Isaiah 54:4-5; Philippians 3:12-13
“I forget what is behind” is a statement that assures us Paul was not the type to live in the past. He says, in effect, “I disregard my own accomplishments as well as others’ offenses against me. I refuse to dwell on that.” This requires humility.
This becomes especially clear when you examine Paul’s past. Just look:
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:24–27)
Think of all the people Paul could have included on his “hate list.” But he had no such list. With humility, he forgot what was behind him. He intentionally disregarded all those wrongs against him.
In order for us to forget wrongs done against us, God must do the erasing. (See Joseph’s example in Genesis 41:51.) Isaiah, the prophet of Judah, puts it in these terms:
“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your husband is your Maker,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth.” (Isaiah 54:4–5)
The Lord God promises us we can forget, because He personally will take the place of those painful memories.
To you who have had a shameful youth, to you who have lost your mate, the living Lord will replace those awful memories with Himself. What a great promise! That makes the forgetting possible. Left to ourselves, no way! But with the promise that God will replace the pain with Himself—His presence, His power, His very life—we can “forget what lies behind.”