Q: #83. Does God really forget our sins?
By: Steve Shirley
A: The Bible does indeed speak of God not remembering our sins as a part of His forgiveness (Heb 8:12)(Heb 10:17)(Isa 43:25)(Jer 31:34). However, the Bible also says this about God's forgiveness of our sins:
(Ps 103:12) As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
(Mic 7:19) ... And thou will cast all of their sins into the depths of the sea.
(Isa 38:17) ... For thou hast cast all of my sins behind they back.
(Isa 44:22) I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, And, as a cloud thy sins:...
Most scholars seem to agree that God does not "literally" forget our sins. I believe the verses above give us a picture that they aren't literally forgotten, but rather, they are covered or put far away from God. When God says He will not "remember" our sins, the better way to think of it would be, "He doesn't hold our sins against us."
Why should we think this way? Because, God is omniscient (all knowing). If God does not remember something, then it means He doesn't know everything.
Let me give an example of how we should look at God's forgiveness. I am guessing that most of us have heard the saying "forgive and forget." Sadly, we have come to believe that forgetting is a part of forgiving. This causes a real problem for many people because they feel fairly certain that they have taken Biblical steps to forgive someone, but since they can't forget about the harm done to them, they must not have truly forgiven the person who harmed them. While this can be the case sometimes, it is not ALWAYS true. For instance. if a person grew up being molested as a child, it is fairly unlikely they will EVER forget that happened. However, it does NOT mean they can't forgive the person who did that.
One main key to forgiveness, is that once we forgive a person for an offence, we should never bring it up to use against that person again. It should be in the past. Do we always do this? Not very often... However, this is EXACTLY what God does. Once we confess our sins and repent, God forgives. Our sin is "as far as the east is from the west," "cast into the depths of the sea," "put behind His back," "covered with a thick cloud."
God will NEVER bring it up against us anymore. He does not forget, just as we usually don't forget, but forgiveness is not contingent on forgetting, it is about putting it in the past.
***Update: I wanted to add one Biblical example of God not "forgetting" sin that I did not mention above. This is in regards to the affair David had with Bathsheba in (2 Sam 11). After he committed this sin, David spent approximately 1 year in unrepentant sin. He speaks in (Psalm 32) about how miserable his life was during this time. However, we find his apology to God for this sin in (Psalm 51). David repented, and asked for forgiveness. Did God forgive David's sin? Yes! (See: 2 Sam 12:13) Did God "forget" David's sin after He forgave it? No. Take a look at (Mt 1:6) in the New Testament which says, "David the king begat Solomon OF HER THAT HAD BEEN THE WIFE OF URIAS:" (caps emphasis mine). God did not hold David's sin against him, but He never forgot that sin (even hundreds of years later).