the end of the conflict, the English wanted to capture him to keep him from wearing the Scottish crown.  So they sent his own bloodhounds on his trail.

Finally, when the bloodhounds got close, he heard their baying.  A fellow Scotsman said, “We’re done for.  They’re on your trail, and they’ll reveal your hiding place.”

But that’s when Robert the Bruce headed for a stream that flowed through the forest.  Then he jumped in and waded upstream a short distance.  Then when he came out on the other side, he hid deep in the forest.

A few minutes later, the hounds traced their master’s steps to the edge of the river, but couldn’t go any further.  The trail was broken.  The stream had carried his scent away.

The memory of our sins can be like baying dogs.  Satan will remind us of every one every chance he gets.

But there’s a stream that flows with the blood of Christ.  And by grace, through faith, we’re safe--no sin can ever touch us, for God has cast them, all of them, into the depths of the sea.

One more thing--it’s quick.  Someone once asked how can a brown cow eat green grass and give you white milk.

If you think that’s something, think of how God can take our black souls, dip them in red blood, then make them as white as snow.

In the words of the psalmist:  “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.”

 

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression?  In Your great mercy, You have compassion on us, tread our iniquities underfoot, and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea, by grace, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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