The Psalms were written for the people of Israel…God’s chosen people…over a period of nearly a thousand years. Obviously, to have that large a time span, several authors would have had to have been involved. We most commonly associate the Psalms with David, and he is who authored Psalm 103, in which he wrote:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
This passage from Psalm 103 is a promise of God’s love.
Throughout the Bible, God is presented to us in many ways. Nouns like Creator, Judge, and Father. Adjectives like Holy, Just, Perfect, and Righteous, but what I want to focus on today is God’s love for us. In noun form, God is Love. The adjective…loving. To me, one and the same.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve brought sin into the human race. God created them with the ability to tell right from wrong. God knew they would disobey Him. Just as when we bring a child into the world, and we know they will disobey us…God knew. We hope our children will be good and obedient…but we know. Look back at your own life. Did you always listen to mom & dad? I doubt it. Our moms & dads knew we wouldn’t. Some people probably listened more than others. And still we bring children into the world…knowing that woven in with the good things will be frustrations, heartache, and hurt. All of these things are brought about by one thing. Sin.
Sin. It’s a problem. Just look around you. Of course, many sins are obvious and the people who commit them are considered the lowest of the low in society. Murder. Rape. We rightfully want people who commit those sins to be locked away for what they did. We demand their deaths. We feel justified in doing so.
But here, we are presented with a problem. Don’t get me wrong…murderers and rapists should not be running wild in our streets. But…these are human beings. People with souls. Bad people…but, nevertheless…ones with souls, whom God loves. God didn’t cause them to do what they did…sin did that. Sin that, gone unchecked, causes us to do things that might be easily recognizable, unspeakable, and detestable. Or maybe sin that we are easily able to hide. Some sin is accepted and normalized in our society. We gossip and don’t even realize we’re doing it. We tell little white lies, and think nothing of it. Yet, sin is sin. Sin, that which separates us from God, regardless of what method of falling short we choose at that given moment.
In the Old Testament, there are many stories. The first five books…the Pentateuch…which are the formation, the background, the law. The Prophets…a glimpse of what is to come. The Writings…Psalms, Proverbs and a few others…referred to as the “Wisdom books”. The Old Testament makes up about two thirds of our Bible, but for most of my life, I chalked the Old Testament up to nothing but fairy tales, poems, and a whole bunch of unpronounceable names.
Last year, when I started college, one of my first classes was “Old Testament Survey”. I learned quickly that the Old Testament was far from what I thought. In each chapter of our workbook, at the top, there was a blank line after the words “the picture of Christ”, and we learned how each chapter points to Him. I began to see that the Old Testament was what told humanity’s story and the promise of a Savior.
God knew, just like He knew that we’d sin in the first place…that we’d just keep on sinning. Shaking our fists at him. Finding other “idols” to occupy our time. If you’re a parent, think about the heartache you experienced the first time your child found something else more important than you. Multiply that by billions. That’s what God experiences. Yet, He loves us anyway. Just as we should love our children in spite of the way they sometimes treat us…or how our parents love us in spite of the way we treat them.
The Hebrews, God’s chosen people, had several thousand years in which they were able to atone for their sin through messy sacrifice. They had a strict code of laws that they had to adhere to. No shellfish…no mixed fabrics…plus the ten we commonly see today. And not one of these chosen people…not one…was able to live up to God’s perfect law completely.
God knew this. He’s God…He knows everything. He knew what the solution would be. But unlike the Old Testament, where only the chosen people of God had a way to him, He made plans for all. Every…single…one…of…us. He made a way through His Son Jesus Christ.
Why would God do what He did? He had a perfect Trinity. Father…Spirit…Son. He could have written off the human race as just a bunch of disobedient nothings. When I look in the mirror, that’s often what I see. I know that I have, do, and will continue to disobey God. I’ve shaken my fist at Him, screamed at Him, blamed Him. Childish things that a human parent would react angrily to.
The answer to why he would do this is…He loves. He loves you. He loves me. The Good News…the Gospel. We’re sometimes completely and totally unlovable. I know I am, and if you look within yourself, I’m guessing you’ll see at least a little of the same thing. We do things that we are ashamed of. We fight with each other. We talk about other people behind their backs. We may be addicted to a behavior, or a substance. Our sin might control every facet of our life. We also might be prideful, or selfish. In our minds, those things make perfect sense. My accomplishments. My stuff. My time. Yet despite these sins…really, any and all of our sins, He loves us.
I grew up in a tradition that taught me that God’s love for me was dependent upon me. My acceptance of His free gift of salvation would have to be followed up by strict obedience to rules. My church attendance. How I dressed for church. How many times I opened the Bible and how many verses I could memorize and quote. How many sinners I witnessed to.
As a teenager, I quickly found out that I might as well give up because no matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t going to accomplish what I was told was within my grasp. There was no joy in what I experienced in church…only a constant reminder that I must be doing things the wrong way because I was still a wretched sinner.
Psalm 103 verse 12 tells us that as far as the east is from the west, that is how far He has removed our transgressions…our sins…from us. But how? How is this possible? From east to west is about as far apart as you can get. I still sin. I know I do. I still fall short in so many areas. I have all my life.
Here’s how…Love. Jesus came to us as the good news…the Gospel. God became a man for the sake of man. In the song ‘Forever’ by Kari Jobe, a few lines sum up what Love is:
The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him
One final breath he gave
As heaven looked away
The son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken
The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated
These words wreck me. I could stand before you and tell you to remember every sin you’ve ever committed. Dwell on them. Let them remind you of how awful you are. But why? God has forgotten them. For a long time, I felt like I was too far gone. That there was no way God would ever be able to reach me, forgive me, and love me. I revisited my sin over, and over, and over. But He proved me wrong. He showed me grace and mercy through His Holy Spirit. Through His work in other people. Jesus, the perfect human, justified you and me through his suffering, death, and resurrection.
If you are in the spot where I was, know that your Savior is right beside you, waiting for you to look to Him. To say, Jesus…I surrender. I can’t do this anymore. I need You to take over…and He’ll do just that.
I want to leave you with one word. It’s a Greek word. It was the last word that Jesus uttered in His human form. τετέλεσται. Translated, this means “it has been finished”. God unleashed all of His wrath on Jesus on that cross so we would not have to experience it. Believe it. It truly is finished. He didn’t take your burden away to give you another. Rest in Him. Jesus, who intercedes with God on your behalf. Jesus, whose spilled blood is what justifies you to be adoptable as one of God’s children.