Can God forget? Songs proclaim our sins are cast into the sea of forgetfulness and an oft-repeated adage urges us to forgive and forget, just as God has done for us. When I try to forget some wrong done to me after forgiving the other party, the memory seems to possess an exponential half life aggravating in its insistence to remain alive. In fact, the act of forgetting sometimes increases, rather than decreases, my ability to recall the wrong.
Since God’s very nature includes omnipresence and omniscience, knowing all at all times, I have questioned the concept of Him forgetting anything, in particular the dead darkness of my sins. How can He act against His nature and forget what once was? And even if He can act in that way, then could He not also choose to remember my sins at some point in the future?
Since a teacher in the 1980s, I have been intrigued with “schema,” which is one way to define the way we remember, and forget. Simply put, schemas are file folders in our brain. The theory was that the brain automatically creates these place holders or markers to structure learning and enable better recall. I am fascinated by what God might use as place holders. For one, since He knew us before creating us, I figure we each have our very own folder in God’s brain, some marker that jogs Him to think about us.
On the other hand, the human concept of memory does not apply to God. Being both all-knowing and all-present in place and time, He does not have to reproduce or recall information because His knowledge is constant and complete. He does not pause and sort through His schema to recover information from the past, bringing it forward to bear on the present and the future.
Yet, the Bible’s filled with Spirit-led writers pleading with Almighty God to forget their sins and to remember His people with merciful love. One case is in Deuteronomy 9:27 when Moses begs Jehovah to overlook Israel’s sins and remember the promise He made to Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac. In Psalm 25:7 David, a man after God’s own heart, earnestly prays,
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord (NLT).
In Jeremiah after God sternly remembers Israel’s wickedness and punishes them, He then paints the promise of future reconciliation where He “will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (31:34, NIV), which verse is also quoted in Hebrews 8 and 10.
The context of each passage clarifies that for God to remember no more first requires us to acknowledge being wrong-full, contrary to God’s heart, and step in faithfulness toward to God. Under the covenant He made with Israel and with the new covenant in Christ, this action thereby permits God, the Righteous Judge, to take away the sin and enact His love. Isaiah 42:25 shows God emphatically declaring, “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again” (NLT). As Christians, we know that we stand before God in Christ, the one who takes away our sins and in whom there is no sin (John 1:23, Hebrews 9:28, 1 John 3:5).
My theory is this: God maintains place holders outside of Himself that contain our unconfessed sin; He is unequivocal about that fact that until sin is resolved, that darkness can have no place in His light. He knows our sin but that sin has no part in Him. In the miracle of salvation, God does not choose to forget. He does not reverse His nature or ignore part of His knowledge. He literally has no knowledge of our sins; He cannot remember them. Our sins no longer exist in past, present, or future. God no longer has a schema for Carol—Sinner. Eugene Peterson in Isaiah 42:25 of The Message portrays God wiping my slate clean and forgetting I ever sinned. Instead, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, God the Father writes Himself on my heart. God’s place holder now reads Carol—Daughter.
What a great mystery is the Good News of God’s grace.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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