by Don Watson
Most of you, I'm sure, understand the principle behind Hebrew poetry, particularly in the Psalms. The writers relied heavily on metaphors and parallelism. They would make a metaphorical declaration about God or some other aspect of the gospel, and then repeat it with a different metaphor. This technique was not merely poetic but the parallel used often gave the writer an opportunity to teach his readers (or singers) something quite valuable about God.
I especially observed this in Psalms 103:11-12. Verse 11 says, "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him." Then verse 12 repeats the thought but uses a bit different metaphor: "…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
Did you catch it? The writer equates “love” and “removed our transgressions.” Both are infinite – God’s love is "as high as the heavens are above the earth," and He’s removed our transgressions “as far as the east is from the west.” But because we all tend to think God has limits on His love, we think verse 12 is simply a similar statement about a different aspect of God – His forgiveness. Not so – the Psalmist IS speaking about God's love. Forgiveness is simply one of the ways, God's love is limitless.
God's not some Mafia Boss, who pulls his cousin, Vinny, aside and says, "Vinny, I love ya', so don't take this personal, but ya' messed up and I gotta kill ya." In other words, we know God loves everybody, but hey, if they don't do what He says (obey His commandments, repent of their sins, believe in Jesus, accept Him as their savior) He's gonna kill ‘em, right?. And, in fact, the verse itself seems to qualify God's love with the statement:… for those who fear Him. But really, does God only love those who love Him? Is God's love conditional? Does He only love and forgive those good enough to come to Him? Absolutely not! (See Romans 5:6-10) But those who do not fear Him, love Him, or know Him may not recognize in the events of life, that God's love and forgiveness toward them is indeed "great!" They don’t experience or recognize His love, even though it is there!
Now there is a sense in which God “removed the transgressions” of every man 2000 years ago at the cross. The condemnation of being a fallen sinner, a child of Adam, unable to do anything good (Romans 3:10-18), separated us from God, but when Jesus died that was all removed (Romans 5:10). From God’s perspective, there was no condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
Remember what happened to the veil in the temple when Jesus died? No one, but the High Priest, could go on the other side of that veil into the very presence of God or they would die, indicating God’s wrath against sin is so great because of its destructive nature. But when Jesus died, that veil was torn from top to bottom – indicating that no human act destroyed sin and accomplished the reconciliation between us and God. God by the gift of Jesus removed that veil that separated us from Himself. We are forgiven and welcome into the very presence of God – all of us. When Jesus died, He legally removed the transgressions of the whole world "as far as the east is from the west." This does not mean that all men WILL be saved, but all men have been saved. What they do with that salvation is a matter of individual choice.
The facts are, however, only a few of us know that our sins have been forgiven, and there are millions out there in the world who don't have a clue that the veil has been torn and they are loved, accepted, and forgiven by God. Even those of us who have accepted Jesus and have been baptized have times that we doubt our forgiveness. You may be struggling with some addiction, some secret sin, some weakness that is tearing you apart and has virtually destroyed any hope of your salvation, but I want to remind you that God HAS removed your transgressions as far as the heavens are above the earth. How far is that? We're talking about infinity here, aren't we? But this is not merely a metaphor. This is God reminding us that we cannot commit a sin so big or violate His law so many times or stoop so low that God will not forgive us. In fact, the Psalmist declares that this infinite forgiveness has already been accomplished. "He HAS removed our transgressions from us." It is not dependent on any human act. It was from the TOP to the bottom that the veil was torn. You and I and every other person we meet on the street HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN by an act of God. And it is my belief that act of God, through the Holy Spirit, draws us into relationship with the resurrected Christ, the victorious Christ!
2 Corinthians 2:14 says God "always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere." Christ has captured us and we are with Him in a constant victory procession. Whatever sins you are struggling with, know that you are walking in victory even if you do not see it. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says you are a "New Creation, the old has gone, the new has come" It may not be visible, but He HAS removed your transgressions "as far as the east is from the west" whether you see it or not, it is so! 2 Corinthians 5:7 says that if we're following Jesus, "we walk by faith and not by sight." In other words, we are forgiven even if we don't FEEL forgiven. We are cleansed even if we don't see the cleansing yet. Regardless of our circumstances, or what we are experiencing, we ARE the captives of Christ and walking in constant triumphal procession.
While we are in this procession, there will be times that we will actually experience some real cleansing. Sins that we have struggled with for years will miraculously disappear. 2 Corinthians 5:5 says that when this happens, God is giving us a taste, "a deposit" of what He will eventually do for us when Jesus returns and gives us a complete new nature. Paul talks about this as the "Fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22), and in Col. 1:27 he refers to this "taste" as "Christ in you, the hope of glory” (God’s perfect character). There will be times that we hear words coming from our mouth that we know are not our words; kindness or compassion in our heart that we know is not us. It is Jesus. Peter says, by claiming the promises of God we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). But let us never forget that whether these miracles happen or not, we, as Christians do not walk by sight, but by faith. We are a "New Creation" whether we see it or not.
I know that some of you are struggling with sins and habits and addictions and you have either given up or feel like giving up, but take heart. Regardless of what you SEE; your sins have been removed from you, "as far as the east is from the west." Walk by faith, not by sight. And one day, Jesus will come and complete the work He began on Calvary (Philippians 1:6).