Does God change his mind? The typical response is in the negative, but what about all those times in the Bible when it appears that God changed his mind? Does the change of direction reveal that God is actually mutable? For if he has changed in the past, that implies he could possibly change in the future. If he has the propensity for change, then our efforts move from submitting to his lordship to attempting to get him to surrender to our desires.
When Scripture indicates God’s change of direction, it is always preceded by another’s
positiveor negative change.
Every parent understands this dynamic.
- “If you hit your brother again, you will be punished.”
- “You are not going out this weekend if you fail to complete your homework.”
- “I am pulling this car over if you don’t stop it.”
Depending upon how intimidating your parental demeanor is, your children may or may not comply. You respond inline with how they behave. It doesn’t mean you change your mind. If they choose poorly, you will deliver punishment. If they return to their senses and do what has been asked of them, you are eager to withhold further discipline.
God is the same way. Throughout the pages of Scripture, God reveals how he processes the faithful and unfaithful evidences of his people. God communicated sorrow over his Creation of Mankind (Gen. 6:6). The increasing nature of sin wasn’t a surprise to God, but he was also transparent enough to let us know that such blatant rebellion was offensive to him.
Sometimes the Bible does say that God changed his mind. What is happening in those moments?
- Moses prayed to spare the Israelites from God’s judgment and God listened (Ex. 32:9-14).
- God regretted making Saul king (1 Sam. 15:10).
- Hezekiah requested for
a longerlife and received it (Isa. 38:1-6). God relented regarding Nineveh’s previously promised destruction (Jonah 3:4, 10).
Did God actually change his mind or did his stance cause the individuals to change their mind?
- Regarding Moses, God was intentionally using that encounter to further develop a shepherd like heart into his leader.
- God’s regret over Saul wasn’t a new development because he warned them of such a tyrannical leader.
- God’s plan was for Hezekiah to have a longer life, and he planned for the power of prayer to be part of why that happened.
- Nineveh did what God required of them, and he was even more gracious to show mercy than the prophet was (Jonah 4:11).
God’s changeless dispositions respond to others’ changing directions.
Nothing takes him by surprise, but as the Creator, his purposes do include responding to the decisions of the Creation. If you cross the line he said not to cross, he is going to deliver the promised punishment. If you are willing to alter a previously charted course due to his warning, he is eager to reward your prudent adjustments.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.