“God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).
God does not change His mind. The theological term for this is God’s immutability – that His character, His will, or His promises are firmly planted. They will not change. The human term for this is stubbornness, and we don’t think highly of people who are so immovable. We consider them to be hard-headed, arrogant, and unwilling to listen to reason or persuasion.
Surely you’ve known(or perhaps been?) that person so convinced of their own opinion, their own position, or their own preference that it’s like they have cotton stuffed into your ears. Someone can come and present with logic or emotion or both the reason why they should reconsider your actions, positions, preferences, or opinions, but it just doesn’t matter. They think what they think, do what they do, behave how they behave, and in their own eyes, they are right no matter what anyone else says.
It’s infuriating. But lest we take that same approach with God – that He is a deity of stubborn arrogance, we should reconsider. Much as it might be frustrating to see that characteristic in others or ourselves, the fact that God doesn’t change His mind is a good thing for us. A very good thing in fact. And here are 3 reasons why:
1. It means God has no new knowledge.
One of the reasons why we might change our minds, as humans, is simply because we are presented with new information about something. There is something we didn’t know about a circumstance or a person or an issue, and based on this new information, we are compelled to change the way we think about it. But if God never changes His mind, it means there is no new information to Him.
God knows every circumstance down to the molecular level. There is never a moment when He’s caught off guard or surprise; never an instance when He is shocked or dismayed. For us, who are constantly becoming aware of new bits of circumstantial information, this is a very good thing, because it means among other things that God is simply not surprised at that which is most shocking to us. Everything in your life right now, though it might be surprising to you, has not left God in a state of shock. Far from it, in fact.
2. It means God never learns anything new about Himself.
Sometimes we, as humans, change our minds because we learn something new about our intent, our motivation, or our feelings. The human heart is a confusing, mixed up, and twisted sort of place. As a result, when we reflect on our decisions and opinions of the past, we almost always realize that though we thought we were acting for one reason, there was actually something else going on inside of us at the time.
Not so with God. God knows Himself, and He always acts in accordance with His perfect character. He never second guesses His motivation in making a certain decision because He is entirely self-knowledgable all the time. Unlike us, God isn’t on a road to maturity where their actions and motivations can be fully aligned, but instead is completely honest and self-aware right now. That’s a good thing for us, especially when you combine point 1 and 2, because it means, among other things that God isn’t going to suddenly realize He’d made a mistake by loving us once. He knew us then, and He knew Himself then… and we are loved through Christ now and forever.
3. It means God never acts out of proportion.
One of the reasons why I might change my mind is because in a given moment I might be overcome with some emotion that causes me to act in a certain way. I might be overcome with anger, with sentiment, with nostalgia, or whatever, and because I am overcome in that moment, I act disproportionately to what I should. Instead of a measured and wise course of thinking and action, I am hasty and overblown. Not so with God.
God never has to change His mind because He was “too” something earlier. He was never too loving, too patient, too angry, too judging – He’s not “too” at all. He’s just right, and always in accordance with His perfect character. Oh, the freedom that comes from knowing this truth. For we can live in confidence that God will not go back on His Word, having pronounced that Word in a moment of weakness. We can know that He will indeed punish evil. He will indeed keep His children to the end. He will indeed cause His church to overcome against the gates of Hades. He will indeed complete the good work He has begun in us. And He will indeed never let anything in all creation separate us from the love of God in Christ.
4. It means God cannot be manipulated.
This is the dark underbelly of our own human flexibility with our opinions or actions. Sometimes we change because someone has manipulated us. In the worst case, it means we have succumbed to having our palms greased or out pockets filled or some other benefit that will come our way if we just lean this way or that. So we find the promise of some reward to us, something that will make us, in our minds, more comfortable or happier, and so we compromise.
But God cannot, and will not, be manipulated. His purposes will stand. He will not lower and cheapen Himself so much as to make some kind of cosmic trade whereby we bring Him something in exchange for some benefit He can provide to us. Of course, that’s not to say our prayers are not effective – they certainly are. But this is not us manipulating God for our own ends; rather, it is Him acting in accordance with His will in response to our prayers, which were also in accordance with His will. And thank goodness that’s the case. Thank goodness God is not withholding from us His greatest blessings only to proportion them out to the highest bidder. Thank goodness He cannot be swayed by bribery. Thank goodness there is still justice in the universe, and still a righteous Judge who sits above it all.
This is our God. Not the kind of God who can be manipulated, acts on a whim, is on a journey of self-discovery, or is knocked off His throne by new bits of information. He is the God who was, and is, and will be. Forever.