All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #8
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:11-12 (ESV)
When I began this series, I wasn’t certain how long it would take to work through this spectacular psalm. We are now on part eight, and reach verses 11 and 12. There is so much to enjoy and appreciate in this one passage (the entire psalm I mean) and I do hope you are still getting a lot from it.
These verses tell us two things; how much God loves us, and how far He has removed our sins from us.
As high as the heavens are above the Earth
The word translated as “heavens” here is the Hebrew word shamayim referring primarily to the sky or abode of the stars. It is the same word used in Genesis 1:1 when God created the “heavens and the Earth”. For David writing this, he would have had little distinction between the sky and Space beyond, whereas we distinguish between the two. Irrespective of this, the point is clear.
David is comparing the greatness or size of the love of God to the unmeasurable expanse between the Earth itself and the sky or heavens above. It was perhaps the largest, most enormous thing he could think of to which to compare God’s love to.
Paul prays in Ephesians 3:
…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17b-19 (ESV, emphasis added)
- Believers would be rooted and grounded in love.
- They would comprehend the dimensions of Christ’s love.
- That they would know (or experience) Christ’s love which surpasses (head) knowledge.
David is praising the Lord for the enormity of His love, and Paul is praying that the church would know that same love through Christ. God’s love for His people is so crucial to our understanding of faith that we must not only study it, but experience it for ourselves.
Notice the phrase “steadfast love” again in these verses. It is not a love built on shifting sands or moving goalposts. It is stable, steady and cannot be increased or detracted from.
God’s love towards those who fear Him
Who is this love directed towards? Those who fear Him. This “fear” here is reverence. God directs His love towards those who revere Him,; those who recognise Him as Sovereign God. We may consider ourselves as on the receiving end of this tremendous love.
East Never Meets West
David goes on to express the idea that as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us. Similarly to the previous verse, he is trying to express an immeasurable distance – that’s how far God has taken away our transgressions.
One of the reasons this is so wonderful is that for King David, he did not experience personally the saving work of Jesus, dealing with sin once and for all. He could only look forward to a time when that would be true.
In another psalm, he says:
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity…
Psalm 32:2a (ESV)
For us as New Testament believers, we can rejoice in the fact that God, through the shed blood of Christ, has removed our sins from us once and for all time. He has not just dealt with the individual “sins” we commit, but sin itself. Sin is certainly not dead in the world we live in, yet we are dead to it (Romans 6:11).
Not only has sin been dealt with, and its effect taken away – but it has been forgotten as well.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.
Hebrews 8:12 (ESV)
How does an omniscient God forget anything? Because He chooses to.
Spend some time today rejoicing that God’s love is without measure, and that He has taken your sin away. Whatever else is happening in your life today, these are great reasons to worship God.