“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:10-12, ESV)
The following is a post I wrote for my church’s blog on the Psalms.
This week’s Psalms (98, 100, 103-104, and 110) offer praise to God, generally speaking, that extol Him as Creator, Provider, and Saver. While I wonder at God’s creation, and receive from Him as Provider, it is His salvation that brings me to my knees with my hands in the air.
Psalm 103 is about as close to the Gospel message as any Older Testament passage can be. When I read it’s words, immediately the cross comes to mind. The image of out-stretched arms recalls the question, “How much do you love me?”
It is fitting that when David brings up “all of God’s benefits,” the first thing he mentions is salvation—“who forgives all your iniquity…. who redeems your life from the pit.” All of scripture serves as an arrow pointing us to salvation, to Jesus. Were we to receive blessings of health, strength, and conflict-free lives—that I’m certain we all desire— but were dealt with justly for our sins, all would be for nothing.
Verse ten immediately offers us hope for our sinful state. We don’t get what we deserve! That God would be just in refusing forgiveness and salvation based on our sin seems so obvious and terrifying. Some measure themselves against others and are convinced that they deserve to go to heaven. But the longer I live, the more I am convinced that on my own there is nothing good in me. It is only because of the salvation that is ours in Jesus that we can stand before God.
Luther called this Simul Justus et Peccator: at the same time saint and sinner. It is the truth that God sees us as justified, not because we have paid for our sins, but because we never could. Because God became man and took upon Himself our Sin, the penalty for that Sin has been paid; and God “does not deal with us according to our sins” (v. 10).
Lest we forget, and allow ourselves again to be weighed down by our guilt, we are given a brilliant word picture: “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (v. 12). This loses a little in translation because of our modern knowledge of the earth. We may think of the fact that if you go far enough east, you will end up west of your point of origin. But with limited geographical knowledge in the days of King David, east and west never met; they went on forever in an opposite direction.
It is easy to become so caught up in the joys, sorrows, blessings, hardships, and challenges of life that we don’t often take much time to think about the salvation we have in Jesus, and all that it truly means to us. But David reminds us in Psalm 103 that God has separated us infinitely far away from our Sin.
“How much do I love you? This much!”
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels