7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:7–13)
We have been looking at the New Covenant described here in Hebrews 8. The author lists four provisions
Hebrews 8:10a For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord;
I will put my laws into their mind,
and write them in their hearts:
In the first provision of the New Covenant, God gives us a heart, an inner inclination, to obey him. In the Old Covenant, this was not the case. The commands were given, but by and large God gave no power to obey them.
The lesson was clear: we cannot obey God with sheer willpower; we need his Spirit to empower us.
and I will be to them a God,
and they shall be to me a people:
In the second provision we find that as believers we belong to God—we have a firm relationship with God—and so we are also responsible to avoid idolatry to maintain the purity of our identification with God.
When we allow our desires to become demands and control our lives, they become idols. We become identified with that desire idol and not with God.
In verse 11, we found the third provision:
Hebrews 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbor,
and every man his brother,
saying, Know the Lord:
for all shall know me,
from the least to the greatest.
We know the Lord, not just informationally, but we know him relationally. To know the Lord is to know the Lord personally.
The last provision of the New Covenant given here in Hebrews 8 is:
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness,
and their sins and their iniquities
will I remember no more.
I. WE NEED TO REMEMBER OUR SINS MORE
The fourth provision of the New Covenant is the total forgiveness of sins.
Why doesn’t this excite most of us like it should?
I think one reason that we don’t grasp the significance of “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness” because humanity doesn’t really think that we need to be shown mercy for our sins. “Why, I’m not that bad of a person…I know that I am a sinner, but do I really need mercy?”
We just really don’t think about sin enough. We definitely don’t think about sin’s judgment enough. Our focus is mainly on God’s love and how he can make our lives better.
Sin rears its head once in awhile, when we have a bad argument with someone, but most of us probably wouldn’t be able to name the sins we’ve committed at the end of a day. Since we don’t think about sin much, we also don’t think much about mercy.
I came across a term that I don’t hear too often, but maybe it is what we should call ourselves more often: “saved sinners.”
When we understand our sins and iniquities, we will delight all the more in God’s mercy. We will pray like David prayed in Psalm 51:
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: And my sin is ever before me. (Psalm 51:1–3)
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with thy free spirit. (Psalm 51:10–12)
APPLICATION: It would be good for our hearts to think about our sins and specifically name them and confess them to God. 1 John 1:8-9:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8–9)
Recognizing your sin and confessing your sin makes God’s mercy all the more beautiful. When we remember our sin more, it becomes more amazing to us that…
II. GOD REMEMBERS OUR SINS NO MORE
A. What Does It Mean That God Doesn’t Remember?
“and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
Before we get to the glory of that statement, there is a potential problem with that phrase. Does it mean that God doesn’t know everything even though the Bible says that he does know everything (1 John 3:20)?
And since we don’t forget our sins after they’ve been forgiven, does that mean that we know some things that God doesn’t know?
To say that God doesn’t know everything contradicts other teaching in the Bible and reduces God; to say that we remember something when God doesn’t makes us superior in at least one area of knowledge.
So can we reconcile “their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” with 1 John 3:20, where it says that God knows everything?
Let us start with what does the word remember mean?
In the Greek, it μιμνῄσκομαι, and you can define it as “remember” or “to recall to memory” or “keep in mind” or “to be concerned about.” It can even mean “to remember a thing aloud.”
The longest definition was “to recall information from memory, but without necessarily the implication that persons have actually forgotten” (Louw-Nida).
So the Greek word for remember tells us that to not remember doesn’t have to mean erased from God’s memory; it could mean “never recalled to memory” or “never brought up again” or “never concerned about again” or “never remembered aloud again.” That way God can still be all-knowing (if God isn’t all-knowing, then he isn’t God), and he can not remember our forgiven sins.
What this means is that we can trust God to never bring up a sin that he has forgiven.
The Bible uses an awesome picture to describe this:
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
Corrie Ten Boom had cute way of describing this: “Jesus takes your sin, past, present and future, dumps it in the ocean and puts up a sign that reads ‘no fishing’.”
B. Remember Other’s Sins Like God Does Yours
APPLICATION: you can do the same with sins committed against you. You will never erase them from your mind, just as God doesn’t erase them from his mind, but you can do as he does and “remember them no more.”
We rarely actually forget things that wound us—people say that they can forgive but they can’t forget. That’s true, but that is not what God does either.
Forgetting is not erasing our memory; it is choosing not to bring a matter against someone ever again.
There might be “natural” consequences—people reap what they sow—but you choose not to gossip about it; you choose not to use it to persuade or command them to do something; you choose to not remember it again.
When someone says that they can’t forget, it really means that they cannot choose to drop the matter and it means that their forgiveness of the other person is questionable.
Forgetting is the evidence of forgiveness. God does it; so should we. Remember other’s sins like God does yours—which is to say, he doesn’t.
III. THE OLD COVENANT IS OBSOLETE
Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new <covenant>,
he hath made the first old.
Now that which decayeth and waxeth old
is ready to vanish away.
The Old Covenant is obsolete. Just a few years after this letter was written the Romans suppressed Jewish rebels. The result would be the Temple was razed to the ground…it has never been rebuilt. The era of sacrifices had ended because they were no longer needed.
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (Hebrews 10:12)
Sacrifices are done. The work is done. All what is left is the need to trust Jesus at what he says. Have you done that? Or do you believe that it is your effort that will win heaven for you?