The memory of my mother reading bedtime stories to my siblings and me still brings an inward smile as I “hear” one of us inevitably implore,
- “Just one more page, Mommy. Please?”
This, along with a myriad of other life events, provides a rich storehouse of happy memories. Of course, there are other memories I’d rather forget – a collage of disappointed hopes and dreams – but on the whole, I’m grateful for the ability to remember.
Memory is a precious part of being human – so precious that we dread its inevitable erosion as we grow older. The thought of losing our memory is feared as much as any human malady these days. Memory loss is one of those infirmities connected with our humanness.
How is it then, that the Scripture describes God as “losing his memory” about us? “The Bible says that?” you ask. In at least four places, the Scriptures reveal God forgetting something .
Isaiah 43:25 (ESV)
I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Jeremiah 31:34 (ESV)
… I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Hebrews 8:12 (ESV)
… I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.
Hebrews 10:17 (ESV)
… I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.
But wait. If forgetfulness is an infirmity, how is it that Scripture attributes forgetting to a perfect, all-knowing God? Resolving this dilemma requires understanding how the language of Scripture works. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Biblical writers employed human language – words and images with which we could identify – in conveying spiritual truth.
For example, we understand the power of memory. Someone may say or do something hurtful toward us, and though the event may be years in the past, we still brood over the wrong committed – we can’t (or won’t) let it go. Until we are able to let it go – to forget about it – through reconciliation, or offering forgiveness, it poisons our relationship with that person.
When it comes to our sins committed against God, his view of those sins – if we have repented of them and trusted Christ as Savior – is described as having been forgotten. In a sermon entitled, God’s Non-Remembrance of Sin, preached on October 22nd, 1882, Baptist pastor C.H. Spurgeon said:
“[God’s] pardon is so true and deep that it amounts to an absolute oblivion, a total forgetting of all the wrong-doing of the pardoned ones.”
This cannot mean that God has no recollection of a believer’s sin, for God knows everything. What it does mean is that the believer’s sin is not laid up in God’s mind – he is not brooding over their sin. It has been forgiven, because the shed blood of Jesus has made full atonement for it. Never again will God recall that sin, holding it against those who have come to him through faith in Jesus Christ. And that is something I am glad God forgets.