Psalm 103 is one of my very favourites. In fact, it was one of the Bible passages read out at my wedding! Why do I love it so much? Because it’s focused so much on God and gives us so many reasons to praise him. This glorious list of God’s attributes come down to two main things: God forgives us from our sins (in the first half of the psalm), and God restores and renews us (in the second half). So, this week we’re going to look at the first half, and next week we’ll finish up with the second.
When David spoke of God’s compassion and steadfast love, he had in his mind the story of Moses and the Israelites. These people had been called by God to be his chosen people. They had been delivered miraculously from slavery and had seen God’s hand of provision time and time again. Still, they complained and grumbled nearly every chance they got. These people kept disobeying God, and David didn’t even live to see the darkest moments of Israel’s turning away. Yet, even through this, God was merciful to his people and faithful to his covenant. They deserved to have the covenant revoked and to live with the consequences of their rebellion. But it says here that God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
It’s the same with us still today. Time and time again, we fail to live up to our calling as God’s chosen people. We turn away from him, we rebel against him, we forget him. You know the ways in which you do this. If God gave us what we deserve, it would be separation from him. But these verses give us overflowing hope and reassurance. He does not give us what we deserve. In fact, he removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. That’s as far away from us as it could possibly be. In other verses in the Old Testament, it talks about God putting our sins behind his back, casting them into the sea. They’re gone. He remembers them no more. Even though we still fall into sin, he doesn’t hold that over us in condemnation.
And this indescribable reality comes to us through the sacrificial death of Jesus. He took our sins, he removed them completely and finally. As far as the east from the west, we are forgiven and we are redeemed.