Beloved. The first verse of our text has a theme, a one word theme: Remember. Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. And that remembering is two parts: first, God’s people are to Remember these things, that is, those things that the Lord is about to tell them; and secondly, that God remembers them: you will not be forgotten by me. What the Lord here says applies also to us today: we are to remember what God tells us in His holy word; and that He remembers us.
This is for us our great joy and comfort. It is a great joy because God in His word proclaims to us the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in Jesus. It is a great comfort because we know that no matter what, God does not/ cannot forget us. Earlier, through St. Isaiah [49.15], the Lord says: Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. The point?—Even if the impossible happens and a mother forgets her child, God doesn’t forget us.
How can God forget us? After all, even in the most basic sense He is our Creator. This is the great comfort we have with the doctrine of creation. Creation not only shows God’s almighty power but it also shows that He has vested interest in us. It’s not that God simply created the first of everything, got the ball rolling, and then stepped back and lets everything run its course. No. Instead it is that God created everything, and yes, generally works through the laws of nature that He set up at the creation, but He is intimately involved in His creation. That’s why Christians are pro-life. Along with St. David we marvel and confess of God [Psalm 139.13]: For You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. We recognize that God created that person no matter how small and weak, no matter at what stage of development he/she may be it—even if just a few cells—and God cares for that person until the moment of natural death, which God Himself determines. That’s why we reject the so-called “physician assisted suicide” or killing the person so they die with what they think is dignity.
The fact that God is Creator, I formed you, means that He is intimately involved in and cares for us—His Creation. He will not and cannot forget us.
This is true of all people. God created us all and so remembers us all; doesn’t forget any of us. But in a very wonderful and special way, this applies especially to us—our Lord’s dear Christian. Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. Notice: although God creates all people, knitting us together in our mother’s womb, there is something special about the Christian. In our text, the Lord speaks of the OT people, O Jacob, and Israel, to whom He had shown much grace and favor and given them His holy Law and promises; whom He had called and separated from the rest of the peoples to show His grace and to reveal Himself in a most wonderful way; whom He was working to prepare as a people from whom the Savior of the world would come. And what does He call them? My servant. How can God forget them? –those whom He called to be His servant.
Not only did the Lord physically create us but in pure grace and mercy He called us to be his dear Christian, my servant. He came to us, who like all people, were spiritually dead and slaves to sin and devil, and in the waters of holy baptism gave us a new birth, a birth from above. He had His Holy Spirit come to us, wash away our sin, create faith in Him in our hearts, create a new self/ the Christian in us and brought us into His holy family. In short, He called us into His Church. He awakened us to spiritual life and called us into the full enjoyment of His grace, forgiveness and blessings. And as He gave us the Holy Spirit and a new heavenly birth and called us into the Church, He also placed our feet on the path of holiness. That’s why as Christians the Lord calls us my servant and that's why we, rejoicing in the love of God and of the forgiveness of sin that we have, and strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit in us strive to live a life of holiness and battle against sin; that’s why we are ready to do the Lord’s will--we are His servants. Just humanly speaking, how can God forget us, in whom He has invested so heavily?
How easily it would have been for God to forget about us! Even with the first sin of Adam, God had every right to reject and forget about Adam and Eve and all their sinful prodigy—you and me. But He didn’t. He promised them a Savior from their sin, one who would destroy the devil and all His works. And that Savior was the offspring/ the descendant of the woman, the virgin-born Jesus. All throughout OT history we see God not forgetting but instead working all things and preparing everything for the coming of this Savior. St. Paul writes [Gal. 4.4-5]: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. God didn’t forget us. He did not forget the promise He made to save all people from sin, death, devil and hell. In fact, St. Paul writes [Rm. 5.8]: But God shows his love for us [or to put it in the words of today’s text: “God shows that He did not forget us…”] in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
With that eternal work of Jesus, His Son, ever before His eyes, God was promising and granting the forgiveness of sin. Our text: I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist. Notice, the forgiveness of our sins is an established fact. I have blotted out your transgressions. The Lord is here speaking to His OT people and says that their sins—committed centuries before Jesus’ coming—have been blotted out, forgiven. Again, why? Because Jesus’ eternal sacrifice is always before God’s eyes. In the same way today, our sins we commit day in and day out are forgiven by God. Why? Because Jesus’ eternal sacrifice is ever before the Father’s eyes. God remembers us because He has redeemed us; He redeemed us because He remembered us.
Look at the beautiful language how the Lord describes our forgiveness: I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist. A cloud, a dark cloud looks so ominous; you cannot see the sun. Or, think of a morning that is very foggy; you cannot see very far down the road. But what happens? The sun comes out and burns off the clouds and the fog and soon you see nothing but the sun and blue sky. These clouds are an image of our sin. Like the clouds stand between earth and sky and block it, so our sins stand between us and God. Our sin separates us from God, like the cloud blocking us from the sun. But what happens? Those clouds/ fog/ mist are burned away and no longer there; they are very transitory; they no longer stand. A very fitting image of our sin: I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist. In Jesus, God has completely forgiven, blotted out, erased our sins. It is as if we have never committed them. That’s how thorough God’s forgiveness is. That’s how He remembered us—He forgives us our sin; He does not charge them to us.
How and why can He do this? How can He blot out [o]ur transgressions like a cloud and [o]ur sins like mist? In Jesus! Yes, God hates sin. He cannot simply turn a blind eye to it; He hates sin and must punish sin. But He remembers us. He has mercy on us. He does not want the death of the sinner. So what does God do? He sent His Son into this world born of a woman, to obey the holy Law He demands we keep. And that’s exactly what Jesus did—He never once sinned and lived that holy life for us, offering to God for us that holiness/ perfection we cannot and do not do but which God demands of us for eternal life and heaven. Jesus fulfills what we lack. But what about the sin we actually commit—sin that earns God’s wrath and damns us to hell. We actually do it! How does God remember us and deal with that? He charges it to Jesus, the holy sinless one. That’s why Jesus went to the cross. He went to the cross loaded down and charged with every sin of every person and there suffered all of God’s wrath and punishment for those sins.
And so now, in Jesus, both God’s holy Law was kept and God’s wrath over sin was stilled. God has remembered us! Our sins are forgiven. Nothing stands between us and God. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist.
Not only has God remembered us, but now as Christians we remember God—our Savior and Redeemer. The only reason that we as Christians now remember God is because He has first remembered us. Our text: I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.
Notice the Lord’s call to us/ all people whom He has remembered and redeemed: return to me. And what’s the basis/ why can we return to the Lord? For I have redeemed you, that is, He has ransomed us, He has paid sin’s guilt. We, then, remember the Lord and His gracious and merciful work and daily return to Him in sorrow over our sin and in faith receive the forgiveness of sin He is giving us. This is daily remembering of our baptism. As we remember every day our baptism, we are remembering God and His grace to us. We are remembering that He first remembered us, that in Jesus at baptism He washed away our sin and brought us into His holy family, the Church, and gave us every heavenly and spiritual blessing. As we remember our baptism, we are, by faith, hearing and remembering God’s gracious invitation: return to me, for I have redeemed you. By our sin, when we forget God, we turn away from Him. But He remembers us and calls to us: return to me, for I have redeemed you. And remembering His gracious invitation and His work for us, we return to Him in repentance and faith. Every day God blots out for us the cloud of our sins. And what does that do as we remember our Lord and this most wonderful work of His for us? It leads us to love Him all the more and to live lives of thanksgiving, to live lives that we know are pleasing to Him! And the amazing thing here is that the more that we remember the Lord and His love and work for us, the more we love Him and want to remember Him. How we in faith delight in and how much our faith becomes stronger the more that we remember the Lord and His work for us, the more that we hear return to me, for I have redeemed you.
The more that we remember God and His gracious and saving work, the more we delight in exactly who we are now by virtue of His call to us, by virtue of us being His dear Christian—namely, that we are His servant. We remember that we belong to the Lord and that His will/ desire is now our will and desire. We will all the more strive to fight against and put down sin in us and our old sinful nature. We remember the Lord who remembers us and strive to be like Him in our dealings with others—especially our fellow Christians, those closest to us and those in our congregation—and that’s what we heard in today’s Gospel: we forgive others their sins against us just as the Lord has remembered us and forgiven us our multitude of sin.
Our lives will be one of constant thanksgiving for how can we think of the Lord without thanking Him? How can we not marvel that the Lord remembers and thinks of us and our salvation? God has, in grace, remembered us and we remember Him in joy and thanksgiving and here He is glorified: Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. INJ Amen