Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
The heartbeat of understanding the LORD God of Israel is wrapped up in His unchanging love. The question is exactly this: who is a God like the LORD God (Yahweh Adonai)? He is the God of Jacob and Abraham (8:20). He is the God of Israel who is the eternally existing Sovereign God of the universe. The question is, of course, rhetorical, because the following statements make it clear there is no one like the LORD God of Israel. His unchanging love endures the weight of iniquity and rebellion of his people – while God never simply ignores these things, He is infinitely patient with his people. He shows mercy to them when they are most vulnerable. He is generous to a people who do not deserve His kindness. The key is God’s love rises above the crushing weight of their sin.
The significance of God’s unchanging love is that he will not retain his anger forever. We might give God plenty of reason to be angry with us, but His compassion is unrelenting towards his people. The reason is that He delights, not necessarily in our efforts as feeble as they might be at times, but in His unchanging love. It is for this very reason, that he demonstrates His unique and holy character, enduring the sin of his people, so that he might display his compassion. Compassion is virtually synonymous with being merciful. Mercy is the kindness of God when we are most vulnerable. God restrains his righteous judgment when we are hopelessly inept to defend ourselves. His compassion is an extension of his love to demonstrate his perfection towards imperfect beings.
The saving nature of God’s action towards our iniquity and rebellion is forgiveness. Verse nineteen makes it clear that the deepest need of our existence is only met in the sufficiency of His unchanging love. He does not ignore our sin but he will “tread our iniquities under foot.” This metaphorical expression is virtually identical to the phrase, “he will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea”. Both indicate that God removes His people from his wrath by forgiving them of all their sin. But this does not mean that God ignores sin. Again, we see in the Passover event and in the sacrificial system, the constant reminder that God’s wrath must be satisfied. The penalty of sin must be extracted and satisfied because God is righteous. Once he forgives he does not drag it back up to shame us for our behavior. He delivers us from the guilt of sin and removes the penalty of that sin from our lives.
Christmas is a reminder of God’s unchanging love. For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. God’s love can be described as “that act of God that willingly sacrifices what is most precious to himself in order to respond to the deepest needs of another”. His unchanging love is revealed in Christ’s advent and proclaimed at the cross.
Christmas is a reminder of God’s compassion. God was never obligated to redeem us. It out of his own free act of love and compassion that he extends that provision in His Son that indicates how hopelessly lost we really are. We cannot save ourselves regardless of how much we have convinced ourselves otherwise. God’s singular provision is grounded in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Christmas is a reminder of God’s forgiveness. This act of God in sending His own Son would seem to the feeble and finite minds of us humans to be excessive overkill. We keep on telling ourselves that we are basically good and that no good God would ever turn out “basically good” people from heaven because none of us our perfect, but most of us are doing the best we can. This simply shows us how ignorant we are of the magnitude of our sin to a holy God.
Christmas is a reminder of how thankful we are for a God such as this. No other scenario provides any hope at all.
In His grace and unchanging love,