“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”
– Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:12
The Hebrew word, “zakar” means, “to remember, to call to mind, make mention, recall past distress, remember sins, or remember the dealings of.” The word means more than just the mental act of recalling memories and is more about the actions that are taken because of remembering. For example, in Gen 8:1, “God remembered Noah and all the animals that were with him on the ark and He sent a wind over the earth and the waters receded.” God didn’t suddenly recall that there was a boat out there with Noah on it. By remembering them, He acted faithfully on the promise that He had made to Noah. Another biblical example of this is in Genesis 30:27, where the Text says that God remembered Rachel and she conceived. God wasn’t just thinking about Rachel; He acted on Rachel’s behalf because He remembered her in her distress.
In contrast the Hebrew words for forget are, ”shakach” and “nashah” and they mean to ignore, neglect, forsake, or to act in disregard. Again, the words imply action – to act as if you have forgotten and to ignore, not just lose the memory of something. To forget in Hebrew is to act as if you don’t recall or treat as if you don’t remember. So how do these Hebrew words apply to us in our sinful state in the verses in Jeremiah and Hebrews quoted above?
When God says that he will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more, it means that He is not going to act. He is going to treat our sins as if He can’t recall them. God is not excusing our sin, He is just acting as if He can’t recall them. This is an important concept for us as sinners. God simply chooses to set our sins aside and treat them like He can’t remember them and He won’t bring them up again. Out of God’ great love for us, He chooses not to act and seek justice for our sins against Him. God treats our sins like the slogan in the SERVPRO® commercials, “Like it never even happened.”
In turn, though, God expects us to do the same with those who have sinned against us. We are to forgive those who sin against us just as God does for us. Colossians 3:13 says, ”Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” We have to choose not to remember what people have done to us. It’ s not that we can just forget what has happened to us or lose the memory, but we have to act and treat it like it never happened, remembering it no more. Furthermore, the Text says this is the key to our sins being forgiven. Jesus taught us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and told us to say, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Then, Jesus goes on to say in verse 14, ”For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We have to choose not to “remember” just like God does. What a wonderful promise from Scripture that God will treat our sins “Like they never even happened!” Our challenge is to adopt that same slogan and pass that act of forgetfulness on to those who are in debt to us.