There are just some scriptures whose depth of meaning baffle my very understanding. Of course, the reason is that as a human being, I naturally tend to view the world in the context of my own personal experiences. Yet so much of what God wants us to learn through His Word defies human experience. For example, Isaiah 55:8 says, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord." We have to keep that truth at the forefront of our mind, if we are to grow in our understanding of God and develop a more intimate walk with Him. In other words, we need to let go of what we think we understand and be willing to be surprised. We need to stop limiting ourselves with only experiential knowledge and instead believe that God can transcend everything.
Consider, for example, the magnitude of the phrase "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). According to this verse, the distance between these two directions is how far God will remove our sin from us. So how far apart are east and west? Remember, we shouldn’t limit our thinking by trying to answer this question from the perspective of the distance between east and west on this planet. Since Earth is round, eventually east and west run headlong into each other. We need to think bigger! After all, we are talking about God! So think of east and west in the context of the infinite universe. In this context, east and west would be straight lines going in opposite directions for infinity. The two would never meet apart from their point of origin. So when the psalmist, David, wrote, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us," he is effectively saying that when God removes sin from our lives, He removes it so completely that it is infinitely far away from us.
As if the infinite distance between east and west wasn't staggering enough, I’m also awestruck how God removes our sin. After all, the essence of sin is everything which is contrary to the nature and heart of God. It is sin that caused mankind to fall away from Him and it is sin that keeps mankind from turning back to Him. So how is He able to remove our transgressions infinitely away from us? The answer is found in the first epistle of John, when he writes, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1:9).
How is God able to remove our sins so completely from our lives? By cleansing us when we ask for His forgiveness. The word “cleanse” in the Greek is the word katharizo and it literally means to take something that was dirty and make it clean. That's why we have to let go of what we think we understand and not be limited by experiential knowledge. There are no human examples in our world where one person can be wronged, then forgive the wrongdoer so completely that literally the act is purged from the record and cast off into infinity. I forgive people all the time, but all it takes is a quick flashback, and the memory and hurt feelings come flooding right back.
That's why this verse is so amazing to me! As people, we can forgive those who hurt us, but we never truly forget what they did. The recollection of the wrong is just a memory away. It's like a file saved on our mental hard drive that we access whenever we choose, or even when we don’t want to. We just don't have the ability to fully purge that file; all we can do is just forgive and move on. Yet God doesn't work like we do. Remember He says, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord."
When God forgives us, He also removes from us the wrong that we did. In essence, He separates it from us, so that it is no longer a part of who we are or how He views us. We get a fresh start, a chance to begin all over again. He doesn't bring up past wrongs and He isn't keeping score. When we ask for forgiveness, He forgives us and "cleanses us from all unrighteousness." Now that is unconditional love!
Let me ask you a question: have you ever wished you could start life all over again? Ever thought to yourself: If only I knew then what I know now? I certainly have! But in earthly terms that's just not possible. We make decisions and live with the consequences. That's the limit of what experiential knowledge teaches us. Yet our God is a God of second chances, where every day is a new day with Him!
I encourage you to grasp this truth and shake loose the shackles of your past. Ask God for forgiveness today and He promises to cleanse and remove those past wrongs. That is true love and mercy on a level that we can only begin to attempt to grasp! When we live in that truth we will find freedom in forgiveness.
Copyright © 2017 Erik V. Sahakian