Twenty years ago, country singer Collin Raye released a very emotional song called, “Little Rock.” It’s about a man who is a struggling alcoholic trying to rebuild a life that he has basically destroyed. The man is singing to his wife, whom he has hurt deeply. In one line he says, “Your daddy told me when I left, ‘Jesus will forgive, but a daddy don’t forget.’”
One of the hardest things for us to do is to forget the things we should forget and remember the things we should remember. We sure have a hard time forgetting what others have done to us. We don’t easily forget some of our painful sins, even though we’d like to. We also have trouble putting old ways behind us. We not only have a hard time getting past our sins. We also have a hard time getting past our past. Our guilt still haunts us. How do we get it out of our heads that no matter what we do to get right with God, to make up for past “mistakes,” it will never be enough?
The answer is in Isaiah 43:19: “Look.” We look at God’s activity. We look at the “new thing.” We look at the incarnation of the eternally begotten Son of God, the life of perfect obedience to the law in thought, word, and deed, and the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. We look and see that none of this would have been necessary if we were not sinners. We look and see that the result is that we are no longer counted sinners before God. When we see the new thing that God has done for lost mankind, we can put behind our sin and our inclination to cling to the law. Of course, it takes more than one look. We need to continually gaze at the new mercy of God, receiving it new every day through the gospel. Because Jesus forgives, we can forget.
This is what the LORD says-- he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. 22 "Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel. 23 You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense. 24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses. (Isaiah 43:16-24)