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“What Does God Remember?”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I turned 58 last February, and I am experiencing most of the normal “early-senior-discount-age” phenomena – aches, pains, bathroom-frequencies, gray hair, lost hair, and … what was it? … oh, yeah … memory loss.
You’ve probably heard the old quip that “as we get older, short-term memory is the second thing to go; I can’t remember what the first thing is….”
That’s kinda funny because it’s true, right? Who here has ever forgotten the word you were looking for mid-sentence? Everyone! Right? And, boy is it … what’s the word? … frustrating!
Today we start a new sermon series about Bible verses that are so often quoted, but with no understanding of their context and therefore so often mis-applied, applied to life-situations that really don’t fit the verse’s intent or meaning. We’re going to look at these verses and discover God’s Word for us.
So, today, remember how we started two minutes ago? Our memory is fallible, imperfect, faulty. But then we come to today’s Bible verse about God’s memory. ….—-
Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
Right? How are we supposed to understand God’s memory? Does God literally, actually forget what happened? Does He really not know what I did yesterday? Has He truly forgotten the time you stole a piece of penny-candy from the corner mercantile when you were 6-years old? Do you think He can’t remember the gossip you spread, or the way you slandered a neighbor, or the driver you cussed out … under your breath … on your way to church … this morning … in the church parking lot?
Before we get to the theology of sin and forgiveness.
Think of the ways the Bible describes God for us. Because of our limited brain-ability, the Bible describes God with analogies – The Lord smells a sweet aroma (Gen 8:21); God hears the groaning of His people (Ex 2:24); the Lord sits on a throne (Ps 9:7); and He comes down to us (Micah 1:3). All of those activities require body-parts: nose, ears, a bum, legs. Does God have a body? No. God is spirit! These descriptions are analogies so we can understand something about God’s character.
The Bible also gives God human emotions: regretful sorrow (Gen 6:6), jealousy (Ex 20:5).
Again, God has no body, but the Bible talks about God’s hands (Ps 118:15), eyes (Prov 15:3).
And what about human relationships and occupations: husband (Hosea), father (Deuteronomy), king (Isaiah), shepherd (Psalms).
I wonder if God’s remembering and forgetting should be understood in the same way!
So, trusting that God’s Word is, in fact, infallible, using the “analogy of faith” as a means to properly interpreting less-clear passages with more-clear passages. Here’s what I think: God’s “forgetting” cannot be literal memory loss – God is perfect, after all! It’s not like how I have forgotten so many Algebra formulas from high school math classes, or the names of our neighbors when I see them at the store instead of in their front yard!
We believe God is omniscient – He knows every.thing! There is nothing He does not know! His knowledge is perfect, from before the beginning of time. He knew you before you were being knit together in your mother’s womb. He knows the end from the beginning. There is nothing He does not know!
Therefore, how could He forget our sins and transgressions?
We’ve all had times we wish we could forget, don’t we? I mean I want a better memory, not a worse one – but I would love to forget the time I jumped to a conclusion and hurt my son’s feelings (I mean, he would still remember, and that would suck, but at least it wouldn’t bother me!). I’d love to just forget the time my sister made fun of my hairless arms (I’m pretty sure she has forgotten that entirely!)!
We also know people, love people, who simply cannot remember. Alzheimer’s has robbed her of the memory that this man has been her faithful, loving husband for over 60 years! She has no idea who he is!
This is not who God is!
So, what does God mean when He says, “I … am he who … remembers your sins no more”? This is what theologians call “Covenantal language”. This means that this phrase is part of God’s Covenant with His people which offers complete forgiveness of their sins. The context of this verse in Isaiah 43 is that God has just reminded His people of their unfaithfulness to Him and their false worship, or worship of false gods. But, even though the people to whom this is originally addressed are known for their lack of faithful worship and service, Isaiah 40 through Isaiah 44 (which includes Isaiah 43:25) is mostly God assuring Israel of His comfort and grace. Listen to how Isaiah 43 opens: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine…. For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…. Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you (1-4).”
Then He says, Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Despite their sin, God communicates His covenant assurance. When He says, “for my sake” He is saying that this is not because we are so deserving – but it is because God is pure grace and love for His people, and He takes away their sins!
Isaiah uses two phrases to emphasize God’s perfect and complete forgiveness of sins. He writes that God “blots out your transgressions”. To “blot out” is to erase, to delete, to remove like as if they never existed to begin with! Our transgressions are unrecoverable and irretrievable! They exist no more.
Then He says that He “remembers your sins no more”. As good as forgotten. Never to be brought up again.
“Getting” is something that happens to us. Right. We “get” a smile, a hug, a complement. We “get” some ice cream, some lovin’, some grace.
“Giving” is something we do! When we “give” a smile or a hug or a complement, someone else “gets” the gift. When we “give” some ice cream, some lovin’, some grace – the receiver “gets” the benefits.
When God for“gets”, He also for“gives”!
That’s what this Covenant Language is really all about. The rest of the Scriptures, from Genesis through Isaiah 42, and Isaiah 44 through Revelation, reveal how God can have such a Covenant relationship with sinful people like you and me. When He “forgets” our sins, your sins and mine, it’s not due to a memory lapse, nor is it merely a trite idiom.
It is because God sent His Son to bear all the sins of all His people, and to die in our place on the cross, deleting the guilt of our sins and making them as if they never existed.
So that, when we break our relationship with God, when we “dis-member” our relationship – God’s forgiveness re-members us with Him.
Dear friends, you are forgiven by God. And you are re-membered into His grace and mercy! Please receive that gift – and pass it on to those around you. “Get” and “give” God’s grace. Amen.
McCracken, H.P.; TableTalk; August 2019; Pp.4-5.