How releasing it would be to know that one’s iniquities had been forgiven and that God had promised not to remember one’s sins any more. That is precisely what God promised through Jeremiah in Jer 31:34, For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Isaiah had previously written something similar when he wrote in Isa 43:25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”) We note here that the same words are used in both passages for “not remembering” and for “sins”.
What then does Jeremiah mean by “For I will forgive their iniquity.” In the Hebrew Bible “forgive” is “salach” which we have looked at before in an earlier article. It has the meaning to forgive and pardon and is always used of God forgiving, pardoning or sparing. In the Greek LXX (Septuagint version) the word is from “híleōs” and means to show mercy, to be propitious, to pardon. It is one of those verses in both Greek and Hebrew versions that the grace of God is seen in God’s willingness to forgive guilty people.
“Iniquity” in Hebrew is “avon” and is a word denoting conscious wrongdoing and the guilt deriving from that. It has the sense of deliberate intention to do evil. In the Greek version (LXX) the word is “adikia” which can mean acting unjustly and perhaps bringing harm to another person through injustice. What a blessed truth that God can show mercy to those who have turned from His way and can forgive the sins they deliberately committed against Him or against their fellow humans.
The magnitude of God’s grace in forgiveness is in the final phrase of the verse, “and I will remember their sin no more.” This implies on God’s part the intention to not bring that person’s sin back against them again. God as the Omniscient (all knowing) One cannot forget anything but He can choose not to recall things in order to use them against people again.
When God forgives He does so deliberately with no intention of later holding those sins against the people. The Hebrew word “zakar” and the Greek word, “mimnēskō” both have that sense of remembering or recalling to memory. God will not recall those sins again. What a contrast with the human tendency to keep on recalling to our minds the sins that others have committed against us, and even using those things against that person over and over again. We will see in later articles that God can give us the grace to forgive in the same way He does, but we need His grace to do so.
Blog No.048. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Saturday 26th November 2011