Friday, September 1, 2017

Immutable and unchangeable

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged” (Hebrews 6:17-18).  God is unchanging and He wants us to know and understand this as one of the key attributes of God. This attribute is that of constancy for He is unchanging.  Psalm 102 contrasts God’s nature with the heavens and the earth: “They will perish, but you remain…and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:26-27).  Psalm 33:11 identifies the permanence of God’s thoughts “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” God Himself says that even though his people change and turn aside His statutes, “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6). James, Jesus’ brother says God, “does not change like the shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

These Scriptures tell us of this trait that God is perfect and cannot increase or decrease. There is also no qualitative change that would allow Him to change His mind, plans or actions.  His plans are always consistent. God is ever faithful to His covenant with Abraham.

Some may say He changes His mind, like offering salvation to the gentiles. It is just a new stage in His original plan.   Many say that when he relented to destroy Nineveh that He had changed His mind. He had said, unless they repent, and they did.  He is not static but stable. He is active and dynamic. Some say that He changes as we change. Nothing could be further from the truth. Process Theology is not an accurate portrayal of His immutability. Everything is not “processive” for Him. He is active and responsive to humanity with His mercy. He has a genuine sympathetic response to those He loves. He is active in our lives, not static. Transcendence says that He will be involved in our lives without our limitation. His nature is timeless. He is a great and awesome God. He knows the way we take and He will bring it about to good for those who live Him Romans 8:28 tells us. There are also consequences to our actions and God does not intervene like a Greek god (goddess) to make sure His original will is followed. I can tell you that there have been many trials in my life that I would love to not have experienced. But God is good.

Some may wonder if God changed His mind with Hezekiah in his illness. Initially God told the king that he would die. However, his fervent prayers and works were heard and responded to by the Lord and He healed him (2 Kings 20). In the book of 1 Samuel God had ordained Eli’s family to be priests forever in His house. However, their hearts turned away from the Lord in sin and disregard. Their hearts were hardened toward the Lord and God caused that they would die and that Eli’s family would lose its ordination.  Spiritual privileges bring responsibilities and obligations; they are not to be treated as irrevocable rights.  God showed favor to David for righteousness and brought consequences for sin.  God is actively involved in our lives. By His Holy Spirit He convicts and admonishes us in our ways. When you perceive His nudging, do not delay but immediately respond as directed. His Word is clear on that. I can say that I personally have suffered consequences for disobedience as well as favor for obedience. God has healed me miraculously twice during times of obedience and seeking His intervention. Yes, this is also because He is omniscient and omnipresent, two other attributes of God. We should not take one attribute as all. God is not measurable or containable. His ways and thoughts are above ours as Isaiah 55 tells us.

For those who think that an unchanging and stable God is immovable, I believe they are incorrect. When referring to His attributes it is His very character and nature. We are not referring to His acts, such as creating, guiding, and preserving. The attributes are qualities of the entire Godhead. They are also not properties or functions. Properties are functions, activities or acts of the individual members of the Godhead. God can commute part of certain of His attributes to His creation. For example, holiness is communicated or imputed to us, as we believe. Obviously omnipresence in not such an attribute.

Yes, God is changeless, He is what He always was, and He does not evolve.  He is timeless and constant. I love that He is alive and dynamically and personally involved in our lives. And He has a sympathetic response to those He loves. We just need to study Scripture to know what is His will for us.

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