Sometimes it’s better to show than to tell. Sometimes it’s more effective to rely on illustration than description. Maybe this is especially the case when we are distressed, ashamed, or sorrowful, when emotions threaten to displace reason. In those moments, God comforts us not only with descriptions of what he does with our sin, but also with vivid illustrations. Are you distressed by what you’ve done? Do you hear whispers that you have sinned beyond God’s desire or ability to forgive? Let these illustrations comfort you. Listen to—no, see!—all that God does with your sin.
God throws your sin into the sea (Micah 7:19). Here is a clear reference to the Exodus when God rescued his people by drowning Pharaoh and his army in the sea. John MacKay says, “The Egyptians were prevented from catching up with the fleeing Israelites and reversing their deliverance. The freedom of the people of God will not be marred by some consequence of their past sin catching up with them to spoil their delight in the provision God has made for them.” Not a single Egyptian soldier crawled onto the bank to continue to torment Israel. Not a single one of your sins will continue to torment your soul.
God treads your sin underfoot (Micah 7:19). God doesn’t only drown your sins in the sea, but he also stomps them under his feet. Richard Phillips explains the illustration this way: “God responds to our sins the way a protective parent destroys a snake in the children’s playground.” He throws it to the ground, stomps on it, reduces it to nothing. He grinds it underfoot until it is dead and gone.
Your sin has been so thoroughly dealt with that it is as if God tossed it behind him where he can no longer see it
God throws your sin behind his back (Isaiah 38:17). God drowns it, he stomps, and he also tosses it away. You would only throw something that is insignificant to you, something you are willing to forget about. Your sin has been so thoroughly dealt with that it is as if God tossed it behind him where he can no longer see it, where he no longer cares about it.
God blots out your sin (Isaiah 43:25). To blot out sin is to so utterly destroy it is as if it never existed. While “blotting out” is often a judgment of wrath against God’s enemies, here it is a judgment of mercy toward his friends. John Oswalt says, “In this instance what he does is to erase from the record every trace of the transgression and sin of his people, not once but continually and forever so that he cannot remember it.” He blots it out of his books, out of his mind, out of his memory, out of the ways he would otherwise treat you. It’s gone!
God forgets your sin (Hebrews 8:12). God’s forgetfulness is a repeated promise and encouragement in both the Old Testament and the New. The God who blots out sin must also forget those sins, to forget them in the sense of never again bringing them to mind and never again making you face the consequences of judgment for them.
God removes your sin (Psalm 103:12). This was David’s proclamation in Psalm 103: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” How far is east from west? Infinitely far! How far has God removed your sin from you? Every bit as far as that.
God covers your sin (Romans 4:7-8). David marveled that God removed his sin, and he equally marveled that God covered his sin. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” There is no greater blessing than this, to have your sins covered by another. Paul also marvels at this fact in Romans 4. If it brought comfort to David and Paul, shouldn’t it bring comfort to you?
God takes away your sin. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Through Jesus, God would take away your sin. This act of taking away means something like “bear off” or “carry away.” Through the sacrifice of Jesus, your sin would be carried away like an unbearable burden, borne away by one fit to carry it.
God cancels the debt of your sin (Colossians 2:14). Sin creates a legal debt, a conviction of the law-breaker in the courtroom of the law-giver. God cancels that debt on your behalf by issuing a verdict of not guilty. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). You are not guilty!
Your sin is like bloodstains on a white dress. They stand out, they mark, they mar, they ruin.
God washes your sin (Isaiah 1:18). Your sin is like bloodstains on a white dress. They stand out, they mark, they mar, they ruin. But God promises “Come, now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall by white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” He washes those sins from scarlet to snow, from crimson to pure wool.
God forgives your sin (1 John 1:9). Your sin creates disunity between you and your creator, but God graciously forgives that sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So, what does God do with your sin? He throws it behind his back, drowns it in the sea, treads it underfoot, blots it out, forgets it, removes it, covers it, takes it away, cancels it, washes it, and forgives it. And God can do and will do all of this in the present because of one thing he did in the past.
God laid your sin on Jesus. To understand this, we need to zoom back in time a little to the Old Testament sacrificial system. In that system a goat—a scapegoat—would be seen to symbolically take on human sin. It would then be sent to wander in the wilderness away from God’s people. Here’s how God commands it in the book of Leviticus. “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.” The goat would never return, symbolizing that the people’s sin would never return upon them.
This unusual act finds its fulfillment in Jesus. Here it is God who lays his hand on Jesus, God who lays your sins upon Jesus, and who banishes Jesus from his presence. Your sin was laid on Jesus so he could deal with it on your behalf. And, praise God, he did! What does God do with your sin? Everything necessary to reconcile you to himself and everything necessary to give you confident comfort today and every day.
(This blog originally appeared on Challies Blog)