2-2 God Changing His Mind
And God does change His mind. Remember how He told Moses
that He was going to destroy Israel and make of Moses a great nation.
And Moses pleaded with God. And God changed His mind. Just like He "
repented" , changed His mind, that He had made man at the time of the
flood. Moses was specifically told to go away from the congregation,
and yet he ran towards them in order to make atonement for them (Num.
16:45,47). Moses was so close to God that he could apparently 'disobey'
Him because Moses knew there was a chance of changing God's intentions.
He was so close to God- and in this case, God did indeed change His
intentions. He had only just changed them over another matter, in
relenting from destroying all Israel due to Korah's rebellion- because
Moses prayed for the people (Num. 16:21,22). And there are so many
- God had stated that Adam
would surely die in the day
he ate the fruit. He is made to suffer consequences for his sin, but
him and did not slay him that day. He was told he must till the ground
days” [plural] of his life (Gen. 3:17)-
reflecting how in wrath God remembered mercy
and gave Adam many more days.
- God told Israel straight in Jud. 10:13: " Ye have
forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no
more" . But they begged Him, and He did. And likewise in Hosea, He said
He would give them up completely, but just couldn't bring Himself to do
it. God changing His mind is a theme that runs through Hosea.
- He had promised to bring Israel in to the promised
land. But He destroyed that generation- " and ye shall know my breach
of promise" , or, " the altering of my purpose" (Num. 14:34). God's
purpose can change. Because God can change His mind. He says
- Amos preached the message of coming judgment upon
Israel and then due to his prayer, averted it. Days / months later
perhaps, he added to the record of his prophecies: " The Lord repented
for this: It shall not be, saith the Lord" (Am. 7:1 cp. 3; 7:4 cp. 6).
The prophesied sending of fire and grasshoppers upon Israel was
recorded, but then averted by Amos' prayer.
- Jeremiah chose to live with those whom he had been
told were the “evil figs”who wouldn’t repent- in the
hope that they would (Jer. 40:6), just as Isaiah and Ezekiel still seem
to have held out hope that Israel would repent despite having been told
at the start of their ministry that they would not be listened to. This
hoping against hope that God will change His stated predictions about
human lack of response is surely not defiance of God, but rather a
recognition of His great sensitivity to human repentance, and that God
changing His mind is a common Bible phenomena.
- Some prophecies are dependent on prayer for their
fulfillment. Take Is. 62:1: " For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness
thereof go forth as brightness" . But this is dependent upon prayer: "
I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem…ye that make
mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest till
he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (:6,7). The prophecy that " I
will not rest" was dependent for fulfillment upon the faithful
continuing to pray and thereby not giving Him rest. Of course, they
pray from their own freewill; there is the possibility they won't pray,
and thereby, surely, there's the possibility the statement " I will not
rest" is purely conditional on our prayers…?
- When Hezekiah studied the words of Micah, " did he
not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of
the evil which he had pronounced against him" (Jer. 26:19). Those words
of prophecy had their fulfillment annulled or delayed thanks to
Hezekiah's prayer and repentance. Likewise Jonah's prophecy that in 40
days Nineveh would be destroyed, unconditionally, was nullified by
- God does not “repent” as men do, but He
can still change His mind. Samuel therefore wept to God for Saul to
change his mind, and therefore for God to relent on His stated purpose
concerning him (1 Sam. 15:11). Yet despite telling Saul that “the
strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that
he should repent”, Samuel appears to have continued praying for a
change of mind from God and Saul (1 Sam. 15:29); we can conclude this
from the way God had to keep telling Samuel to stop (1 Sam. 15:25;
16:1). This is very similar to how God told Ezekiel that He would not
spare nor repent of His attitude to Israel, and will judge them
according to their ways (Ez. 24:14); yet according to His grace, it is
many times recorded that He did and will spare
them, and does not judge them according to the merits of their sins.
- The principle of God changing His mind is summed up
in Jeremiah 18. It has been truly commented about this chapter: "
Whenever a piece of pottery turned out imperfect the potter would take
the clay and make it into something else. God says that this is the
principle behind His actions. If He says He is going to build up a
nation but the nation disobeys Him the prophecy will not be fulfilled.
Equally, if He says He is going to destroy a nation and the nation
repents, He will not carry out His intention" . This is why God Himself
reflects that He " said surely..." , but changed His mind
(Zeph. 3:7; Jer. 31:20).
If there is genuine freewill, it is apparent enough that
God's purposes must be to some extent conditional. If the Lord had
failed in the wilderness temptations, " there was the possibility that
the purpose of God would have been circumvented" ( Frank Birch). All
this explains why the fulfillment of prophecy can only be perceived at
the time of fulfillment- it is impossible to know in advance how it
will be fulfilled. It isn't a time-line of future events which we are
to discern. It should also be born in mind that " the teaching of Jesus
[is] that the purpose of prophecy is that we shall be able to recognize
the signs when they appear, not that we shall be able to predict the
future" (Cyril Tennant):
" I have told you before it come to pass, that, when
it is come to pass, ye might believe" (Jn. 14:29).
The disciples did not expect Jesus to enter into
Jerusalem " sitting on an ass's colt" in fulfillment of Zech. 9:9. But
when He did, then soon afterwards, all became clear to them- that He
had fulfilled this prophecy (Jn. 12:16).
Likewise with prophecies such as " the zeal of
thine house hath eaten me up" in Ps. 69:9, and even the Lord's own
prophecies of His resurrection. When it happened, " his disciples
remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the
scripture (Ps. 69:9), and the word which Jesus had said" (Jn. 2:17-22).
And the Lord Jesus, who spoke and acted the words of
God, was clearly willing to change His position too, depending on human
response. Remember how He initially declined to heal the daughter of
the Canaanite woman because, as He clearly stated, He had been sent only
unto “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”; and it was
not appropriate, He said, to take the food from those children and feed
it to Gentile dogs (Mt. 14:24,26). He may well have had in mind the
Divine principle of not throwing pearls before swine [Gk. ‘wild
dogs’]. But…He changed. He healed the woman’s
daughter. He was so deeply impressed with her perception and faith that
He changed the operation of His principles.
God's changing of mind should never be taken to mean
that He is somehow fickle. It is because His Name / characteristics
"endure for ever", unchanging, that therefore He 'repents
Himself', changes His mind, in the judgment of His servants (Ps.
135:13,14). His gracious 'changing of mind' is therefore to be seen as
part of His consistent grace and loving mercy towards His people.
The Power Of Prayer
In all the above examples, prayer and repentance can
change God's stated purpose. Prayer brings about this phenomena of God
changing His mind. Prayer changes things. It really does. What would
otherwise have happened can be changed by prayer. We, little and tiny
humans, can change the mind of Almighty God. This is the extent of His
sensitivity to us. Reflect how Abraham reasoned with God over Sodom's
destruction. If 40 righteous had been found there....it wouldn't have
been destroyed, thanks to Abraham's prayer. And he reasons with God,
down to 10 righteous. Now I ask...if Abraham had asked: " If...one
righteous man be found there...??" . Would God have said 'No'? We don't
know, but the impression I have is He would have agreed. The salvation
of Sodom depended upon Abraham’s breadth of vision. God's mercy
is upon us, and upon others, according as we hope in Him. All of the
above may have sounded philosophical. But the bottom line is: prayer
changes things. And seeing that it does, well then pray on your
knees, fervently! Not cuddled up in bed about to fall
asleep. Jacob is a symbol of us all. He became Israel, he who struggles
with God. And this is a key feature of all those who comprise the true
Israel. When God told Moses to leave Him alone to destroy them, and go
back down to the people immediately (Dt. 9:12), Moses stayed on to
plead with God not to destroy them. And God listened (Ex. 32:7-14). He
repented of the evil He had thought to do. He changed His mind, because
Moses stayed on. There is an element of striving with God in prayer,
knowing that His mind is open to change (Rom. 15:30). This
is what stimulates me to what intensity in prayer I can muster. That
God is open to hearing and even changing His holy mind
about something. Such is His sensitivity to us. Such is His love, that
God changing His mind becomes really feasible as a concept. And such is
the scary implication of the total freewill which the Father has
afforded us. This is why God could reason with Moses as a man speaks to
his friend and vice versa. It was a dynamic, two way relationship in
thought and prayer and being. This is why Jesus likens requesting
things from God to a man asking a favour of his friend at midnight (Lk.
11:5,9). We are to see God as our friend to whom like
Abraham, we respectfully and rather awkwardly present ourselves. And He
sees us as His friends. There's a wonderful mutuality between
a man and his God.