George was suffering from a deep sense of guilt. He had hurt a lot of people during his life. But he had repented of all he had done and had asked God for forgiveness. He had also contacted many of the people he had offended and asked for their forgiveness. He had known a real sense of release by doing so. Many had freely forgiven him. Others were not willing to do so. But he had done the right thing in apologising to them and asking their forgiveness. Yet there still remained an ongoing sense of guilt about some aspects of his past.
He was introduced to a verse from the Bible that brought him a deeper sense of release from guilt. It was this verse from Isaiah 38:17, Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. This is another of those word pictures God gives us in His word to enable us to grasp the reality of His forgiveness.
The phrase “behind your back” is found only a few times in the Old Testament. It can refer to people rejecting God by taking their eyes off Him and as a result casting Him behind their backs. Such was God’s charge against Jeroboam’s idolatry in 1 Kings 14:9) but you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back. A similar charge was levelled by God against the people of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 23. The people had turned away from God as verses 29 and 30 indicate, Your lewdness and your whoring 30 have brought this upon you, because you played the whore with the nations and defiled yourself with their idols. God declared His punishment on them, Ezek 23:35, Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring.” It is a foolish and dangerous thing to turn one’s back on God. He notices!
What a contrast then is this truth in Isaiah38:17. Hezekiah the king had repented of his sin against God and had been forgiven by Him. Hezekiah wrote, Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. When people turn to the Lord, He does deliver their lives from the pit of destruction. In addition He does something about their sins. He deliberately casts their sins behind His back. In this way God is conveying the truth that those sins are no longer before Him; He no longer looks at them; He no longer sees the penitent as being guilty of them. He will not bring those sins back against them again.
When George read those words he realised afresh that God’s forgiveness was based on His amazing grace. George knew he could never earn such a release from his sins. He acted on that objective truth in God’s word that God had cast his sins behind His back and began to affirm to himself that he was forgiven. That objective truth in God’s word became an inward reality as George continued to affirm that truth.
It reminds us that all the promises of God are eternally objectively true. But it is only as we come to know them AND act on them that they become true in our human experience as believers. There are so many of God’s promises that people have heard about. But it is only as people believe them and act on them that they became personally real in their subjective experience.
Do you have a niggling sense of guilt about anything in your life? Then confess whatever it is and ask God to forgive you. Then thank Him for doing so in Jesus, and begin to affirm the fact that you are forgiven and that God has indeed cast your sins “behind His back”. George did and it transformed him. You can too because God’s grace extends to all who believe and act on His promises. “He hides our sins behind His back”. What a blessed thought! What a relief! What a gracious God!
Blog No.108. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Tuesday 22nd January 2013. (47th Wedding Anniversary. I remembered! Praise the Lord!)