Hebrew Highlights 85 – EAST FROM WEST
Shalom, this is Yuval Shomron, coming to you from Jerusalem.
PSA 103:8-14, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us; Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”
This Psalm contains a couple of very interesting phrases in Hebrew. Let’s look first of all at the words “slow to anger”. They appear as a description of God’s character no less than 8 times in the Old Testament. Translated from the original “erech apaim”, they could also mean “long to anger”. In other words, it takes a long time for God to get angry, unlike some of us. A related expression used often in Hebrew is “erech ruach”, or long of spirit, which is translated as “patience”. Isn’t it wonderful that our Heavenly Father counts time on His side? He gives us plenty of space to realize our sins, and repent of them.
The next appealing axiom in PSA 103, verse 11 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.” Well, exactly how high are the heavens above the earth? The point is, no one can know. Therefore, His mercies are immeasurable. One thing is sure. They are piled up pretty high.
Perhaps the most fascinating idiom of all coined in this psalm comes from verse 12. “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us”. Again, one could easily ask, how far exactly is the east from the west? Well, this question may actually have an answer. If you imagine two objects, for instance, two rockets packed with the memories of your sins, traveling in opposite directions into outer space as fast as they can possibly go, then the answer is simple. To quote the “Toy Story” character Buzz Light-year, “to infinity and beyond”.
God has indeed not “dealt with us according to our sins”, or we would be in big trouble. Instead he looks at us through the eyes of a father’s love, understanding our weaknesses, and patiently teaching us.
May we learn to have the same length and depth of compassion towards each other.
Shalom, Shalom from Jerusalem.