East meets West ?

As far as sunrise is from sunset , he has separated us from our sins  ( Psalm 103 :12 The Message)

The panoramic photo above was taken by our daughter Catherine  from a hill overlooking the new Sir E Scott School building.  The photo catches a beautiful sunset on West Loch Tarbert, and also shows East Loch Tarbert looking much darker on the right hand side of the photo.  The village stands at a  topographical crossroads where the long island of Lewis and Harris , the third largest landmass in the British isles, is almost divided in two, with just the narrow isthmus of Tarbert in between.   It is easily seen how in past times Tarbert was viewed as a strategic location, with the Atlantic ocean to the west and the little minch to the East, and just a narrow neck of land dividing the two.  and legend has it that Vikings  and others could drag longships and birlinns from one sea to the other without having to go round the sound of Harris.

IMG_1230.jpgLooking out over the sea to the East and to the West reminded me of a wonderful verse in psalm 103 .

             as far as the east is from the west,so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12 NIV)

When or where do East & West meet? Well the simple answer is that they don’t, they can’t.  The psalmist David shows  how symbolically God has put a distance between us and our sin. God has dealt with the sin and transgressions of His people by removing them as far away as possible from us. Unlike us

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbour his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
(Psalms 103:8-10 NIV)

This itself is God’s nature & character, it is what He does, it is what He is, a  God who  is gracious & compassionate.  This is well illustrated in the book of Exodus when  God gave Moses the 10 commandments on 2 stone tables in the book of Exodus 34:6 and proclaims to Moses his name  –

“ The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate & gracious God, slow to anger abounding in love & faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, & forgiving wickedness rebellion & sin.”

Among the words common to both texts is that great word abounding  used so often in the Bible to signify the plentiful abundance of God’s nature of love towards His people. We forget so often that God is a God of superabundance , and that his mercy and His grace towards us are never limited nor in short supply . There is nothing meagre or rationed in His dealing with us.

And precisely because God is Compassionate & Gracious, He is likewise slow to anger . God’s anger, let us not forget is also part of His nature and character.  He is a Holy, Jealous God, He is  the Judge of all the earth who cannot look upon sin . Yet the wonderful paradox is that this God is a God of love and forgiveness too. It is interesting that repeatedly throughout the Bible and especially the Old Testament , the same refrain is repeated, the following are but a few examples ;

‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation. ’
(Numbers 14:18 ESV)

But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.
(Nehemiah 9:17 ESV)

Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
(Joel 2:13 ESV)

These and other scriptures  serve to show us how wrong and biblically illiterate it is to try and claim, as some do, that there is a dichotomy between the God of the Old  and New Testaments ! We hear people say , Oh but that is Old Testament , Old Testament is all about judgement, anger and law. The truth is that the same God is revealed in both the Old and New Testaments as gracious, loving and slow to anger. This is the God who through the Cross of jesus His Son takes His people’s sin and sends them far away, further than the farthest horizon.

 As we reach the almost perpetual daylight of Hebridean  mid summer , it is still a wonderful privilege to see the sun set late in the evening to the far west.The Harris sunset is very different from that of  our former home in  Ness. Harris has coasts inlets and islands to the West. Ness has big open skies and only the mighty Atlantic rolling in over three thousand miles from the Eastern Seaboard of Canada. In the wonderful mercy of God our sins have sunken farther than that farthest horizon to be remembered no more .

As far as sunrise is from sunset , he has separated us from our sins  ( Psalm 103 :12 The Message)

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Midsummer sunset over Swainbost Ness Isle of Lewis from the Manse.