forgiving

For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing,
and I will never again remember their sins.
(Hebrews 8:12)

It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake
and remember your sins no more.
(Isaiah 43:25)

Last Wednesday, my daily devotional reading was near the end of the book of Judges, where Samson met his fateful end after a life of disordered love and disobedience. As I closed my Bible that morning, I recalled how the sad epitaph on Samson’s life in Judges (“he killed more in his death than he did in his life”) is not repeated in the New Testament. The author of Hebrews lists Samson as a man of faith. Period. How kind of the Lord, I thought, to put Samson’s flawed legacy in the background and simply list him as a hero, one who “gained strength after being weak.”

Later that day, Johnny Hunt spoke at LifeWay’s chapel and delivered a truth-filled message about how God’s grace overcomes past regrets. He brought up God’s promise to “forget” our sins, to never bring up our past again, and he pointed to the New Testament’s discussion of Old Testament heroes as proof.

Think about it. No matter how flawed our heroes are shown to be in the Old Testament, they are presented at their best in the New.

Noah

Noah’s story doesn’t have a flattering end. The one righteous man who obeyed God and survived the flood winds up drunk and naked in his tent. But the New Testament makes no mention of Noah’s drunken escapade. We see him as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) who condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7).

Lot

Lot seems to be a half-hearted believer, waffling between his position in Sodom and his faith in the Lord. His family members laugh at him when he warns them of judgment, perhaps due to his lack of godly credibility. In the end, the angels must compel him to leave the city. Then, after Sodom’s demise, there’s a tragic scene of incest between Lot and his daughters. But the New Testament holds up Lot as an example of righteousness, someone “distressed by the unrestrained behavior of the immoral” (2 Peter 2:7).

Abraham

Abraham is the father of the faithful, but he had moments of significant weakness. He was willing to put his wife’s life at risk by lying to Pharaoh, and he slept with a slave in order to produce an heir. But these stains on Abraham’s record are not mentioned in the Hebrews account of his life. He was looking forward to the city whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).

Moses

Moses’ anger and pride kept him out of the Promised Land, but the New Testament refers to him as “faithful as a servant in all God’s household” (Hebrews 3:5) who “persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).

David

Then there’s David. The great king of Israel covets his neighbor’s wife, steals her for himself, lies to cover up his sin, and then has her husband killed. But David is never remembered for his wickedness. In fact, the New Testament quotes more heavily from the book that bears the name of this philandering murderer than any other Old Testament book.

God Promises to Forget

What do these examples show us? When God promises to forget your sin and never bring up your past indiscretions, your flaws, failures, and rebellious deeds, He is serious. He will never again bring up your sins. As far as the east is from the west, our sins have been removed.

As Gil would remind us:

“Isn’t that a glorious promise? That God won’t ever bring up our sin again? Takes a lifetime of determination to get that truth planted deep in your heart. We commit to memory. God commits to forgetfulness.” - Clear Winter Nights

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12 thoughts on “God’s Commitment to Forgetfulness”

  1. Kristin says:

    What an insightful post! Love it!

  2. Minor, but in my mind important, point: God does not forget.

    What He promises to do is to never recall our sin too His mind. It’s like your first pet … you hadn’t forgotten it 5 minutes ago .. you just hadn’t recalled it to your mind.

    That’s an important thing to distinguish .. we’re supposed to “forgive and forget” but we cannot forget things. What we CAN do, however, is to refuse to call them back into our mind .. to remember them again. Which is what God does.

    The best Bible teacher I ever heard said we were to “Forgive, and remember as forgiven”. I like that.

    1. Bob, I totally agree with you.

      The word “forget” is an unfortunate word when it comes to the forgiveness of God. In fact, if God “forgets” our sins then in some ways it diminishes the gravity of His grace and said forgiveness.

      Moreover, if He forgets then it evokes an image of a God who is not watchful over humanity and one who is not omnipresent or omnnipotent. I venture to say that it makes God smaller than He really is.

      The forgiveness of God is so great that it is as far as the east is from the west. Which is astonishing when you consider how for each son and daughter He not only propitiates His justification but expiates as well.

      1. Trevin Wax says:

        “Forget” is the biblical word, though, folks. Let’s not *forget* that. ;) Bob is right in explaining what the metaphor of forgetfulness means (in light of all God’s attributes, but I don’t want us to diminish the metaphor. It is biblical, after all. :)

        1. Scott Shaver says:

          No Trevin, the biblical Hebrew words are actually “zakhar”, “shakach” and “nashah”.

          Like many biblical Hebrew words (of which there were only about 3000), they have a much broader scope of meaning than contemporary English words.

          The emphasis is on action rather than mental activity.

          Knowing that ancient biblical Hebrew often focuses on action rather than the mental state of the individual, can we not see how God can “forget” people, but yet not forget.

          Or, conversely, how he can choose not to “remember” sins, and yet not erase them from his memory.

          Lois Tverberg has some interesting insights on ancient Hebrew culture that are helpful.

        2. Trevin,

          I totally appreciate the sentiment, however it brings up an interesting point in translation. The way we interpret the word is not exactly as God has stated. I think Scott kind of brings that to light.

          Ironically, it brings up another point… that when we read the Scriptures the ones doing the most forgetting is God’s people as they forget God is their god.

          They forget the covenant relationship. They forget why they obey. They forget that they are not god.

          Conversely, God is the one who remembers them… He goes to them. He comforts them. He forgives them.

          I think a follow up post might be in order on that subject in contrast to God’s merciful character in that regard. =)

          Truly, I think that is the point you are drawing out. For His mercies are new every morning. He does not evoke sorrow over our sins as they have been forgiven.

          Perhaps a better way to say is that it’s not the forgetfulness of God, but the finality to our judgment (“It is finished”). We are innocent. There is no double jeopardy. In that way, He does not look upon our sins and the greatness of His mercy is accentuated.

          1. BTW, if it helps… the Greek in Heb. 8: 12 is mimneskomai which in that form points to the notion of not bringing things up again.

            In other words, God puts it in the past.

            That is a notion which I believe is hard to accept in itself. To truly know forgiveness to that extent is to let go of our guilt because it is past.

  3. Scott Shaver says:

    Good point Bob and not minor.

    Inability to forget on the human side is also a safety check against unwise decisions in the future.

    Pappy O’Daniel from “Brother Where Art Thou” may have been a “forgive and forget Christian”…other than that, I doubt there’s any such thing.

  4. Trudy L. says:

    Wow!! How beautiful.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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