“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
How would you like to have everything that was wrong or inappropriate in what you ever said or did, erased from the record of your life? A forlorn hope? Yet that is what God promises to do with the sin we confess to Him when asking for His forgiveness. In this passage in Isaiah 43:25, He expresses this truth in two ways.
The first truth is that God blots out or erases transgression. The word for “blot” is “machah” which can also be translated as wipe out, destroy, obliterate. The following verses also link the verb with the blotting out of sin. Isaiah 44:22 contains the same promise from God, I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist. God says through Isaiah that as we confess our sins to Him, He is able to blot out, erase and obliterate them so that they are no longer recorded against us.
King David confessed his sins to God and prayed for His mercy to be seen in blotting out his sins, Psalm 51:1, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. And Psalm 51:9, Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
The word is used of God’s servants praying that evil might not be overlooked by Him. So they prayed that God not “blot out” the sins of those who continued to reject God and His people. For example Jeremiah in Jeremiah 18:23 Forgive not their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from your sight”. And Nehemiah in Nehemiah 4:5, Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight … . God is not able to blot out the deliberate and continued sin of those who sin against Him. Only sin which is confessed to Him in true repentance is able to be blotted out by Him.
The second truth is that God promises to “remember” our sins no more. … and I will not remember your sins. The word for “remember” is “zakar”. It is used of God remembering His people and His covenants with His people, Genesis 9:15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
It is also used of His people remembering His deeds towards the nation. He had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and they were to remember this always in their national life. Deuteronomy 5:15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Also in Deuteronomy 15:15 and 24:18. They were to remember too the laws He gave through Moses, Malachi 4:4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.”
I find it disappointing that some writers say that God “forgets” our sins. How can God “forget” our sins if He is Omniscient (all-knowing)? He knows the end from the beginning and nothing is hidden from him in the past, present or future. There is a big difference between God “forgetting” and “not remembering”. It is impossible for the Omniscient One to forget anything.
However it is important to note that the verse does not say that God “forgets” our sins. It says that He will “not remember” them. In other words God knows about our sins, but as we confess our sins, He forgives us. He promises not to recall them against us ever again. He could “remember” them if He wished in the sense of recalling them to His mind and thinking on them. However He has told us He will not do that when sins are confessed and forgiven.
What does that mean for us today? The devil or Satan is described in the New Testament as “diabolos”, the accuser. He will try to accuse us or confront us with former sins that have been forgiven. Some humans may try to do the same to us. However God’s promise is that He chooses not to revisit those sins on us again. He may never be able to forget them as the Omniscient One but He chooses not to hold against us those things which have been forgiven.
When we come to the New Testament in later articles we will see the difference between what God does and what Satan tries to do about human sin. We will see that God by His Spirit convicts us of our sin so that we will repent, ask His forgiveness and thus be able to walk in freedom. Satan however will try to keep us feeling guilty by feeding accusations into our minds and attempting to get us to recall our former sins. Satan works through deceit, lies, accusation and condemnation. God in His promise to us says, “I will remember your sin no more.” Satan says as he brings accusations into our minds, “You really are evil. What about the sins you have committed. You’re guilty. You’re unclean. ”
The victory comes in our lives as we learn to focus on the promises of God in His word. Especially as we focus on this promise in Isaiah 43:25, and as we keep on affirming that in our minds. Then we are in a position to reject the accusations of the evil one by standing on the truth, God’s truth found in His word.
What a double blessing to know that God blots out our transgressions so the record of them is expunged in His sight, and that He chooses not to recall them or to bring them back against us ever again.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:- (Added October 2017)
1]. What do you think it means that God can “blot out”our transgressions or sins?
2]. If we confess our sins to God and He “erases” them [as Isaiah 43:25 puts it], should we continue to feel guilty about them? If not, why not?
3]. If God knows everything [being omniscient] what does it mean that He “remembers our sins no more” if we confess them to Him? Is there is difference between “forget”and “remember not”? What is the difference?
4]. Is it helpful to tell people they must “forgive and forget” the sins of those who have hurt them? If not, why not? Is there a better way of helping them deal with the hurts of the past?
5]. To what extent do you think that Satan [the accuser] accuses people today? How would one personally deal with those accusations?
Jim Holbeck. Blog No.18. Posted on Monday 14th March 2011