IPS-Eye-White

Index To Section 2 .. Reasons To Believe/
God

 

003white  Section 2 .. Reasons To Believe       >        Index To Articles on God       >        Does God Know The Future  

IPS-Header
God-Bg
 

Can God Change His Mind?.. The Immutability of God

Carol Brooks

Every individual on the face of this planet considers the opinions, desires and requests of others to a greater or lesser degree. We would probably consider a person, who never allows the input of others to affect their decisions, insensitive, indifferent or unsympathetic. We might even consider them cold and callous.

However, classical theism asserts that God is unchanging in His being, character, purposes and promises... the idea being that God cannot be affected by outside influences, does not change His mind, and does not regret decisions He makes. Perhaps this is because change implies imperfection. What then are we to make of the many Biblical texts that tell us that God "repented"... when an appeal from a human did cause God to change His mind. Most of these incidents did not impact history, but were important in the individual lives of the people concerned, as in the three examples below... two from the Old Testament and one from the New. The first two relate to the health of an individual. Also See Is Physical Healing Included in The Atonement

    King Hezekiah was sick unto death. The prophet Isaiah actually told him to set his house in order as he would die and not live. Hezekiah then wept before the Lord telling Him, that he had walked before Him in truth, with a perfect heart, and had done that which was good in God's sight. Apparently all this happened quite quickly, since the next verse tells us that Isaiah, who was leaving the city had barely gone very far when the Lord told him to turn back and tell the king that God had heard his prayer. Not only would He (God) add fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life, but would also deliver him, and the city, out of the hand of the king of Assyria. [2 Kings 20:1-7]

    A Gentile woman asked Jesus to cure her daughter. Jesus responds by telling her that He "was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". However, the woman persisted, and seeing her great faith Jesus healed her daughter. [Matthew 15:22-28 and Mark 7:25-30]

The third instance is when God heeded the protestations of the prophet Ezekiel.

    God told Ezekiel to cook his bread over human excrement as part of a prophecy of the Hebrew exile. Ezekiel however, rebelled against this, protesting that he has never in his life polluted himself by eating food forbidden in the law. Upon which God allows him to use cow dung instead. [Ezekiel 4:12-15]

When it comes to God, there are a couple of points to take into consideration ...


Nâcham
Vs. Shűb
The Hebrew word nâcham (pronounced naw-kham] has been translated “repent” about 40 times in the Old Testament. In nearly all cases it refers to God “repenting”. This translation may have given the reader a more accurate understanding of the word a couple of hundred years ago, however the meaning of the word repent has changed considerably over time, and is now almost always associated with being penitent, or feeling such sorrow for one's own faults or sins as to be disposed to change one's life for the better.

However nâcham carries a several shades of meaning. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says it is ..

    "a primitive root; properly to sigh, that is, breathe strongly; by implication to be sorry...”

Perhaps, the closest we can come is the English word regret, which tends to imply sorrow and distress about things which should [or could] have been different or better. Regret does not necessarily involve any acknowledgment of personal mistake or wrong doing...

    And it repented The Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. [Genesis 6:6]

    And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death; for Samuel mourned for Saul: and Jehovah repented that he had made Saul king over Israel. [1Samuel 15:35]

More recent translations reflect the changes in how we use words like repent. They will use English words that more accurately convey the intent of the original Hebrew words. The verses below are from the ASV with NASB (New American Standard Bible) in parenthesis.

    And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil (NASB …the LORD relented from the calamity) , and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite. (II Samuel 24:16)

    And when Jehovah raised them up judges, then Jehovah was with the judge, and saved them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented Jehovah (NASB ..the LORD was moved to pity) because of their groaning by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. [Judges 2:18]

    Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of Jehovah your God; and Jehovah will repent him of the evil (NASB .. the LORD will change His mind) that he hath pronounced against you. [Jeremiah 26:13]

    If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil (NASB .. for I will relent concerning the calamity)  that I have done unto you. [Jeremiah 42:10]

    For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself (NASB.. will have compassion) concerning his servants. [Psalm 135:14]

Shűb:
This is further emphasized by the fact that shűb, not nâcham, is usually used of man's repentance. Shűbh means to literally or figuratively turn back. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, it ..

     "... is most generally employed to express the Scriptural idea of genuine repentance. It is used extensively by the prophets, and makes prominent the idea of a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God. … It is employed extensively with reference to man's turning away from sin to righteousness'

This illustrated by the following verses..

    Yet the people have not turned (Hebrew shűb) unto him that smote them, neither have they sought Jehovah of hosts. [Isaiah 9:13]

    Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Return (Hebrew shűb) ye and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. [Ezekiel 14:6]

    Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord Jehovah. Return ye, (Hebrew shűb) and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. [Ezekiel 18:30]

The fact that Job used nâcham, not shűb in Job 42:6 underscores the point that He was not “repenting” (of sin), but regretted that he had not understood how great God really was.


Mercy
Almost every instance of God repenting is related to the quality of mercy. It is not as if He were whimsical or capricious, changing His mind about something whenever He feels the notion to do so, which would make Him a most unreliable being, that man would have little or no reason to trust. On the contrary it is an constant assurance in Scripture that He is the rock without whom we would have no where to stand. God's character never changes, and He never acts in a way that is inconsistent with His character.

However we have to remember that God's essential personality and characteristics stay the same. An inherent part of His character is that His response to evil never varies, just as His response to good never varies.  Therefore when people repent, He stays His wrath, but when they turn from good and do evil, He no longer stays His hand, but punishes (this was especially evident in the Old Testament when divine justice was often swift and apparent to all). That God's standards or nature never change but, as people change, He varies in His dealings with them, is affirmed by numerous passages in Scripture. For instance...

     At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them. [Jeremiah 18:7-10]

    When I say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his righteousness, and commit iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in his iniquity that he hath committed, therein shall he die. Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that which he had taken by robbery, walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be remembered against him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. [Ezekiel 33:13-16]

    From the days of your fathers ye have turned aside from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts. But ye say, Wherein shall we return? [Malachi 3:7]

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]


Nineveh
Jonah knew that God always acted consistently with His character, and His response was (and is) always favorable when people repent. Which is why he, by taking off in the opposite direction, tried to avoid God's command to prophesy to the city of Nineveh. The Ninevites were infamous for their cruelty and, judging from Jonah’s own words, he did not want them forgiven, since many of his countrymen had already experienced the carnage they could, and did, wreak.

    "I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil" (Jonah 4:2).

Which statement actually presents a testament to the goodness and mercy of God.

    "From time to time, those who do not believe the Bible -- primarily those who are educated beyond their intelligence -- say that the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful, wrathful God, a God of black thunderclouds and bolts of lightning, and that he was always killing people off. Well, do you find that here? That is not the kind of God that Jonah knew. He says, "I knew that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love, and repentest of evil." [1]

God's character was no different before or after Jonah's preaching. But when the Ninevites repented, God's dealings with them had to change. The people changed, not God.

    [As an aside, history tells us the Ninevites repentance was fairly short-lived and the prophet Nahum was then sent to them. They ignored Nahum's message, failed to repent and were destroyed in 612 BC.].

And then of course we have the classic case of…


Moses
When Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, the people, finding that he delayed his return, grew impatient and desired Aaron to make them gods to go before them, saying that they knew not what had become of Moses. Aaron then collected their gold ornaments and had a golden calf made, which the people then proceeded to worship. Worse, they even credited this idol as the ‘god’ that brought them out of Egypt. God, seeing this from atop Mt Sinai was so angry that He renounced the nation, telling Moses that they were his (Moses') people that he (Moses) brought out from the land of Egypt…

    Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.  [Exodus 32:7]

God's anger is so fierce that He then told Moses

    “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.".”

But Moses did not let the Lord alone. Like Jacob before him, he wrestled until he obtained the blessing. He interceded with God, giving Him two reasons why He should not destroy the Israelites, although they had given Him every reason to wipe them out and start over.…

    "Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.

    Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" [Exodus 32:12-13. Emphasis Added].

After which the Bible says that

    the LORD changed His mind (nâcham) about the harm which He said He would do to His people. [Exodus 32:14].

A great deal has been made about this passage, with many employing all manner of verbal gymnastics to show that when the Bible says "God changed His mind," it doesn't really mean that ‘God changed His mind’.  However His Word says, in unambiguous language, that God changed His mind about the judgment. Very simply, what occurred here is exactly what is documented ..

    God was very angry and wanted to obliterate the Israelites.  Moses interceded. Allowing Moses to influence His actions, God relented.

Remember here that Moses was not just anyone. He was the man God had hand picked to lead the nation from slavery...  the Jewish prophet that the Messiah would resemble [Deuteronomy 18:15]. No where is this more apparent than Moses offering himself to die for the sins of the people. [See Moses Great Messianic Prophecy .. Perhaps the most compelling of all Messianic Prophecy]

    "Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, 'You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.' Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, 'Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.' And the LORD said to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book”. [Exodus 32:30-33].

As said by Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus

    “In order that Israel might be saved from the wrath of God, Moses stood ready to offer his own life - to take the punishment of the people's sins on himself if God could find no other way to forgive them. He asked God that his life be an expiation for the sins of the people. As a priest he could have made grandiose offerings, thousands of lambs or bulls, but instead he simply offered his own life”. [2].

All of which tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous man did, and does, avail much, not that Moses came up with a few ideas that God hadn't thought of.


A Test for Moses?
One of the arguments tendered is that the entire episode of Exodus 32 was a test for Moses. That, on close examination of the relevant verses, one has to see that the threat to destroy the people was conditional, inasmuch as God told Moses to leave Him alone so He could destroy the people. But Moses, in spite of having the ultimate carrot dangled in front of his nose [God said He would make Moses into a nation greater and mightier than the present one], and in spite of being quite frustrated with the people himself, did no such thing. Therefore the threat was a proposed direction not a final decision, which was averted by Moses' actions.

Ezekiel 20 does not bear this out, but affirms, more than once, that God changed His mind, not due to Moses passing any test, but for His name's sake.

    But the children rebelled against me; they walked not in my statutes, neither kept mine ordinances to do them, which if a man do, he shall live in them; they profaned my sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness. Nevertheless I withdrew my hand, and wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I brought them forth. [Ezekiel 20:21-22. Emphasis Added]

Psalm 106 is clear that Moses stood in the breach to turn away God's wrath.  [Emphasis Added]

    Therefore he said that he would destroy them, Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. [Psalm 106:23 ]

Evidence that, in some circumstances, it is possible to stand between God and man is found in the Lord's words in Ezekiel 22:30 

    "And I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none".

In other words there was no Moses, no Aaron, no Samuel to stand in the gap on this occasion, therefore the destruction on the land was inevitable. The implication of this verse is that had there been a man to stand in the gap and make intercession for the city, God would either have not destroyed the land, or would have at least modified His judgment, as He did in Numbers 14.

The tragedy is in the fact that not one single righteous human being was detected in all Israel.


The Promise to Abraham…
Another argument concerns the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 22:17…

     I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies

However, Moses being of the tribe of Levi [Exodus 2:1-2] was a descendant of Abraham, therefore the wiping out of the rest of Israel, except for Moses, would not have compromised the promise made to Abraham.


Judah
Others believe that God could not have wiped out the nation of Israel and started again with Moses because of Jacob's blessings on his twelve sons. The first verse of Genesis 49 says “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said: gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the latter days.  In verse 10, which is seen as a prophecy that the coming King [The Messiah] would be from the tribe of Judah, Joseph told them...

    “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes"

We can not be sure as to why Moses recorded this conversation between Jacob and his sons, especially since all of them died in Egypt and did not live to see any of their father's words fulfilled in Canaan.

In the first place, although verse 10 has long been held, by both Jews and Christians, to be a messianic prophecy, no one really knows what Shiloh means in this context. Shiloh, which could mean tranquil, was a place in Palestine mentioned many times in the Old Testament, (See for example Joshua 18:1,8-9; I Samuel 1:13 and Jeremiah 7:12), but was never used as a title for the Messiah. [See Footnote 1 for more information]

Secondly, we are not sure that every detail of Jacob’s words came to pass. He said Zebulun shall dwell at the seashore; And he shall be a haven for ships, And his flank shall be toward Sidon (Genesis 49:13). But Zebulun’s allotted land may not have reached the coast of the Mediterranean sea in the east, nor even the sea of Galilee to the west. [See Joshua 19:10-16]

In the final analysis, one has to remember that God's explicit promises which have boundless significance to all of humanity, are tied to His covenant with Abraham, not to a blessing by Jacob upon his sons. God may have intended for the Messiah to be born into the house of Judah, but this does not mean that the honour promised them could not have been forfeited by acts of treason and rebellion, which Israel amply indulged in some years later.

In spite of both Satan, and man's, best efforts to throw a spanner in the works, God plan of salvation inexorably inches forward to it's culmination at the Second Coming. Something we can, and do, stake our lives on.

However, whether implied or otherwise, many of God's words to individuals about their own future are conditional, predicated on the person’s obedience and faith. But, however the individual conducts themselves, and whatever the outcome of his behaviour, it will not affect or change God's covenant with mankind, or His overall plan of salvation. He won’t decide that it wasn’t such a good idea after all, and/or come up with a better plan.

Consider...


God's Conditional Promise to Eli
Therefore Jehovah, the God of Israel, saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now Jehovah saith, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thy house. [1 Samuel 2:30-31]

Though this promise appears to be absolute, yet it is obvious that it is conditional, predicated on man's faithfulness.

Eli had broken that trust… unwilling to sufficiently rebuke his two sons for their sin of profaning the sacrifices of the Temple and lying with the women who served at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting. Note however that God did give Eli time to heed His warning, and do what was right. However the account makes no mention of any repentance by Eli and, eventually, God again announced judgment through Samuel.”

This is exemplified by Ezekiel 33:13

     "If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil...he will die for the evil he has done."


Other Cases of Successful Intercession in Numbers
The events related in Exodus 32 was not the only time when one man caused the Lord to relent concerning judgment he had already declared.  There are three other times in the book of Numbers alone where Moses (and/or Aaron) interceded for the people with the same result.

In Numbers 14, after the spies had gone onto Canaan and had largely reported a very pessimistic picture of the giants that lived in the land, the people started their all too common grumbling and moaning as to how they would all fall by the sword, and how it would be better if they returned to Egypt. Hearing this the Lord said to Moses that He would "smite them with pestilence and dispossess them" [Vs. 12], then make Moses into a nation greater and mightier than they. Moses again intercedes [Vs. 13-19] which is followed by God saying..

    "I have pardoned them according to your word" [Vs. 20. Emphasis Added]

The 16th chapter of the book of Numbers tells us about two separate incidents which so displeased God, that He God told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation that He may consume them [the entire congregation]. In the first case, after both the men pleaded with God not to destroy the entire congregation for the sin of one man, God took a softer line, warning the people through Moses to depart from the tents of the transgressors before He destroyed them.

In the second case, although people were already dying from the plague, [V.46] Aaron, following Moses’ instructions "put on the incense, and made atonement for the people" [V.47] and the plague was stayed [V.50].


Too Far Gone For Appeal?
But would Moses or any of the other giants of the Old Testament have been able to successfully intercede for the people under all circumstances.. The answer, according to Jeremiah 15:1, is an unqualified no …

     Then said Jehovah unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. [Jeremiah 15:1]

Also note that God, on one occasion, told Jeremiah NOT to pray for the people as it would do no good, He would not change His mind. The people had apparently gone too far.

    Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me; for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? saith Jehovah; do they not provoke themselves, to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, mine anger and my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched. [Jeremiah 7:16-20. Emphasis Added]

Similar verses include Jeremiah 4:28 and 15:6, Ezekiel. 24:14, Hosea. 13:14 and Zechariah. 8:14.

And again, simply as a matter of considerable interest is a fact that not too many people seem to know about. At one stage the prophet Jeremiah did exactly the opposite of interceding for the people.. [See Footnote 2].


The Arguments Against…
There are several verses drawn on to make the case that God cannot and will not change His mind. Each of which has been taken out of context and are not intended to be broad general statements that universally apply to all situations, at all times.  Each instance given below is a statement in a very specific context and do not take the place of God's general principles for dealing with mankind. None of the ‘proof’ verses say that God never changes His mind. They merely says that God was not going to change His mind in that specific situation.


Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

The historical context for this verse is as follows...

As the children of Israel made their way to the promised land they passed through the land of the Amorites whom they defeated in battle. When they encamped in the plains of Moab, the king of Moab was exceedingly worried having heard what had happened to other nations that crossed swords with the Israelis. He sought help from a Prophet-For-Hire named Balaam, requesting him to place a curse on this vast multitude of people. However

When Balaam arrived in Moab, he was greeted by King Balak and together they offered sacrifice of seven bullocks and seven rams on seven altars. However the Lord intervened and when time Balaam attempted to curse Israel, he pronounced a blessing on them instead. Balak was obviously upset and perhaps thinking the sight of such an immense camp had intimidated Balaam, took him to another place from where he could see only part of the encampment and where he again offered sacrifice. It is now that the Lord instructs Balaam to tell Balak....

    God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

These words obviously spoken to correct Balak's supposition (or hope) that the Lord would change His mind and allow Balaam to curse the children of Israel.

It is a very specific statement, made under very specific circumstances, and does not say that God never changes His mind. It merely says that God was not going to change His mind in that particular situation.


I Samuel 15:29
And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. (II Samuel 15:28-29)

King Saul’s history of disobeying God culminated his disobedience to the Lord's word to utterly destroy the Amalekites, including all their herds of animals [15:3]. Saul spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, plus the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs to be used as a sacrifice to the Lord [15:8-9, 21]. This is when Samuel tells Saul that the Lord God had rejected him as king of Israel.

    "Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, he hath also rejected thee from being king. [15:22-23]

Samuel then turns to leave but as he does so, Saul grabs at Samuel's cloak and tears it. [15:27] while we do not know what exactly Saul was thinking, he was obviously trying to get Samuel to stay, surely hoping that God would changes His mind and the sentence He had passed on Saul. This is when Samuel says the words quoted above.

Samuel was not saying that as a principle, God never changes His mind, but that Saul's pleadings or tears of repentance would not move God (who had given Saul many opportunities to do the right thing). Now God has finally and irrevocably decided that Saul is no longer king of Israel. The final verse in this chapter reads

    And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel. [15:35]


Psalm 89:34
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

Again, one has to look at this verse in context. Verses 89:3 and 4 say

    I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant: Thy seed will I establish for ever, And build up thy throne to all generations.

This is followed by several verses [5-18] of praise to the Lord, then the psalmist goes into more detail of what this covenant with David entailed.. including that David was anointed with "holy oil" [V.20], The Lord's arm would strengthen David [V. 21] and He would beat down David's adversaries [V.23], his horn would be exalted [V. 24], David would be the  highest of the kings of the earth [V.27] , God's loving kindness would stay with him forever and his seed would endure for all eternity [V.28].

It is only after this that the Psalmist has God saying

    If his children (David's children) forsake His law, And walk not in His ordinances; If they break His statutes, And keep not His commandments; [Vs. 30-31]

    Then He would "visit their transgression with the rod, And their iniquity with stripes". [V. 32]

    But He would not utterly take from him (David) His lovingkindness, Nor suffer His faithfulness to fail. [Vs. 33-34]

    He would not break His covenant with David nor alter the thing that is gone out of His lips. [V. 34]

This is a specific promise to a specific individual


Psalm 110:4
The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

These words were said to Jesus who, after the order of Melchizedek, was made a high priest for ever. Again a very specific promise, to a specific individual.


Ezekiel  24:14
I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD.

The context of this verse is that the Lord instructed Ezekiel to write down this specific day (the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month) when the king of Babylon drew close enough to Jerusalem to lay siege to the city. [24:1 -2]

God instructed Ezekiel to boil a pot of water with meat and bones in it, as a visual parable that He is finally bringing judgment on Jerusalem, whose "blood is in the midst of her" [V. 27].

    24:13 says "In thy filthiness is lewdness (Hebrew zimmâh) : because I have cleansed thee and thou wast not cleansed, thou shalt not be cleansed from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my wrath toward thee to rest".

As said by commentator Adam Clarke

    zimmâh, a word that denominates the worst kinds of impurity; adultery, incest, etc., and the purpose, wish, design, and ardent desire to do these things. Hers were not accidental sins, they were abominations by design, and they were the worse in her, because God had cleansed her, had separated the Israelites from idolatry and idolatrous nations, and by his institutions removed from them all idolatrous incentives. But they formed alliances with the heathen, and adopted all their abominations; therefore ...

God would not spare them, He would not repent, and He would not change His mind. There would be no reprieve.


Conclusion
I am afraid that I do not at all understand all the fuss about God’s immutability. Of course He is unchanging.. Which means that His character, responses and judgments have been exactly the same over the 6000 years of His dealings with man. They will still be unchanged over the next two years, or two hundred million years. Unlike man who can vary in his response to similar situations, depending on which side of the bed he got out of that morning or what kind of day he is having, God is always the same. His response to a situation three thousand years ago is exactly the same as His response to an identical situation in the present time. While people mature as they get older, and often see things differently at different times in their lives, God has no need to mature and has always had exactly the same view of things..

However none of this means that He is impassible...  not affected by anything or anyone. While no one can change His ultimate and overall blueprint, God does respond to us.

The very concept of ‘God’ is difficult for any person to imagine.. How can we comprehend "all knowing", or "all powerful"? How can any human wrap their minds around God sitting on the circle of the earth, commanding the morning and causing the dawn to know its place? We cannot even begin to grasp God weighing the mountains in scales and calling out each star by name.

But we yet tend to see God as embodying the highest concepts we can imagine, and attempt to defend what we perceive His character and attributes to be... even going as far as to contradict what His Word clearly tells us.

Calvinism is so intent on preserving the ‘sovereignty’ of God that it has made man into a mere puppet instead of the free will creature God created. Worse, in an effort to prove what humans believe must be one of the aspects of God's sovereignty, they have made Him into a monstrous, unfair, unjust and unloving tyrant, who does not deserve our love nor our loyalty. [See Doctrines of Grace Or Calvinism]

Then, not having done more than enough damage in that field, we turned our attention to His immutability... we took a handful of verses out of context and decided that this God of ours is so ‘sovereign’ that He cannot be influenced by humans, and cannot ever be persuaded to change His mind or alter His course of action... clear evidence to the contrary. The quote below expresses it perfectly...

    “… the roots of the full DDI [Doctrine of Divine Immutability] are also philosophical. In thinking out their views of God's nature, Western philosophers have largely filled out the concept of God by ascribing to him the properties they thought he must have to count as absolutely perfect. God's perfection seems to rule out many sorts of change ... More general arguments from perfection convinced classical theists that God cannot change in any way. [Immutability. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Western philosophers [and theologians] have ascribed to God the properties they think He should have...


Footnote 1.
"The alternative construction, ‘until he comes to Shiloh,’ corresponds to no Messianic event. But an early variant, revocalizing a shortened spelling of the consonants as selloh, yields either ‘till what is his comes’ (i.e. ‘till Judah’s full heritage appears’; cf. LXX) or ‘until he comes, to whom [it belongs]’ (cf. RSV). The latter, elliptical though it is, seems to be taken up and interpreted by Ezekiel 2l:26f. (MT. 31 f.) in words addressed to the last king of Judah: ‘Remove the mitre, and take off the crown . . . until he comes whose right it is: and I will give it to him.’ Here is the best support for the Messianic content which Jewish and Christian exegesis has found in the saying from earliest times”  [3] [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote 2.
Note that there is NO record of the Lord hauling Jeremiah over the coals for the following words...

      Give heed to me, O Jehovah, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember how I stood before thee to speak good for them, to turn away thy wrath from them. Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and give them over to the power of the sword; and let their wives become childless, and widows; and let their men be slain of death, and their young men smitten of the sword in battle. Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them; for they have digged a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet. Yet, Jehovah, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me; forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight; but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thou with them in the time of thine anger. [Jeremiah 18:19-23. Emphasis added] [PLACE IN TEXT]

 

End Notes
[1] Jonah: The Reluctant Ambassador. Ray C. Stedman

[2] Moishe Rosen. A Prophet Like Unto Moses. http://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/11_4/prophet

[3] Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), p. 218. As quoted by Bob Deffinbaugh in The Purpose of Prophecy (Genesis 49:1-28). http://bible.org/seriespage/purpose-prophecy-genesis-491-28

God-Back

Index To Articles on God

www.inplainsite.org