David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. (1 Kings 15:5)
I remember once being taught at Sunday School that God forgets our sins. I knew what my teacher meant, of course. But even as a child, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the idea of God forgetting things. To forget is a mark of human frailty and fallibility. We forget where we put our car keys, we forget to pay a bill, we forget to switch the light off, we forget someone’s name. So if God were to forget something, that would make him just like us. And he isn’t just like us. No, the Lord is perfect, infallible and omniscient (all-knowing).
What God does do, though, is actively choose to remember our sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34). That’s quite different. In total contrast to human forgetfulness, God’s deliberate and positive remembering no more is a wonderful divine attribute.
Whilst reading through 1 Kings recently, I was struck by how unlike God I am in this respect. I kept noting glowing references to King David; to his righteousness (3:6), his integrity (9:4), his full devotion to the Lord (11:4), his following of God with all his heart and doing only what was right in the eyes of God (14:8). ‘Hold on’, I thought, ‘isn’t this a highly selective, biased record of David’s life and character?’
But then – as if anticipating my concern – the writer conceded in Chapter 15:5 that David had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands, “except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” Finally! I’d had to wait fourteen chapters, but at last an acknowledgement that David was far from perfect. After all, he did commit both adultery and murder, in direct contravention of two of the Ten Commandments. Israel’s greatest King was just a fallible forerunner of Jesus the King of Kings, whose impeccable law-keeping qualified him as the one-time sacrifice to take away the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28).
So what was all this saying about my own heart? About my attitude to past failures, either my own or the sins of others? In the case of David, clearly I haven’t actively, deliberately chosen to remember his sins no more. Instead, I’m concerned when his huge moral failure doesn’t get mentioned and left wondering when the record will finally be put straight.
By contrast, God deliberately chooses to remember David’s sins no more. And so several hundreds years later, as Paul preaches in Pisidian Antioch, the Lord is still pleased to have it recorded that David was “a man after my own heart; [who] will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22). That’s what God chooses to remember about his faithful servant David.
Let’s resolve to imitate God when it comes to sins that have been forgiven, whether our own failings or those of others. Remember, we belong to the one who has removed our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).