Q: #21. Does God change His mind?
A: No, God does not change His mind. He cannot, nor does He change His mind for two reasons.
First, God is omniscient [all-knowing] (1 Cor 2:10-13)(Ps 139:1-6)(1 Jn 3:20)(Isa 42:9)(Ezek 11:5)(Ps 147:4-5). He is able to see the past, present, and future all at the same time. He has known from the beginning of the world, every person before they were born (Jer 1:3). He knew we would be sinners. He knew every sin we would commit. He knew every choice we would make. And, He knew who would accept Jesus to pay for those sins. This is called the foreknowledge of God.
God has chosen and elected us based on His foreknowledge (1 Pet 1:2)(Rom 8:29)(2 Th 2:13-14). He chose us based on different traits He knew we would possess (James 2:5)(Mt 5:3)(Lk 6:20)(1 Cor 1:26-28)(Job 22:29)(Mt 19:23-24)(Mt 21:31).
He even knows our prayers before we pray them. Our prayers are very important, and God does respond to prayer, but He has known from the beginning of the world the prayers we would pray for our needs, desires, confession, repentance, intercession, etc…, and has planned a response based on those prayers. However, these prayers do NOT change His mind.
*** Note: This is important to understand, because our prayers should not be to conform God’s will to OUR will, but instead, we should be praying that our will would conform to what God wants, and that He would receive honor and glory in whatever happens.
Second, the Bible makes it clear that God doesn’t change His mind.
(Num 23:19) God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent (change His mind).
(1 Sam 15:29) And the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent (change His mind): for he is not a man, that he should repent.
In fact, God does not change in ANY way (Mal 3:6)(James 1:17)(Ps 102:26-27). He is perfect (Mt 5:48)(Ps 18:30)(2 Sam 22:31). If perfection changed, it would not be perfect. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). God does not alter His plans, have second thoughts, or make mistakes.
So… what does the Bible mean when it says God changed His mind or repented? There are two big and impressive sounding words that are used to explain the verses that appear to show God repenting or changing His mind. The first is called an anthropomorphism. This means to assign human form or characteristics to non-humans (i.e. God). For example, the Bible says that God has: hands (Jn 10:29), a face (Mt 18:10), a heart (Hos 11:8), eyes (2 Chr 16:9), a mouth (Isa 58:14), ears (Ps 34:15), etc… However, these cannot “literally” apply to God since the Bible says that God is by nature “spirit” (Jn 4:24) and “invisible” (Col 1:15)(1 Tim 6:16)(1 Tim 1:17)(Heb 11:27). In addition, Jesus said that God is not “flesh and blood” (Mt 16:17), nor “flesh and bone” (Lk 24:39).
We also have what is called an anthropopathism, which means to assign human emotions or feelings to non-humans (i.e. God). For example, the Bible says that God becomes: angry (Ex 4:14)(Deut 29:27), grieved (Heb 3:10,17)(Gen 6:6), jealous (Ex 20:5)(Ex 34:14)(Deut 4:24), or feels pleasure (Heb 10:38)(Rev 4:11)(Ps 147:11)(Ps 149:4). And, His emotions appear to change in response to our actions.
However, the Bible also says, as we have already seen, God doesn’t change. If God’s emotions changed in response to something we do, or fail to do, it would mean that He DOES change. God uses literary devices like these to help our finite human minds understand Him a little better. Using an old saying, they are to help us “comprehend to incomprehensible, know the unknowable, fathom the unfathomable.”
For instance, our finite minds cannot comprehend how God can have emotions, but they are not based on a change in feelings. We cannot fathom how God’s love is unchangeable towards us, even when we fail Him, because our love for others so often changes based on circumstances.
However, (Eph 3:19) says that the love of Christ passes our knowledge. (Phil 4:7) says that the peace of God “passeth all understanding.” We simply CANNOT grasp the mind and ways of God.
(Job 37:5) Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.
(Isa 55:8-9) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. (9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways, And my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Job 36:26) Behold, God is great, and we know him not…
(Rom 11:33-34) O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord?
God says in (Ps 50:21)(NASB) “You thought that I was just like you.” Many people try to make a God in their image, thinking He is somehow like us… This is why people fall into idolatry. They try and make God into something they can comprehend or understand. However, God’s ways are unsearchable (Job 5:9)(Ps 145:3)(Eph 3:8). We will never understand the things of God until we get to Heaven (1 Cor 13:12). Even then, we will never fully understand Him.
The Bible is FILLED with hundreds of other examples of hyperbole that God has given to help us understand a bit better His infinite ways. Jesus called Himself: bread (Jn 6:41), living water (Jn 4:10), a door (Jn 10:9), a vine (Jn 15:5), a shepherd (Jn 10:11,14), and said we are to drink His blood and eat His body (Mt 26:26-28). Clearly, Jesus did not mean these things literally. They are simply given to help our feeble and finite minds better comprehend God’s ways. Thank you Lord that you simplify your word so that we can know you more fully.