Does God really forget?
Isaiah 43:25 (ESV)
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Lamentations 3:21–23 (ESV)
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lordnever ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Does He absolutely have no memory of our sins once forgiven? Or is there something else at work here?
On the one hand, we have to reckon with the fact that we know (for instance) that King David sinned in adultery and murder. It is written in God’s Word for all eternity. We would not imagine that somehow God has no remembrance of it. Nor should we imagine some strange form of divine amnesia in the case of our sins either.
But then again – what does Isa. 43:25 mean?
How are we to digest that and find comfort in it in our own lives? And I think we get a picture of it in the Levitical sacrificial system – and in our text in Lamentations 3.
At the time of the institution of the Tabernacle and the Temple, historians tell us that the ratio of Priests to the general populace led to a wonderful phenomenon. Say you brought your sacrifice on Monday to confess and deal with a sin. And then, Tuesday, bright and early you went back to bring a sacrifice and deal with the very same sin again. In all likelihood, you could do that every single day – and never see the same priest again. In other words, when you showed up on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – you would not be confronted with someone who would say: “Hey, didn’t I accept your sacrifice for that same sin yesterday?” Nope. There would be “new” mercy. It would be as though you hadn’t even been there before.
By this simple picture, our Heavenly Father reminds us that HIS mercies are “new” every morning.
He has the capacity to forgive us so completely – that He does not remember our former sins against us when we arrive at His door afresh. His “seven times seventy” – His love “keeps no accounts of wrongs.” When He wrote “PAID IN FULL” across our debt yesterday in Christ’s blood, He did not retain a copy to bring out against us today. He gave us the discharge papers. Sometimes we hang on them – but He does not.
Beloved, have you failed again today? Like a thousand times before? Do you cringe to run to Him again – and confess the same thing yet one more time? Fear not! Christ has died. There is continual cleansing for those who walk in His light (1 John 1:7). He hasn’t “forgotten”. But neither does He remember it against you. The blood of the Lamb has paid it all.
Oh, what a wonderful Savior!
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Reid serves as pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.