There are several cases in Scripture where God appears to change
His purpose, while on the other hand we know that there is
"no variableness nor shadow of turning" with God. Some (1)
explain this by suggesting that God changes His purpose in accordance
with the repentance and obedience of His people. There may be some
truth in this, seeing that it appears the Lord's 'coming' in AD70
was 'scheduled' in some ways for 40 years after His death; when
actually it was 37 years. Was the 3 years 'hastening' due to the
prayers for the hastening of the Lord's day requested in 2 Pet.
3, and also because of the Jews filling up their cup of wrath so
quickly, due to their persecution of the Christians? Yet this view
has its problems, and the alternative suggested here is that God
Himself is unchanging, but He has delegated His purpose to His Angels
to a far greater degree than we realize. Because they have limited
wisdom and strength, their decreed purpose may well change; and
thus it appears that God changes His mind. In several apparent instances
of God changing His purpose, it can be seen that it is in fact the
Angels who are changing.
- Gen. 6:6 says that "It repented The LORD that He had made man
on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart". To repent means
to change around. It was the Angels who actually made man on earth,
in the image of themselves, and we have shown that it was the
Angels who actually brought the flood on the earth. So it was
they who repented and therefore decided to bring the flood. Thus
only Noah "found grace in the eyes of the LORD" (v. 8). The eyes
of the LORD are the Angels- it was they who surveyed the earth
and saw that it was wicked, except for Noah. The phrase in v.
13 "the end of all flesh is come before Me" implies that it was
brought to God's attention- another example of language of limitation,
which must refer to the Angels. Thus it was the Angels who repented,
or changed their mind, about creation.
- The Angels who visited Lot in Sodom wanted initially to lodge
in the street, but they were persuaded by Lot to change their
plans (Gen. 19:3). And who is to say that to some extent this
isn’t possible today, too?
- When Moses "besought the Lord his God. . . repent of this evil
against Thy people" he was praying to the Angel. He definitely
conceived of "his God" as an Angel, therefore. And if we have
personal guardian Angels, then Moses' guardian was no less than
Michael, the Angel of Israel, the Angel that dwelt between the
Cherubim. Truly he was "the servant of the Lord" (the Yahweh Angel);
there was truly no such man whom the Lord-Angel knew face to face
- Dt. 32:36: "For the Lord shall judge His people, and repent
Himself for His servants, when He seeth that their hand is gone,
and there is none shut up, or left". The hand that was with Israel
was their Angel- after the Angel physically left Israel, resulting
in their punishment, the very pity of their state caused the Angel
to repent, and return to them. He "shall judge his people". This
is quoted in Heb. 10:20 concerning the judgement seat- where we
know the Angels will play an important part (see 'Angels and the
judgement seat', Chapter 14).
- Jer. 15:6 "Therefore will I stretch out My hand against thee,
and destroy thee; I am weary of repenting". The hand of God is
an Angelic term, and here we see it responsible for the frequent
repenting (changing of mind) of God concerning Israel. Frequent
repentance is fundamentally not a characteristic of God Himself-
"God is not a man, that He should repent" (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam.
- Ps. 90:13 "Let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants. . .
Return, O Lord. . . O satisfy us early with Thy mercy. . . for
we are consumed by Thine anger". This 'prayer of Moses' (title)
is lamenting how Israel were being destroyed by the Angel as they
wandered in the forty year period of punishment. It may even be
that the Angel left Israel in a sense (hence "Return O Lord")
although still leading them. Thus there are different degrees
of the Angelic presence- as at the restoration the Angel did in
a limited sense return to the temple. Yet Moses clearly believed
that this period of decreed punishment could be shortened ("satisfy
us early with Thy mercy") by the Angel repenting. Previously his
prayers had succeeded in making the Angel repent of the evil that
He had planned to do to Israel, and Moses evidently hoped the
Angel would again repent. Why exactly didn't He? Ps. 91 follows
on from Ps. 90, and is also clearly Angelic.
- Jeremiah's message as the Babylonian armies approached Jerusalem
had stressed that if the Jews repented, then God would repent
of the evil He was planning to bring upon them (18:8,10; 26:3,13).
The Jews did not repent, and so Jerusalem was taken and Zedekiah
deported. Even at this thirteenth hour, God said to the Jewish
forces that remained at large outside Jerusalem and who were about
to flee to Egypt: "If ye will still abide in this land, then will
I build you, and not pull you down. . . for I repent Me of the
evil that I have done unto you"" (42:10). What a God we have!
Although Israel had not repented, the Angel repented to the extent
of changing His pre-requisite for repenting of bringing more evil
on them. And so God changed this from returning wholeheartedly
to the Law, to merely remaining in the land of Israel rather than
fleeing to Egypt. The Angel's eagerness to repent and willingness
to accept even the slightest sign of repentance in His charges,
explains why Moses was so willing to strive to make the Angel
repent by his prayers. Thus in Ex. 34:9 Moses asks the Angel to
forgive the people' sin, although it was one of the Angel's stated
principles not to do so (Ex. 23:21). Moses had had personal experience
of such repenting; the Angel "sought" to kill him, but God changed
his mind due to Moses' repentance (Ex. 4:24). What of us? Jer.
31:18,19 tops all for such encouragement: "Turn thou Me (said
Ephraim), and I shall be turned. . . I (God in the Angel)
was turned, I repented"- and therefore God repented too!
- "Who knoweth if He will return and repent. . . turn unto the
Lord your God: for he is gracious
and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth
Him of the evil" (Joel 2:14,13). These are the attributes of 'the
Lord' that passed before Moses in Ex. 34:5,6, thus also indicating
that this was an Angel. Jonah 4:2 makes the same connection.
- 1 Sam. 15:28,29,35: "The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel
from thee (Saul). . . and hath given it to (David). . . the strength
of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that he
should repent. . . and the Lord repented that He had made Saul
king over Israel". This juxtaposition of such conflicting statements
seems to imply that it was the Angel who allowed Israel to have
kings, although it was not the will of God Himself. He allowed
the Angel to permit Israel to have a king, although the Angel
later repented of this. God Himself, who does not repent, then
firmly intervened to replace Saul with David.
- "The Lord repented Him of the evil, and said to the Angel that
destroyed the people, It is enough; stay now Thine hand" (2 Sam.
24:16). This “destroying Angel” (1 Chron. 21:15 RV) is surely
“the destroyer” who operated in the wilderness. We see here one
Angel having the ability to formulate a purpose and another blindly
carrying it out until told not to- a scenario which we see
repeated elsewhere (e. g. at the Passover and in Ez. 9). It was
only david’s prayer which lead to “the destroyer” ceasing. Notice
how the Angel repented and then encouraged David to offer a sacrifice
so the Angel would be "intreated for the land" (v. 19,25). Similarly,
the Angel repented of punishing Israel and wanted to restore them,
and to enable this to happen He encouraged the people through
Ezra to be spiritual. Thus Angelic repentance has to be confirmed
by human action.
- Ps. 106:44,45,23: "He (the wilderness Angel) heard their cry:
and He remembered for them His covenant, and repented according
to the multitude of His mercies ('mercies' is a word often associated
with the promises). . . He (the destroyer Angel) said that He
would destroy them, had not Moses stood before him in the breach.
. . lest He should destroy them". The Angel's repentance is very
often mentioned along with Him recalling the promises He
made to the patriarchs. This would explain why powerful prayers
(e. g. of Jacob and Ezra) often make mention of the promises-
because it is by recognizing that the answer to our request will
further the fulfilment of those promises that our Angel is likely
to repent and hear us.
- The relatively small amount of human repentance needed
to make the Angel repent is shown in Amos 7. Amos sees visions
of the impending judgements on Israel. After each he prays "O
Lord God, forgive, I beseech Thee: who shall stand for Jacob?
('If you, his Angel-God, don't?') for he is small". The answer
comes :"The Lord repented for this. It shall not be, saith the
Lord". He repented for the sake of one intense prayer! Notice
too Amos asking "Who shall stand for Jacob?". Michael the Angel
stands for Israel in the court of Heaven (as the Angel 'God of
Jacob'; Dan. 12:1), and thus it appears Amos is pointing out that
if Israel is condemned and punished they will have no Angel with
them- and so the Angel / God changes His mind.
- Hos. 11:8 wonderfully summarizes how frequently the Angel can
repent due to the intense emotional pain He feels at punishing
His charges: "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver
thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? (the Angels punished
Sodom and surrounding cities like Admah). . . Mine heart is turned
within Me, My repentings are kindled together". If by mere reason
of being Abraham's seed hard hearted, idol-worshipping Israel
could evoke such feelings, how much more- and this our minds surely
cannot comprehend- will our Angel be moved by the new Israel at
least making some effort to obey the Lord!
- Hebrews 3:9-11 implies that God changed His mind about letting
Israel enter the land: "your fathers tempted Me, and saw My works
forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation. . So
I sware in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest". Or as
Num. 14:34 (A. V. mg. ) says "ye shall bear your iniquity, even
forty years, and ye shall know the altering of My purpose". These
were the words of the Angel to Moses. We know that God cannot
be tempted (James 1:13-15); therefore the passage in Hebrews referring
to God being tempted and therefore swearing that they would not
enter the land must be concerning the Angel which led them; and
similarly the altering of purpose which this involved was the
altering of the Angel's plans, not those of God Himself.
- Moses seems to have pleaded with the Angel to change His stated
purpose of not going up with the children of Israel through reminding
the Angel of the mockery this would bring Him into among the nations
around. Thus Ex. 34:9 shows Moses pleading for this "O LORD, let
my Lord (the Angel) I pray thee, go amongst us" after the clear
statement in Ex. 33:3 "I will not go up in the midst of thee".
So let us not be afraid to ask God to change what seems like His
purpose in our lives, no matter how hard it seems, if we truly
feel that another way would give Him more glory. Moses would not
have tried if he did not think success in that prayer was possible.
But he not only tried, he succeeded. Also consider Ex. 32:11:
"Moses besought the face of the LORD (A. V. mg-i. e. the Angel)
and said, LORD, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people,
which Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt (the Angel
did this). . turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil
against Thy people". Thus Ezek. 20:17 says that God's eye (the
Angel) "spared them. . in the wilderness" when they provoked Him.
Psalm 90 is Moses meditations on the fact that his generation
were slowly dying in the wilderness, and on the vapidity of life
at that stage. And yet he is bold enough to plead with God to
change His purpose- "Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent
Thee concerning Thy servants. O satisfy us early with Thy mercy
(i. e. don't leave it till some distant point in the future when
Messiah is here to show me Thy mercy- do it early, do it now).
. make us glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted
us. . " (v. 13-15). So from his previous experience of changing
God's purpose , Moses was not afraid to try and do so again. This
possibility of God changing His mind about this is shown by the
Hebrew of Ps. 95:11: "That they should not (Heb. 'If they enter',
as AVmg. ) enter My rest". The ambiguity here nicely shows the
possibility of them entering.
- Similarly Hosea 12:4 implies that through his intense prayer,
Jacob had power over the Angel he wrestled with in getting his
prayers heard. "He had power over the Angel (he didn't in the
physical wrestling), and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication
unto Him" (this was the way Jacob prevailed over the Angel).
- Dt. 4:31 and 31:6,8 say that despite the sins Israel may commit,
their Angel-God "will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee,
nor forget the covenant. . . He will not fail thee". But then
Dt. 31:17 says that because the people would disobey Him, God
"will forsake them. . . and they shall be devoured. . . and I
will surely hide My face in that day for all the evils which
they shall have wrought". We have seen that in the Pentatuch,
especially in God's dealings with Israel on their journey, God
is to be conceived of as an Angel; which would
explain the apparent fickleness shown here.
- Similarly "I will give thee rest" (Ex. ,33:14), the Angel said
(33:11). But they did not enter that rest- Heb. 4:8,10. "Rest"
was defined as the land being subdued before God with all the
tribes driven out (Josh. 1:13,15; Num. 32:21,22; 1 Chron. 22:18).
This being conditional on Israel's faithfulness, we conclude that
when the Angel said "I will give thee rest" He was speaking of
what was possible in prospect; or perhaps He over-estimated Israel's
obedience, or was unaware of the degree to which their entering
the rest was conditional on their obedience.
- Zeph. 2:2 urges Israel to repent "Before the decree bring forth,
before the day pass. . the day of the Lord come upon you". It
may well be that this is referring to God's decree to the Angels
to begin judging Israel.
- Judges 2:1 "And an Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to
Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought
you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers: and I said,
I will never break My covenant with you". The subsequent rebuke
of Israel by the Angel makes this passage imply that although
the Angel had promised never to break the Covenant, He could and
would do so. Later, He did: "And I took my staff, even Beauty,
and cut it asunder, that I might break My covenant which I had
made with all the people. And it was broken in that day" (Zech.
11:10,11). This 'repentance' must make the "I" refer to God manifest
in the Angel. v. 6 gives the context: "I will no more pity the
inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord" (cp. Is. 63:9 regarding
the wilderness Angel:"in His love and in His pity" He redeemed
Israel from Egypt). Although the Angelic covenant was broken,
it is to be re-established: "I will even deal with thee as thou
hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant
(i. e. you've broken the covenant, I'll do the same). Nevertheless
I will remember My covenant with thee. . . and I will establish
unto thee an everlasting covenant. . . thou shalt receive thy
sisters. . . and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but
not by thy (former) covenant. And I will establish My covenant
with thee. . . " (Ez. 16:59-62). This covenant was a marriage
covenant. "For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and
grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when
thou wast refused, saith thy God" (Michael the Angel?), Is. 54:6.
This is all referring back to the Angel calling Hagar, showing
that God's Angel was figuratively 'married' to Israel; thus it
was the Angel who divorced and will take back Israel.
- Another compact example of Angels shortening a time period
(as they will regarding the second coming) is found in comparing
Rom. 9:28,29 with Matthew 24:
Romans 9 is quoting from Is. 28:22 , which is about "a consumption,
even determined upon the whole land. . . from the Lord God of hosts
(Angels)". Thus the Angels planned to destroy Israel even more terribly
than they did in AD70, but the "determined" "days" of "consumption"
were "shortened" because the Angels- other ones apart from the destroying
Angels?- had preserved a faithful seed or remnant, which is the
theme of the section of Romans where the quotation from Is. 28 occurs.
And there must be marked similarities in the last days too.
So great was Moses' concept of the Angel's limitation and characteristic
of changing His mind, that he "returned unto the Lord (the Angel),
and said, Lord. . . why is it that Thou hast sent me? (The Angel
in the bush sent him). For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy
name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast Thou delivered
Thy people at all" (Ex. 5:22,23). Moses here gives a great warning
to us: because God's purpose and the Angels who implement it can
change, we must not let this militate against humble
faith and works. "My Lord delayeth His coming", the unworthy complain.
They are quite right- He does delay, because a few verses later
we are told that "the bridegroom tarried" (same word as 'delayeth')-
God's purpose, even regarding the time of the second coming, may
be subject to change, but this should serve to humble us and increase
our faith rather than make us bitter and doubtful of God. Thus God
through the Angel responds: "with a strong hand (i. e. by an Angel)
SHALL he let (Israel) go" (Ex. 6:1). God goes on to stress that
He is ultimately connected with the Angels, therefore implying that
to wrongly question them is to question God Himself: "I appeared
(through an Angel) unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob by God
Almighty (i.e. an Angel), and by My Name JEHOVAH was I not known
to them?" (Ex. 6:3,7)- this is the correct translation, seeing that
God had revealed Himself as Jehovah to the patriarchs, e. g. at
Jehovah-Jireh. Moses and Israel would be brought to accept God's
vindication of the Angel, so they would know that "I am Jehovah
(in) your Elohim (Angels)".
Despite all this, the Angels being active in our lives represent
by that token God's fundamental faithfulness to us- "God is greatly
to be feared in the assembly of the saints (Angels) and to be had
in reverence of all them that are round about Him (the Angels round
about the Heavenly throne). O Lord God of Hosts (Angels), who is
a strong Lord like unto Thee? Or to Thy faithfulness round about
Thee?" (Ps. 89:7,8). The Angels around the throne are here equated
with God's faithfulness. It is likely that other occurrences of
this word may also have an Angelic context.
The idea that God's purpose is signed and sealed unchangeably and
the Angels are just putting it into practice militates against our
faith in prayer. Jacob "had power over the Angel, and prevailed"
(Hos. 12:4)- not physically, because the Angel eventually had power
over him that way; but spiritually, through his wrestling in prayer,
he succeeded. "He wept, and made supplication unto Him. . . even
the Lord God of Hosts (Angels)". Because the Angels do change their
mind and God's purpose is in many ways open-ended, we should be
greatly encouraged in our prayers, knowing that we convince our
Angel first (see later), then Christ, and finally trust in God's
love to answer what Christ presents to Him. Or has God delegated
certain power for the answering of prayer to Angels, leaving it
up to them to decide how to answer prayer? No wonder Jacob strove
with that Angel so zealously! The idea that we have power over the
Angels by our prayers is continued when we consider that Jacob and
Jesus saw Angels ascending and descending in that order- as if to
imply that the Angels are sent on their missions by us?