As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
What figures will best suggest the entireness of the removal of man's sin, when God, in his infinite goodness and mercy, deals with it and removes it? That question is specially interesting because, when man is forgiven his sin, he finds it so hard to get rid of the memory of it. In a sense it may be said that a man "never forgives himself." There is always, therefore, the danger that a man will transfer his own feeling to God, and persuade himself that, though God may forgive, he never really forgets. The psalmist, speaking after the manner of men, and using terms for God which can only in strictness apply to men, declares that God can, and does, and will, utterly forget; "remember our sins no more." The voluntary Divine forgetfulness is a sublime conception. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50:20) has this declaration, "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found." Three figures set before us the limitlessness of God's forgiveness.
I. THE DISTANCE OF EAST FROM WEST. (See text.) "Fly as far as the wing of imagination can bear you, and if you journey through space eastward, you are further from the west at every beat of your wing." The distance from north to south can be measured. There are north and south poles - fixed points. There are no eastern or western poles. From every point alike in the circuit of the world the east extends in one direction, the west in the other. Thus the traveller westward may be said to be ever chasing the west without coming nearer to it.
II. REMOVAL BEHIND THE BACK. (Isaiah 38:17, "For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.") Two ideas are suggested:
1. "Behind the back" is a strong figure for "out of sight" and "out of mind."
2. "Casting" behind the back implies resolute purpose. It is as if God had thoroughly made up his mind that he would never look upon them again; he had done with them forever.
III. THROWING INTO THE SEA. (Micah 7:19, "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.") Nothing brings to us the sense of hopeless, irretrievable loss, like dropping a thing into the fathomless depths of mid-ocean. If our sins are cast into the sea, we shall never see them more. God's gracious dealings with our sins depend on our right dealings with them. Only sins that we have put away from ourselves by repentance can God put away from us by his full and free forgiveness. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.