God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?–Numbers 23:19
God doesn’t change His mind, right?
So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.–Exodus 32:14
God did change His mind, right?
According to the first verse, God DOES NOT “nacham” or change His mind. After all, we are taught that God never lays down any of His attributes at any time, that He is constantly omniscient, knows all the options, and knows everything long before it happens. He even knows details like when a bird falls to the ground (Mt. 10:29). The concept of Constant Omniscience teaches that God knows exactly what we will do in every situation, and is not surprised by any new information; therefore, why would He ever need to change His mind? Many believe that since God knows everything well in advance and doesn’t need to change His mind, he was only acting like He changed His mind in order to get a desired effect. The act of pretending to change your mind would be deceitful and manipulative. God doesn’t lie, God doesn’t pretend. The prevailing thought among most theologians is that God often speaks to us in our time reference so that what He wants to accomplish always gets done. That idea is both wrong and manipulative! 1 Corinthians 13 plainly teaches that Love does not insist on its own way. God is Agape Love. Sovereignty and Omniscience are attributes; Agape is His very nature.
According to the 2nd verse above, God DID “nacham”. Moses had pleaded for God to turn and change. (Nacham is the Hebrew word for “change mind”, “repent”, or “relent”. Regardless of how you translate it, regardless of whether the words are “change mind”, “relent”, or “repent”, one verse says that He doesn’t “nacham”, and the other says that he actually did “nacham”) In the second verse, prayer changed things. Prayer moved the biggest mountain…the mind of God. Moses “spoke to the Mountain”, and the mind of God moved.
But if God can be persuaded to change His mind and not act upon His plans and words, then what is absolute? What can be trusted? How do we deal with the verses which clearly say that He doesn’t change His mind. Why would a constantly omniscient God ever need to change His mind?
What does Ezekiel have to say about all of this? Does God change His mind or not? What did Ezekiel believe?
“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” The Lord said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.” Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign Lord! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.” “Very well,” he said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.”–Ezekiel 4:9-15
In this exchange, God gives His very clear orders. Instead of quietly submitting completely to God’s direct orders, Ezekiel actually thinks and raises an exclamatory protest! The complete Jewish Bible says that Ezekiel objected saying, “NO Adonai Elohim!”
It is significant to realize that these are the very first words that Ezekiel speaks in this whole book! Think about that. He has been quiet this whole time. His first words were an emotional prayer of protest/petition against God’s orders. Moses prayed liked that; Isaiah prayed like that; Jeremiah defied and disobeyed God’s orders to him and prayed like that. Jacob wrestled with the angel refusing to let go. There are others in the OT and NT. None of them were rebuked for praying the prayer of protest. Do you know anyone who wrestles with God and prays like that today? Does the Church teach the prayer of protest? (There is a lot of untapped material in the Bible). Was this an effective prayer of protest? Yes! This prayer changed things. God conceded and made a change from what He said earlier. Although the Hebrew word is not used in this passage, the actions are clear…God did a “nacham”. Next time you wonder if your prayer is important, just remember that Ezekiel and God had a dialogue about dung. There is more to this verse than meets the eye; we will revisit it again.
If you were to ask Ezekiel, “Hey Zeke, did you ever see God change His plan? Did you ever persuade God to change His mind about anything? Zeke, what did God allow you to believe? Were you rebuked for believing that way? Do you think God was playing some cosmic master-puppet game where He manipulated you to protest in order to give the appearance that prayer changes things in actual linear time when it’s actually just a pre-ordained game? Or do you think that God held back His full glory, downgraded Himself a bit, got down on your level where you could understand Him, and took the actual risk of having a genuine give-and-take dialogue with a real strong-willed person who would engage and offer true input into the conversation that would actually make a real-time, non-preordained difference? Isn’t that what genuine Agape would do? Agape doesn’t insist on its own way. In a battle of Sovereignty vs. Agape which one wins when it comes to relating to man? One is an attribute, one is the very core of God. What’s your experience Ezekiel? Now, I’m going to ask you…What did Ezekiel believe? What did he write?
The Church is divided on this issue. We don’t know what to believe. So, we pray with divided faith not knowing if God’s mind can be changed or not. If God knows everything, and everything is predestined according to His foreknowledge, then why bother to protest his will/plan like Ezekiel did? Why bother to pray hard? Why speak to the mountain? Why pray fervently and get worked up? Does anyone pray in protest as shown over and over again in scripture? Do we dialogue with God? Our prayer meetings are getting smaller. We don’t know what to really believe. We pray hoping, but we don’t pray believing. We remove it from our minds and push forward with our works. We don’t want to deal with this very important issue. How do we resolve these scriptures? I believe I have found an answer in scripture, but we must unravel many things first.
Can I speak the truth here? Many pray out of obedience, but not out of conviction. Obedience is great, but if we want to grow, we need to become unwavering and convinced of some things or we will never see the mountains move. Jesus asks a very, very haunting question in Luke 18:8. He says, I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Jesus speaks very assuredly and prophetically that they will get justice. It has been predetermined to happen; however, when Jesus asks the question about faith, he then speaks as if the answer to that question may not be predetermined. There is something very chilling about that question.
There are a lot of questions that I want to address, and more scriptures that I want to present. Who wants to explore more on this subject? Is anyone really interested? If so, I have more to share. If not, I’ll move on.