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. (Psalm 103:10-12, ESV)
A good golf course architect understands the importance of solar orientation (the alignment of something in relation to the sun). For example, the best direction to set up a driving range is due north. If it faces the east or west, the sun turns into a searing laser against one’s eyes. Starting holes should not look into the eastern sunrise nor finishing holes toward the west. There is nothing worse than moving up the eighteenth hole blinded by the setting sun.
Long before the first golf course ever sprouted green grass, God established his own solar orientation—one much different than what sets up an effective golf course. The Garden of Eden was in the east. The tabernacle that Moses built faced east. The Temple of Solomon and Herod looked toward the east with the Holy of Holies resting on the western end—a unique orientation compared to temples of the pagan nations. And ultimately, Jesus will return from the east.
The eastern direction is associated with spiritual holiness. God didn’t say, “As far as the north is from the south…,” because both north and south are finite points. East and west, however, are infinite directions that will never overlap.
The Hebrew word used for east in our passage today is mizrah: the place of the sunrise, before or in front of another. There is another Hebrew word for east, kedem, which implies everlasting. West, maarab, represents the idea of a sense of shading or shadows. When west is used in combination with east, the author is denoting a great or infinite distance where east looks to what is before us and west defines what has come to an end.
We have, do, and will continue to sin: against God, against others, and against ourselves. Yet, the picture the psalmist unfolds is one of a steadfast love where God makes our transgressions to become distant, far away, behind. It is God who provides the space we need to reorient our faces back to what is in front of us: spiritual holiness. His mercy woos us to embrace each new sunrise as an invitation to return to Jesus.
Life is messy. And while God promises to not deal with us according to our sins (amen and amen!), residual consequences of our broken world remain real. Some of us may be beginning this year with anticipation, joy, hope, freedom, good health, and a light heart. Others may be peering into 2018 with trepidation, despair, physical pain, and what feels like a dark shadow overhead.
Today, I invite you to consider where your heart is with Jesus. If you do believe the love of God has removed your transgressions as far as the east is from the west, how might you live each new day according to his promise?
January 11, 2018
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