How Far Is the East From the West?

While working on my sailboat the other day I discovered a small, round, liquid-filled compass the previous owner used for general navigation. It still maintained its magnetism because it accurately indicated the cardinal directions. I began to think about the globe and the way longitude and latitude work. Surely, some smart people in times past invented the system of degrees and the way various kinds of maps are functional for their intended purposes. But the cardinal directions – north, south, east, and west – were conceived by the Creator.

Have you ever thought about the fact that you can only go so far to the north or to the south? In other words, once you reach the North Pole, you cannot go any farther to the north. If you start walking from the North Pole, you are initially heading south no matter which way you go. Keep walking and you will eventually arrive at the South Pole. And, once you arrive, the same is true for the South Pole. You can’t go any further south. The South Pole and the North Pole are a finite distance from each other. On the earth, it’s about 12,416 miles.

But, if you are standing on the earth at the equator, its point of largest circumference, and you head east, you can keep walking (theoretically…we know you’d take a dunk in an ocean at some point!) forever and never reach true “east.” You will go and go and go, but you will continually be heading east. The same is true if you headed west…you will never arrive at the “West Pole.”

Consider these verses from Psalm 103, one of the most encouraging chapters in the Bible:

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children,

so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame;

he remembers that we are dust.

(Psalm 103:10-14, ESV)

Do you notice the infinite references in this passage? He loves those who fear Him an infinite amount – as far as the heavens are above the earth. He has removed our transgressions from us an infinite distance – as far as the east is from the west. Could the Father God state the terms of his love and forgiveness in any stronger and clearer way? He knows we are as foolish as little children, and that our bodies are as transient as dust and yet He loves us enough to forgive us for our frailties and failures.

Our part is to fear Him. We don’t have to earn His love and forgiveness by working for them. If we honor Him as the Almighty Master of the Universe He reaches from the Heavens to show us compassion, and He removes the offenses of our human failings an infinite distance away…as far as the east is from the west.


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