How Can God Forget Sins?

by Lois Tverberg

You have to admit, some Bible passages are real head- scratchers. For instance, in several places God says, “I will not remember your sins.”

Lois Tverberg

But how can God, in his infinite intellect, forget something? And what does he expect of us, since we pray, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?” Does God really expect us to forgive and to forget the sins of others?

For some this is not just an academic question. A few years ago I heard a young woman recount nightmarish memories of being raped by a babysitter when she was ten. Over the years she had tried to forgive and sought healing. But as a Christian, she was plagued by the idea that God would not forgive her sins unless she forgave and forgot sins committed against her. How on earth could she ever forget?

Remembering, in Hebraic Thought

Understanding the Hebrew words for “remember” and “forget” can help us untangle this theological knot. They, like many words, have a wider breadth of meaning than in English, because Hebrew is a “word-poor” language (having about 4,000 words, vs. 100,000 or more in English).

In English, our definition of the word “remember” focuses entirely on the idea of recalling memories and bringing ideas into our thoughts. To “forget” is to fail to bring a certain memory to mind. Both words are concerned entirely with mental activity, whether or not information is present.

But the Hebrew verb zakhar has a much wider definition than just “remember.” It includes both remembering and the actions that are taken because of remembering. It often implies that a person did a favor for someone, helped them, or was faithful to a promise or covenant. For instance:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided. Genesis 8:1

It sounds like God woke up one morning and slapped himself on the forehead, suddenly realizing that he left Noah out there bobbing around on the waves. But the idea in this passage is that God acted upon his promise that Noah’s family and the animals would be rescued from the flood.

Later in Genesis we find another example:

Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.” (vs 30:22)

Once again, the verb “remember” focuses on the action, not the mental activity. God paid attention to Rachel’s needs, listened to her prayer, and answered it. Here, “remember” means “to intervene,” focusing on what God did, not what God was thinking about.


The Idea of Forgetting

The Hebrew words for forget, shakach and nashah are also broad in scope. Often they mean to ignore, neglect, forsake, or disregard a person or covenant. For instance,

So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the LORD your God which he made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the LORD your God has commanded you. Deuteronomy 4:23

The idea here is that the Israelites would intentionally ignore their covenant, not necessarily forget that they made it. When the Israelites lapse into idolatry, we also hear God threatening to forget them:

Therefore behold, I will surely forget you and cast you away from My presence, along with the city which I gave you and your fathers.  Jeremiah 23:39

Once again the emphasis is on action rather than mental activity. God is saying that he would spurn his people, not lose their memory from his mind. When God “forgets” something, he does not necessarily lack information. This helps us understand why in the Psalms, we hear people asking God why he is forgetting them:

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? Psalm 13:1

Here the psalmist is saying “why do you ignore my prayers and not intervene in my crisis?” God doesn’t forget, but sometimes it seems as if he does.

Remembering Sins

Interestingly, “forget” is almost never used in combination with “sin.” But often the Bible says that God will “not remember” our sins. The idea of “remembering sins” takes the idea of acting according to memory and puts it into a negative framework. It suggests that God is going to give the person what he deserves for the sin. He will punish sin, not just keep it on his mind. Consider:

They have gone deep in depravity as in the days of Gibeah;
He will remember their iniquity, he will punish their sins.Hosea 9:9

The second line here is a parallelism, where the two phrases are synonymous. To “remember their iniquity” is the same as to “punish their sin.”  It is automatically negative, implying that God will intervene to bring justice. So, to not remember sins is to decide not to punish them:

If a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, … he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. Ezekiel 33:15-16

Because Hebrew focuses on action rather than the thought, it doesn’t necessarily imply that God loses the memory of sins in his infinite mind. It simply means that he has decided to forgo prosecution.

What are the Implications?

Knowing that Hebrew often focuses on action rather than on mental state, we can now see how God can “forget” people, but yet not forget. Or how he can choose not to “remember” sins, and yet not erase them from his memory. God chooses to put them aside, to ignore them and not bring them up again.

If you’ve ever been in a close relationship, you know what this is like. A wife whose feelings are hurt by her husband (or vise versa) “decides to forget” —to put the offense out of her mind even though the memory doesn’t goes away. Out of love, you simply choose not to ever act in revenge for the sin. And once you have done this, the memory itself tends to subside.

The Hebraic idea of “remembering sins” really encompasses the idea of punishment of sin, not just knowing about them. I find this very freeing in terms of understanding God’s expectations of us. Often we struggle with a person who has hurt us repeatedly, and wonder whether forgiveness means to pretend that the person won’t act the same way again. Are we allowed to protect ourselves, even if we hope they’ll change?

The idea that we can decide not to “remember” someone’s sins in terms of seeking revenge allows us to remember in order to make a situation better and make wise decisions in the future.

You know, if God could simply delete things from his data banks, he would have a much easier job than humans who can’t erase their memories. When we forgive a person, we need to choose to put aside our grievances, and often we need to do that over and over again as the memory returns to our minds.

When you think about it, it shows more love to be hurt and choose to not remember, time and time again, rather than to simply be able to forget about an incident. But interestingly, the more we love one another, the easier it does become to remove the memory of the past from our minds. In this sense, perhaps God’s infinite love really does entirely remove our sins from his infinite mind.

Lois Tverberg will be speaking at Women of the Word on April 13 & 14, 2018  in Janesville, WI. This seminar entitled “Through the Eyes of Jesus” is open to both men and women. Lois has authored four books which illuminate the teachings of the Bible from within it’s cultural context. They help us think and live Hebraically, so that we can become better disciples of Jesus.  Her newest book, “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus” is available on her website Our Rabbi Jesus or on Amazon.

A Returned Prodigal Speaks!

by Christine Disibio 

I am a daughter of the Most High God, the Alpha and Omega, the Author of all life, the One who is, who was and who is to come.

Christine Disibio

I am a daughter of the great I AM, the Almighty KING!! I wish you could hear me say this, hear me say His names without pride, but with such joy, expectancy, and love. I am also a returned prodigal. I am in LOVE with my God, my Jesus, my Savior, my King, but I wasn’t always this way. I went through years of self– years of trying to satisfy myself. I spent years thinking I was my own god, believing I knew best and I had control. The twisted level of my thinking is almost unimaginable to me, yet when I ponder it…I remember.

The purpose of this quick testimony is not to inform you of the gravity of my sin, but to show you how unimaginably great a redeemer we serve. JESUS…that is the name above all names. JESUS… that is the man who saves! He came to share Good News, to set free captives, to deliver us from bondage, and to set blind eyes to see. He bore our sin, and he bore our sickness. JESUS came to deliver us and to restore our broken hearts. That’s just what He did for me.

I am a product of:

  • Prayers of a broken-hearted mother and father,
  • Prayers of a grandmother insistent on standing in the gap for my life,
  • Prayers of so many friends and family members crying out to God on my behalf.

I am a product of a God who hears, a God who answers, and a God who, even without those prayers, NEVER, EVER, EVER gave up on me!

I cannot express enough the joy I now have in Christ. The healing power of the blood of Jesus Christ is beyond my wildest expectation. How do we get our loved ones who have walked away to experience that power? Sometimes the people around us have to be just broken enough, just hurt enough, just in enough mess that they cry out, “OH LORD HELP ME!” And when they do, He is there. When they set their minds upon Him and taste and see that He is good, He will draw them unto Himself and give them staying power; He will start to appear better than this world, and He will become their desire.

I know each one of you is praying for someone, or more than one, near and dear to you. DON’T GIVE UP! NEVER GIVE UP! In Psalm 107 the Bible commands “ Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Has the Lord redeemed you? Then pray and speak out! Tell others that He has redeemed you from your enemies. The LORD has redeemed me and I will speak out to tell of the great, great things He has done for me. I will proclaim from every mountain top that God has saved me and restored me. Who else is like him? Taste and see for the Lord is good and so worthy to be praised. He reigns above all and through all. He alone has the victory, and He will succeed in the lives of those for whom you are praying.

Standing in the gap is exactly that. When you intercede, you place yourself in the space between what is now, and what will be when heaven has its way. You place yourself there, as a sacrifice, as a line in the sand saying you will not be moved until you see heaven move on behalf of your loved one. This is a Jesus-like action. The Bible says Jesus himself makes intercession on our behalf. He ever lives to intercede on our behalf. PRAISE GOD! Jesus himself is pleading before the Father the same case for your loved one!

Jesus taught us to pray “ Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So stand in the gap, make intercession on behalf of those prodigals. Pray that they would experience the love of the Father and the restorative healing power of Jesus. Pray that they will walk in the way in which they were raised. Pray that they would come to the understanding and knowledge of God. Pray that the power of the Holy Spirit would come and breathe on them in their lives. Even if they reside in the pit of hell-on-earth, the Holy Spirit goes there. He is there… Call out to their dry bones and speak: “COME ALIVE!” May the Spirit of the living, breathing God move on their behalves and change the very course of their lives in Jesus name!

I want to pray for you and with you: O Father, gracious loving Father, I ask that you would refresh every woman reading these words, every intercessor pleading on behalf of a loved one. Lord, increase their measure of faith that they may know they have what they are requesting. Give them staying power, strength and grace. Place a new fire in each woman. May praise rise up out of their bellies, for you will be praised. With angels and saints we will sing worthy, worthy, worthy are you LORD!

Father, refresh them in your Holy Spirit and give them new utterances on behalf of their loved ones. Father, bend down and hear our prayers, oh Lord. Help us we cry. The prayers of wounded intercessors hold great power in heaven. Hear their cries and answer us quickly God! We want revival, revival of your sleeping people, revival in your church, in the ones present and the ones running.

Oh Lord, call them in from every corner of the earth. In their distress may they call out to you for help, O Lord. We know You will come and rescue them from their distress; You will heal them, and restore everything the enemy has stolen. Lord, turn deserts into pools of water and dry lands into springs of water in our lives and the lives of every prodigal child. WAKE UP SLEEPERS, COME ALIVE DRY BONES! Cry out for your redeemer is near. Cry out to JESUS and be restored, be fulfilled, be loved!

Lord, we know you hear our prayers and cries for mercy. We know You are good and faithful and will answer our every request. We thank You and we bless You! We ask all this because of the blood of Jesus shed for our sins at Calvary, and we ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen.

In closing, I want to share a secret; there’s a bonus for you…there is a reward beyond even the great joy of seeing these things come to pass while still in the land of the living. There is reward in heaven and great blessing that comes today as we say these prayers. These prayers help us change more and more into the image of Jesus. They renew our minds and refresh our souls. They are hard to pray and exhausting at times, but God…you see, He uses EVERYTHING for our good, for the good of those that love him…even our broken hearts! 

Be blessed, and be loved!

Christine Disibio speaks at Women of the Word. She is a millennial with a heart to reach them and the iGeneration with the Gospel. In the everyday circumstances of life, the light of Jesus shines into darkness. Her life is rooted in applying biblical principles and prayer. Christine and her husband are entrepreneurs who see their business as an avenue to witness of God’s redemptive purposes to their employees and customers. They have two young children and live in New England.

Women of the Word has a closed Facebook group called H.O.P.E. for Moms of Prodigals. Please visit it by clicking here.

Steadfast and Courageous

by Betsy Roy

The Fall 2017 Women of the Word events were entitled “Steadfast” in North Carolina, and “Courageous” in Maine. Both themes are a now word to women as these are character qualities we need to develop in order to live victoriously in today’s world.  We need to dig into God’s Word for His strategies and we need the power of the Holy Spirit daily so that we can implement God’s strategies at the appropriate time and in life giving ways.

At both events the Holy Spirit moved amongst us. The events opened with concerts of worship and prayer. All the women participated praying together for one another, the church and our nation. In North Carolina great joy broke out during the Saturday evening worship service causing the women to be ready to receive anointed ministry before the teaching of the Word. Hallelujah! Women also moved into great freedom in Maine as the Holy Spirit brought deliverance to several of them. Many were baptized by the Holy Spirit and operated in the gifts of the Spirit.

Christine Disibio

Our speaker team at both events was inter-generational as were the attendees. This is the heart of WOW – to reach women across generations. Below are some encouraging testimonies from women who attended.

“I do not know what was more stunning this past weekend; the scenery or the word that came forth from our powerful speakers. What a weekend! I honestly feel like I got a taste of Heaven this weekend! Life-changing teaching was shared, beautiful worship, amazing fellowship, and did I tell you about that view?!

WOW has been part of my life for almost two  decades. Our topic this past weekend was Steadfast and I believe the leadership of WOW knows something

Lake Junaluska, NC

about being steadfast. We each need to be reminded that this journey is filled with trials and tribulations of all kinds but we must choose to cleave to Jesus and submit our wills to the cross. We never reach a moment in our relationship with Him where the blood of Christ or the cross are irrelevant. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can allow Him to “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23) Being steadfast in this journey allows that beautiful cleansing to take place so that we can reflect Jesus to a dying world who is so in need. This weekend was a must hear word! Contact WOW to get MP3 or CDs!” ~~ Marly Ellenburg from Seneca, SC

There are many things I love about WOW, the preaching & teaching the Word of GOD, the anointing, the sincerity in which the ladies serve, the supporting of one another, the edification lived out and expressed. Then there is the work of GOD in the services, in the motel rooms, around meal times, while traveling to and from the events. For me, most assuredly the residual affect in the lives of those who attend that far reaches Conference time and goes into the home, the community and the local church. Hold fast to that which has been received and keep on seeking until there are break throughs that move mountains.

A word of encouragement ladies and something to keep in mind: Much prayer has gone into seeking the LORDs plan for each event with each Lady who is going to attend in mind. It’s not for a moment of celebration only but it’s for a lifetime effect. Walk out what you’ve learned. Don’t forget you have been prayed for. And remember this, “Your situation may not have changed when you got back home, BUT you have!” ~~ Yvonne Beals from Madison, ME

Please pass this on to others: I heard people say what I felt – it was the best conference I have even been to! Thank you to all of you!! I often come home drained, but I felt encouraged and invigorated. It felt like a packed long weekend with it was only about 24 hours. It was great!! So many encouraging talks!! ~~ Margo Mason from Searsport, ME

After reviewing my notes from the “Courageous” WOW Conference in Maine, I found the underlying theme was the courage it takes to change ourselves. Change is something we naturally resist. We enjoy the comfort of routine and habits even if, at times, they are self destructive. We hold onto our anger and offense; and at times, we justify our words and actions that are contrary to the Word of God.

In June Evans’ lunch meeting, she spoke of how she cooperated with the Holy Spirit to change her into the woman she is today. She warned of self-deception, those “blind spots” that we all have and to ask the Holy Spirit to show us what they are. We were encouraged to be open to God’s discipline which will bring the peaceable fruit of righteousness. God’s grace empowers us not to sin.

Denise Ridley made a statement that struck me profoundly. “When a storm comes you can forget who you are.” In order for that not to occur: 1) Read the Word 2) Speak the Word 3) Obey the Word 4) Don’t Isolate! (get a prayer/accountability partner) 5) Be Persistent.

Betsy Roy’s teaching was transparent of her own life and rich with biblical steps to take in repentence and restoration.

I taught of how I had to have the courage to become a “Peace Maker” and not a “Peace Keeper” in my marriage which also overlapped into ministry. There were other wonderful messages that I am looking forward to listening to soon.

I would encourage you to contact the WOW office and order the cd sets (or mp3’s). Listen to them over and over again as they are timeless truths. I have cd’s from 10 years ago that I will take out and listen to even now.

God wants us to have the courage to be the Women of the Word He has called us to be. He has equipped us with His Word and with His Holy Spirit. We are truly overcomers in Christ Jesus! ~~ Kim Warf from Bangor, ME