I live on a small island off a narrow strip of land known as the Outer Banks in North Carolina. These barrier islands are so narrow at parts that you can easily see the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pamlico Sound to the west without turning your head. At its most narrow part, the “east” is separated by the “west” by only 150 yards. When a storm hits, east waters meet west waters and close down the narrow two-lane road, cutting off the southern part of the island from the rest of civilization. This area may be one of the only places on earth where “east meets west” as it were.
The reality of east meeting west of course is that it never happens. If you travel east, you will continually be heading east around the globe. Such is the basis of David’s metaphor in our psalm today, as he celebrates that fact that “As far as east is from west—that’s how far God has removed our sin from us” (verse 12).
Psalm 103 (Common English Bible)
God won’t always play the judge;
he won’t be angry forever.
10 He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin
or repay us according to our wrongdoing,
11 because as high as heaven is above the earth,
that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him.
12 As far as east is from west—
that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.
13 Like a parent feels compassion for their children—
that’s how the Lord feels compassion for those who honor him.
Our sins have been banished to a place that doesn’t exist; thus we suffer them no longer. This reminder of the infinite nature of God’s saving love is a blessing when we have strayed from God’s will for our lives. David’s beautiful psalm is a strong assurance of the power of the cross to obliterate our sins. The price that Jesus paid with his life is our guarantee that past sins won’t inform our present relationship with God. As David says, God won’t be angry with us forever and doesn’t deal with us according to our sin. Indeed, God deals with us according to the measure of our confession and repentance. The power of the shed blood of the atonement is the criteria upon which we will be judged … thanks be to God! Mercy reigns.
But do we believe that, or do we cling to past sins and use them as a way of beating ourselves up over and over again? It is so easy to lay our sin at the foot of the cross and then pick it up again the next day. Repeated self-condemnation of past transgressions becomes the devil’s playground, as he whispers in our ears that we aren’t worthy.
God’s faithful love says otherwise. As far as heaven is above the earth, that is the measure of God’s forgiveness and love for us.
If you are caught in a cycle of unforgiveness of your past, ask yourself this: is your sin actually greater than Christ’s crucifixion? Do you really have that much power? Isn’t holding on to past regret a form of arrogance?
God invites us to truly let go of our past and walk cleanly into the future with hope for which his Son died. Anything less diminishes the cross.
As Far as the East is to the West by Amanda Williams
Thank you Betsy, I needed to hear this today …
I am so pleased that God spoke to you through this today! Thank you for your comment.