Read: Psalm 103:9-13; Isaiah 55:6-9
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
(NIV Psalm 103:9-13)
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Study: People sometimes wrongly think the idea of “forgiveness” only arose in the New Testament. Today’s readings are not the only passages that show the Hebrew Scriptures also focusing on God’s forgiveness (cf. also, for example, Jeremiah 31:33-34). Isaiah 55 told readers that God’s superbly merciful acts are very different from our usual human patterns. As we choose to respond to God’s mercy, we join in a cosmic celebration full of peace, joy and beauty. How does Isaiah’s description of the gap between God’s mercy and our usual human ways of relating speak to your heart? Sometimes when we read Isaiah’s words, or Jesus’ teaching about forgiving others, we might think, “Sounds nice—but it would never work.” Do you believe God’s ways are indeed higher than ours? Do you believe God’s way is only utterly naïve idealism, or the only real path to peace and good?
Prayer: Lord God, sometimes I think of your forgiveness abstractly, but my bad choices and actions still haunt me. Keep teaching me that you take those things as far away from me as possible when you forgive. Amen.