I absolutely love word pictures - they help me connect meaning to a thought which is expressed. In God's attempt to help us "connect" the truths contained in his Word, he often gave such vivid word pictures to his teachers and prophets. You have probably heard it said, "A picture is worth a thousand words." I don't know if you know the origin of this phrase, but it likely comes from a novel written in 1862 by Ivan Turgenev (Fathers and Sons), in which a character in the book attempts to convey the idea of a picture conveying what may take many words to express when he says, "The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book." Here is a word picture for us this morning:
Where is the god who can compare with you—wiping the slate clean of guilt,
turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most. And compassion is on its way to us. You'll stamp out our wrongdoing. You'll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean. (Micah 7:18-19 The Message)
We are absolutely able to connect with these ideas, aren't we? Whether we consider a slate being wiped clean, sight becoming clear, or something sinking deep into the depths of the waters, we are able to "connect" the idea of God's grace to some pretty graphic examples:
- The slate. In most cultures, there is some form of "slate" utilized in attempting to convey a message. Whether we draw a picture in the dirt, then scuff it away with our hand, or we use a more sophisticated means such as a whiteboard and eraser, we get the idea. As quickly as one stroke of the hand, one swipe of the eraser, what was once evident becomes blurred. Another stroke or swipe often obliterates the original "evidence" of something, does it not?
- The blind eye or deaf ear. I am not blind, but I have needed corrective lenses since I was in fifth grade. Without my glasses, you are a blur. I remember being a contact lens wearer for the first time. I awoke one morning to find I could see PERFECTLY. Being a believer of God's ability to heal, my first thoughts turned to my vision having been restored! Silly me! I had just fallen asleep in my contacts! For a brief moment in time, I understand what it was like to have "restored" vision! Imagine what it would be like to really see clearly - no impairment in our ability to interpret the detail and clarity of what we are exposed to. God's grace gives clarity where confusion once existed - as perfectly as only he can accomplish.
- Nursing anger. I don't know a human being who has NEVER struggled with nursing anger once in a while. You know what is like - you just mull it over and over again until you get all worked up about a matter. Yet, the picture painted for us of God's "anger" or "wrath" is simply not the same as what we deal with in our human dealings. We "nurse" ours - God might feel angered with our willful disobedience, but he never "nurses" it. Another term for nursing our anger is allowing it to make us bitter. When we "nurse" our anger, we are actually allowing the enemy of our soul get a foothold into our lives (Ephesians 4:26). God give NO foothold to the devil. It is impossible for him to allow the devil access to his heart or mind! Therefore, he is not a "nurser" of anger.
- Mercy is your specialty. Most of us live in a time when "specializing" in a field of study or trade has become the norm. Very rarely do we see students planning to be "generalists" in any field of study anymore. In fact, as we go through the planning for our education or career, many guidance counselors have moved from recommending the generalist approach to focusing on a specialty while the student is still in high school. Now, God's "specialty" is mercy. Unmerited, unwarranted, and often unsolicited favor. Imagine that!
- Stamping out our wrongdoing. I remember the commercials of days gone by when the US Forest Service had a saying, "Only you can prevent forest fires", stated with such authority by an animated bear wearing a forest service hat and badge. Why did this stick with me over the years? It was a "picture" which spoke better than ten pages of text! Just as I had the ability to "stamp out" forest fires by properly tending my campfire when I was leaving camp, so God has the ability to "stamp out" an even bigger fire in our lives - our sin!
- Sins sunk to the ocean's floor. I cannot fathom the depths of the ocean's floor. I know the deepest points are around 36,000 feet (11,000 meters). That's a long way down! It is so far beneath the surface of the waters - no light is found there. No man can explore its depths - because we cannot bear up under the pressure of the confines of the depths. Now, imagine our sins there. In a place where no light is any longer shed on them. In a place no longer explored. Totally and completely out of sight and no longer a thing to be reckoned with! Can you say, "Awesome"!!!!!
Now, don't we understand God's grace a little better after all these word pictures? There is finally a "connection" between our sins and his grace. Our sins matter to him - not because he wants to remember them, but because he wants to so totally remove them from our lives that we don't even remember them anymore! Awesome!!!! Just sayin.....