Last night, Jason and I visited one of our church’s shut-ins. We, along with another family in the church, took a small Christmas gift from the church and sang a few carols. The dear lady and her visiting brother were grateful for the visit and the company. Each one sat in their chairs—their walkers nearby—and sang along with us to the best of their ability. It was a blessing!
What truly amazed me was the stories the two of them told. Not that the tales themselves were that fascinating, but I was intrigued by how well they retold events from the 50s and 60s. To hear them talk, it was like the events took place yesterday. Though both of them seemed to have trouble staying on topic and following the general flow of the conversation, it was evident that their memories were still working fine. . . certainly better than mine! It was amazing.
If people can have that good of a memory, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that God never forgets. He remembers everything. . .sort of. It’s a tricky thing. I thought I had a good understanding of this concept until I studied it out this morning and discovered I had it all wrong. Well, maybe not wrong but not right either. Are you confused now? Good, now you understand how I felt when I read a statement that seemingly contradicted everything I believed about God’s treatment of our sin, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
First off, let me share with you a couple of verses that describe some things forever etched on the memory of God.
The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works. - Amos 8:7
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. - Hebrews 6:10
To the wicked, God reminds us He’s keeping a tally. The things the unrighteous think they’re getting away with will one day be brought up in the courts of Heaven. God is watching and keeping an account. They may believe their actions are going unnoticed and unpunished, but there will come a day when their sins will find them out.
To the just, in Hebrews, the Lord reminds us He is also keeping a record of the good deeds we do. While they will never be enough to get us to Heaven, they are important to God. He watches when we care for others out of a heart of love. He smiles when we glorify Him by putting others before ourselves. Like a proud Father, He beams as He watches His children comfort and encourage others. And He never forgets a single moment. Not a single deed goes unnoticed. He sees and remembers every one.
God doesn’t forget. I believe that, but in my mind, there was always an exception. Yes, the Bible makes it clear God doesn’t forget, but it also teaches that, after we’ve been saved, He forgets and forgives our sin, right? So, the God who doesn’t forget sometimes chooses to forget, or at least that’s the way I’ve always believed and taught it. But now I realize I’ve made a mistake, and for that, I sincerely apologize. I want to set the record straight.
As far as I can tell (and I may be wrong), I can’t find a single verse in the Bible stating that God forgets our sin. Hold on! Don’t string me up before I can explain. The Scriptures are very clear concerning God’s position regarding our sin, but I can’t find where the word “forget” is used. Instead, these are the verses I found:
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. - Psalm 103:12
Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. - Isaiah 38:17
I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. - Isaiah 43:25
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. - Isaiah 44:22
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. - Micah 7:18-19
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. - Jeremiah 31:34
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. - Hebrews 8:12
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. - Hebrews 10:16-17
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. To remember no more is the same as to forget, right? But is it? If you notice the first few verses, they give powerful words to describe God’s treatment of our sin. He removes it. He casts it behind His back. He blots it out. He throws it into the depths of the sea. Each of these words implies a willing action. But the word “forget” denotes an involuntary response. We don’t mean to forget things, and most of the time, we don’t want to, but it happens, especially as we age (or come under a lot of stress).
Not only that, but forgetting is not a permanent thing either. I forget things all the time, but sometimes I remember again. I’ll forget someone’s name until three days after the time I was trying to think of it, then suddenly, it comes back to me. Memories return at random times, again, in an uncontrolled fashion.
So, if God merely forgot our sin, it would be an involuntary, temporary thing. Those memories could come flooding back at any time, and then what would we do? God’s Word is perfect, and I believe He chose each word and phrase carefully. He doesn’t say He’ll forget our sin; He says He will remember it no more. He’s making a choice and a promise. He’s choosing to put it out of His sight and mind and promising that He’ll never bring it up again. Isn’t that more reassuring than a forgetful Father who could accidentally remember? It is to me.
Before I end this, I encourage you to study this topic out for yourself. I’d love to know what you find. If I’m wrong here (and it’s possible), let me know. As I said, I didn't comb through the Scripture line by line, so I could have easily missed a verse stating that God forgets our sin, and if so, please direct me to that verse (or those verses). God’s Word is precious, and I want to be sure I’m rightly dividing it.