Does God change His mind? Some Bible passages seem to indicate that He does. So how does that line up with our belief that God doesn't change? This week, Michael Edgar took us through some points to consider in answering this important question.
God never changes
Humans change all the time, but God never changes. He is perfect; if He changed, such a change would imply imperfection. But does He ever change His mind?
Three Biblical examples
Some passages in the Bible seem to show God changing His mind. One example is from Genesis 6, when God decides to flood the earth. Genesis 6:6 says "The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled." Some translations say that God was "grieved" that he made man; others say he "repented" or he "was sorry." Does this verse reveal God's change of heart or mind?
In another story, in Exodus 32, Moses asks God not to destroy His people after they worship the Golden Calf. After Moses's intercession, the Bible says, "Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened." Did Moses change God's mind? Similarly, in the book of Jonah, God sends Jonah on a quest to tell the Ninevites that they will suffer God's wrath. When they repent, the Bible tells us that God "relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened."
Giving God Human Qualities
One way to account for this kind of language is found in the practice of anthropomorphism. Throughout scripture, we attribute human traits to God in order to put something we can't fully understand into language that we can understand. When the Bible writers speak of God's eyes or His hands or even his "regret," they are using human terms to explain God's character and behavior. Our limited language can't fully express God's complexity, so we do the best we can with what we have been given. From our limited perspective (and from the perspective of the Biblical writers), God appears to change his mind. But what seems like God changing His mind was always already part of His plan.
God "changes" from wrath to mercy
Two out of the three instances above reveal God "relenting" from wrath to mercy. In these cases, we see God as a loving father, explaining the consequences of our actions. Then, He chooses to intervene in mercy on our behalf. So many times when it looks like God has a change of heart about something in the Bible, he is changing from threatening punishment to providing mercy and compassion. Any supposed changes we see in Him are for our good!
God is faithful
God's desire is not to destroy us; it's to have a relationship with us. He keeps his promise to hold that relationship fast to the very end. That means that we can count on him to never change his mind about our salvation in Christ. God is faithful to the end.
So, does God change his mind?
Sometimes it looks that way to us. But when God "changes," he changes for our benefit, and he does so from within his sovereign plan. That means that any supposed changes were already part of his plan to begin with.
Questions to Consider:
- Do I trust God, even though I can't always understand what He's doing?
- Where have I seen God intervene in mercy for me, when I deserved punishment?