Remember...That God "Forgets"
The writer to the Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 when he writes: "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Hebrews 8:12). This is followed up with, again quoting Jeremiah, "'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.' And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin" (10:17, 18).
In both cases these wonderful verses are preceded by a promise from God to "...put my laws in their hearts, and...write them in their minds" (10:16 and vice-versa in 8:10). These are changed people, renewed in heart and mind, and forgiven.
God is omniscient. This fifty dollar word simply means that He knows everything. And logically, at least to my mind, omniscience means He can't forget anything. This is why I wrote "forgets" as I did. Because God really doesn't forget anything. I think this is important because one of the many concerns that people bring up when it comes to forgiving others revolves around how to "forget" when a sin has been committed against them. We know the old adage "forgive and forget" but who can forget even when they have genuinely forgiven—especially if the sin committed is a brutal one?
Perhaps the answer lies in what God does when we have confessed our sin and received Jesus as our Saviour and Lord. He knows what we are and what we have done. He never forgets that we are sinners. But based on the blood of Christ which has now cleansed us from all sin (1 John 1:7), He has chosen not to hold those sins against us or to bring them up again and do an, "Aha, I knew you'd do that again. Remember when...?" whenever we slip and fall.
He has chosen to "forget" our past sins in His dealing with us. Two of the nuances attached to the word "forget" are these:
1. inadvertently neglect to attend to, do, or mention something.
2. put out of one's mind; cease to think of or consider.
This is what He expects us to do when we are sinned against. We do not hold that sin over the head of the person who committed it and remind them of it at the first opportunity, or use it as a reason to seek payback. As far as they are concerned, and as far as how we think and feel and act toward them, we have "forgotten," just as far as we are concerned, God has "forgotten."
This is not always easy. Peter once asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sinned against him. Peter suggested that seven was plenty—three times was the standard at the time! The Lord told him that he needed to think far beyond seven, in fact think about limitless forgiveness (Matthew 18:22). This was again Jesus' call to His followers to model Him whose forgiveness is without limitations.
How God treats us who have sinned against Him repeatedly and unhappily continue to do so, is beyond mortal understanding. But we know it is so from His Word and we cling to that promise: "If we confess ours sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
And every day this assurance, this promise, this blessing, is something for which to give thanks to God.