Andrew Hughes | Category: Christian Living
In Psalm 103:12, the Psalmist uses the illustration of the distance between East and West to describe the distance from which our sins are taken from us, when forgiven by the Lord. "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
Admittedly, if I travel west and you travel east here on this planet, we will eventually meet up. But from the standpoint of the writer and from the standpoint of the universe as a whole, the distance between east and west is infinite. That is, east and west have no starting point by which the two could be measured. That is vast. That is infinite. And it is that infinitely vast distance to which our sins have been removed. Never to be returned.
What makes this all the more astounding is that the verse prior to it (vs 11) states that God’s loving commitment is as high as the heavens are above the earth, yet again another illustration of infinity (although, the Psalmist didn’t even have the scientific data to know how true that statement really was).
So here’s the picture. God’s love is infinitely great towards His people; thus, our sin is infinitely gone. An infinite redemption of love has established an infinite removal of sin. The infinity of the vertical (North/South- God’s Love) has established the infinity of the horizontal (East/West- Our forgiveness).
There are many tremendous ramifications of this beautiful, Biblical illustration and theological truth. But let me just focus on one.
Have you ever had someone, out of the blue, bring up something from your past, when they were hurt by you another time? They connect the dots of things you’ve done, establish a narrative, and bam! There’s a pattern, there’s problem, gotcha! Meanwhile, all you thought was, “Really? Those things really aren’t related.”
If the Lord has removed our sin, why do we bring the sins of others back up again and hold it against them? Forgiveness is a removal. It is not some storing up of water in a reservoir to be dumped out on the head of your spouse when your relational resources have run dry and you are fed up with them. It is not some type of ammunition house to be accessed for loading your weapon of words against a co-worker. Yet how prone we are to keep a record of sins stored up against people or nurse an offense. We keep them in debt. I personally have done this too many times in my life. What’s even worse is that tendency to distort things, to make false "connections," and come up with things from the past that aren’t even sins against you. Either way, whether they are real wrongs or fabricated wrongs against you, it is absolutely wicked and is not the way the Lord treats us. When the Lord removes your sin, He will never bring it up again. Yes, He will confront sin and convict you, and discipline; but He will not throw it in your face or punish you for it when He has already punished Christ.
When we do this to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are bringing up sin that we should not only have forgiven ourselves but that the Lord has forgiven. And when we do this to an non-Christian, we aren’t exhibiting the forgiveness that the Lord can provide to them.
Bottom line: this is hard. Why? Because we don’t have the infinite love by which to offer infinite forgiveness. But the Spirit does, and by calling ourselves to remembrance as the Psalmist does here in this Psalm (“forget not all his benefits,” vs 2), may the Spirit bear much fruit of forgiveness in our own lives.
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