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THOUGHTS FROM ISAIAH

BEHIND GOD’S BACK …

The Bible contains multiple images of forgiveness. Many of these are part and parcel of our daily lives, things we are confronted with regularly, and they all serve to teach us just what it is that God does when he forgives our sin.

There is the image of washing or cleansing … something we are doing every day – we wash the dishes, we wipe the bench tops, we clean our cars. All of these ordinary actions remind us that God has wiped off the record of our sins. It no longer exists. [1John 1:9]

There are those terrible things that are called ‘bills’, accounts that are due, debts we owe and have to pay. We are reminded by these that our sin debt is paid, paid in full by the death of Jesus Christ. The sin debt is cancelled. [Colossians 2:14]

There is the image of covering … every day we are covering things: we put lids on our saucepans, lids on our food containers. We’re covering things over all the time. When God forgives, he covers our sins with the blood of Jesus. He chooses not to look at them any more. [Psalm 32:1]

There is the image of distance – we leave our homes and we travel, putting distance between us and where we’ve come from. God has put distance between us and our sins – as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. [Psalm 103:12]

There is the image of depth, the depth of the deepest sea, inaccessible, unreachable. God tells us that he casts our sins into the depth of the sea; never will they wash back upon us to separate us from him ever again. [Micah 7:19]

There is the image of setting things free, like unchaining a dog, or the firing of the starter’s pistol at an athletics track. God has removed the sin barrier that separated us from him, and set us free to enter his presence and live with him forever. [This is the meaning of the usual New Testament word for forgiveness – aphiemi.]

There is the image of crushing an insect beneath your foot. Terminating its ability to harm you and yours. That, the Bible teaches us, is what God has done to our sins: he has stamped them under his feet. [Micah 7:19]

And there is the image of putting something behind you. Letting go of it. Moving on. In his prayer in Isaiah 38:17 Hezekiah said to God

‘You have put all my sins behind your back.’

Some years ago I was speaking about these images of forgiveness to a group of Aboriginal ladies in central Australia. They came to me afterwards and said ‘Rosemary, that is very meaningful to us – that God puts our sins behind his back. In our culture, anything behind your back has no more relationship to you.’

Think on this: God, as the Judge, has put our sins behind his back. He does not relate to them any more. They do not count with him any more.

Centuries ago King David said much the same thing:

‘Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not hold against him’ [Psalm 32:2].

Jeremiah spoke of it:

‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’ [31:34].

This comprehensive and complete forgiveness, understood by both Old Testament believers and New Testament believers, is possible and available because of one thing only: the death of Jesus Christ as our legal substitute.

‘…the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ [Isaiah 53:6]

‘He bore our sins in his body on the tree’ [1Peter 2:24].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014