Draw Close to God
When God Forgives, Does He Forget?
THE answer, in a word, is yes. Concerning those whom he favors, Jehovah promises: “I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) Jehovah thus assures us that when he forgives repentant sinners, he does not remember their sins anymore. But does that really mean that the Creator of the vast universe is unable to recall the sins he has forgiven? The words of Ezekiel shed light on how God forgives and forgets.—Read Ezekiel 18:19-22.
Using the prophet Ezekiel as a spokesman, Jehovah proclaimed judgment against unfaithful Judah and Jerusalem. The nation as a whole had abandoned Jehovah’s worship and filled the land with violence. Jehovah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. But in the midst of the judgment, Jehovah provided a message of hope. Each individual had a choice; each one was responsible for his own course of action.—Verses 19, 20.
What, then, if someone changed from doing bad to doing good? Jehovah said: “As regards someone wicked, in case he should turn back from all his sins that he has committed and he should actually keep all my statutes and execute justice and righteousness, he will positively keep living. He will not die.” (Verse 21) Yes, Jehovah was “ready to forgive” a sinner who turned back from his wayward course, manifesting true repentance.—Psalm 86:5.
What about the sins he had committed? “All his transgressions that he has committed—they will not be remembered against him,” Jehovah explained. (Verse 22) Notice that the repentant one’s sins would “not be remembered against him.” Why is this significant?
In the Bible, the Hebrew word translated “remember” can mean more than just to recall the past. Regarding this word, one reference work says: “Quite often, in fact, [it] implies an action or appears in combination with verbs of action.” Thus, “to remember” can mean “to act.” Hence, when Jehovah says of a repentant sinner that his sins “will not be remembered against him,” He is saying that He will not thereafter act against the individual because of those sins, such as by accusing or punishing him.a
The words of Ezekiel 18:21, 22 paint a touching picture of the extent of God’s forgiveness. When Jehovah forgives our sins, he will never hold those sins against us in the future. Instead, he puts the sins of repentant ones behind him. (Isaiah 38:17) It is as if he wipes out the record of those sins.—Acts 3:19.
As imperfect humans, we need God’s mercy. After all, we sin many times. (Romans 3:23) But Jehovah wants us to know that if we are sincerely repentant, he is willing to forgive. And when he forgives, he forgets—that is, he will not rehash our sins in order to accuse or punish us ever again. What a comforting thought! Does God’s mercy move you to want to draw closer to him?
Suggested Bible reading for July:
a Similarly, “to remember sins” can mean “to take action against sinners.”—Jeremiah 14:10.