The gospel knows no exaggerations. God doesn’t simply say, “I forgive your sins”—even though that would be saying enough, because his Word is true.
But in telling us about his mercy, God uses emphatic language, colourful comparisons, and gripping images to portray how in Christ He has fully pardoned our guilt. He is emphatic without ever stepping into overstatement.
Consider these four stunning windows into God’s forgiveness:
1) In Isaiah 38:17, Hezekiah offers this prayer to God, “You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.”
Hezekiah had been sick and near death, but he repented and the Lord restored him. And it was as if the LORD had taken the king’s wickedness and thrown it over his divine shoulder, never to be seen again. Forgiven sin is in a place where it can no longer bring harm to our relationship with him: “You have cast all my sins behind your back.”
2) God declares to his people in Isaiah 43:25, “I am He who blots out your transgressions.”
Blotting out: like a scribe who hides a mistake on a scroll with a blotch of ink, or a student who uses correction fluid on his final exam. God has obliterated the sins of his people; in forgiving for Christ’s sake, God has covered, erased, deleted all our offenses, and He remembers them no more.
3) God says in Isaiah 44:22, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.”
You’ve watched a white fluffy cloud traipse across the blue sky and seen its transience. Here one moment, and when we look up again, it has disappeared. Like that, God has swept away our sins, evaporated our offenses in the presence of his glorious majesty.
God’s forgiving love is shown to be an amazingly powerful love, robustly effective and radical. His forgiveness doesn’t leave any traces of what was there before.
To help us grasp the incredible dimensions of the love of God in Christ Jesus, we can look into this fourth window:
4) Micah 7:19, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
This was good news for Micah’s listeners. By his prophet, God had rigorously pointed out their sins and vowed to punish them with deportation. So could God actually forget the fullness of their evil? Can things ever be right between them and the Lord?
Yet Micah prays confidently, “He will tread our iniquities underfoot.” As if He has feet, God tramples upon our sins, like a man might stomp on grapes in a winepress or like an ox might tread out the grain. God tramples our wrongdoing—and what can ever stand up to the trampling of Almighty God?
Our sins are crushed, flattened beyond recognition, not worth a second glance, so broken are they by God’s mercy.
“What’s more,” Micah says God “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” The many shameful things we’ve done and covered up, the evil ruminations, all our caustic words—all these God will cast into the depths of the sea. To the Israelites, if something was thrown into the sea, it was lost and gone forever. The sea was the fearful place of the unknown, a vast and dangerous part of God’s creation. The sea was where you went if you never wanted to be found again.
The sea today isn’t quite so mysterious as it once was. With modern technology, shipwrecks can be found and the ocean floor can be mapped out. Yet Micah’s image still resonates, for there’s still so much unsearchable about the ocean depths. Think of jetliners that have disappeared into the seas in the last decade. Countless hours were spent looking for the wreckage, and little fragments might have been found, but most was lost to the depths, concealed, maybe forever.
Like that, God has taken sin and hurled it to the remotest place, thrown them to a place where none can find them again. When our sins are forgiven by God in Christ, they’re truly gone, sunk into the deepest and darkest part of the ocean. And God won’t ever dredge up our past wrongs and hold them against us.
This is something to hold onto. For sometimes we can be harder on sin than God is. We can certainly be too hard on others for their wrongdoings and mistakes. There are times that we’re not willing to forgive someone, and we just can’t let it go.
We can also be too hard on our own sins, rehearsing our many failings and sinking deeper into guilt. We forget that the work of Christ was to take away our sins and to do so entirely.
Because of Jesus, God holds no grudges, re-opens no wounds, dwells on no past mistakes, but forgives.
Look into these beautiful windows of God’s forgiveness, and be moved to put away every sin, every bad habit, every unconfessed evil. Let us know our sins and then trample them underfoot and cast them far from us.
Through faith in Christ, receive the complete forgiveness of all your sins. And then live in a way that reflects this forgiveness—forgiven freely, freely forgive.