God Doesn't Literally "Forget" Our Sins

This short study addresses misunderstandings about the passages that say God "forgets" our sins.

Before doing this study, please read the 1-minute introduction We Must Define "Forget" Correctly. It 
addresses passages in Scripture which say God "forgets" our sins (e.g. Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12). And it offers 5 Scriptural reasons why this is figurative language because God is all-knowing and He can't literally forget anything. This study further confirms that truth.

1. God often uses figurative language to convey spiritual truths. For example:

Isaiah 55:12You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Psalm 98:8Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;

1 Chronicles 16:33Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. 

Proverbs 25:15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. 

This doesn't mean that anything in the Bible is untrue. Every word is true. But not every word is meant to be taken literally. God can and does use poetry, prose, metaphor, simile, and figurative language in places and it's relatively easy to identify the true meaning. 

This short study addresses misunderstandings about the passages that say God "forgets" our sins.
2. "Forget"

It's not at all difficult to understand how forget is used in Scripture in regard to our sins. We use it in similar ways in our everyday language.

For example, we use it to mean we aren't holding something against someone:

"I'm sorry if I overlooked your repeated text messages."
"Forget it. It's a thing of the past."

We also use it to mean we will pay for another person's "debt."

"Thanks for paying for my lunch. I owe you."
"Forget it. I wanted to treat you today."

2. God can't forgot our sins, because He is all-knowing (omniscient).

Consider this fully. If God actually forgot our sins, we would know things God doesn't know. He would cease to have infinite knowledge. His entire character would be affected. 

1 John 3:20: God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Psalm 139:1-4: You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

Matthew 6:8: Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Jeremiah 16:7: My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.

Hebrews 4:13: Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 

Psalm 147:5: Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.

In 1 Kings 8:39 Solomon addresses God and says, "you alone know every human heart."

Besetting sins: Most of us have certain sins that give us repeated problems. Sometimes these are called "besetting sins." They are areas where we are more susceptible to temptation. For example, some people more easily lose their temper, some people are more tempted to lie. God can and will help us overcome these besetting sins because he understands how they affect our lives. If He actually forgot our sins as soon as we asked forgiveness, He wouldn't understand our long term problems.

copyright 2017, Gail Burton Purath, BiteSizeBibleStudy.com, edited and updated in 2024

This short study addresses misunderstandings about the passages that say God "forgets" our sins.

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