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
This sounds very absolute until you read this…
So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.–Exodus 32:14
In the last post, Does God Change His Mind? Ezekiel’s Story, we looked at what the prophet Ezekiel had to say about this subject. It seems clear to me, that he had an experience which defined what he believed to be the truth. It answers some questions but raises others. One of the questions is, “How can the Bible say one thing and then say something so different? How can it say that He doesn’t change His mind, and then say that He did change His mind?” I think it comes down to asking whether a statement is an absolute rule, or a general rule. Let’s look at an example.
In one place the Bible says that the angel Gabriel said, For nothing will be impossible with God.–Luke 1:37. The word “nothing” conveys the idea of no exceptions. In the Greek language, the words mean “all, the whole, every kind of”. “Nothing” covers everything regardless of the context. This verse is written in the language of being an absolute rule (absolute meaning “no exceptions”). Before Gabriel, we have the testimony of Jeremiah who said of the Lord, Nothing is too difficult for you!–Jer. 32:17. Before that, we have God Himself telling Abraham, Is anything too difficult for the Lord?–Gen. 18:4. Finally Jesus Himself went on to confirm all of this by saying, With God, ALL things are possible–Matthew 19:26. Once again, this is written in absolute language. Gabriel said it, Jeremiah said it, God said it, and Jesus Christ confirmed all of it in absolute language. So, it must be an absolute rule, right? No. Hebrews 6:18 tells us plainly, It is impossible for God to lie. Titus 1:2 says the same thing. 2) Not only can God not lie, In 2 Timothy 2:13 Paul says that God cannot repudiate or disown Himself. He can’t stop being God or disassociate Himself from being God. 3) It is impossible for God to experience pleasure in a relationship that does not contain the element of faith (Heb. 11:6).
How do we reconcile this? Although ALL of these passages were written in the language of being an absolute rule, in reality, it is a general rule. General rules have exceptions. If scriptural rules are written in absolute language but are shown by other scriptures to have exceptions, then those scriptural rules are general and not absolute. The scriptures were not written in a perfect language, they were written in human languages; therefore it is prudent for us to compare scripture with scripture to capture the clearest meaning.
There are scriptures written in absolute language which tell us that God does not change His mind. There are many more scriptures which either tell or demonstrate that God does change His mind. Could it be that although those passages are written in the language of being an absolute rule, that they are general rules?
Here’s my two cents. 1) God’s nature doesn’t change. He is always Agape who rejoices in the truth (please read God is Love…for WHAT?). 2) God doesn’t lie. 3) Concerning God’s mind and plans: They are not subject to the bribery and manipulation of people. God isn’t like men who are capricious, whimsical, and indecisive. However, God is compassionate, merciful, and seeks genuine agape relationship with mankind. He will listen and at times adhere to the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous. With Him, those prayers avail much! I believe that God makes real, linear-time changes for us! This is very, very good and encouraging news!
Still, we are left with a very big question: How doe we reconcile the idea of God changing His mind in real linear-time with the concept of Constant Omniscience? It is illogical to think that anyone with all foreknowledge would make changes. Also, if I created a robot that I KNEW would eventually turn and kill people, I would be held responsible before God for doing such an evil thing. So why would an Agape God with all foreknowledge create Lucifer who would become the devil? It’s going to be awesome. Please stay tuned…