Does God ever change His mind? What Scriptures do some use to say He does?
God uses language in the Bible that we will understand. God has to condescend in His Word in ways that we humans can understand because God is infinite. Our minds are finite, and we cannot wrap our tiny little minds around the God Who is limitless. So what is “anthropomorphic language”? The Bible contains words we can relate to; but God has to use anthropomorphic language, or a language that is ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human, especially to a deity like God, so that we can understand it. I look at it this way: We are children and have limited knowledge. God is infinite and knows everything, so He has to speak to us in a language we’ll understand. He wouldn’t expect a child to know how to fly a Boeing 747, so He wouldn’t expect us to understand everything coming directly from His mind. He has to condescend, or lower the language level, so we can understand. The Bible is full of anthropomorphic language so that we’ll be able understand what He’s saying to us through His written Word, the Bible. Just as I wouldn’t use calculus with my grandchildren because they wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about, God has to use a language we can relate to so we’ll know what He’s saying to us. If we keep these things in mind, we can better understand what God is saying and why He put Scripture into words we can understand.
His Ways and Our Ways
During the early period of Israel’s existence, they had a series of judges who would rule over them because they had no king but God. The point is that our ways are not His ways. It could be said of today as was said in the Book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judge 21:25). When everyone does what is right in their own eyes, they are neglecting to look at it the way God sees it. The point is, without His Spirit we can’t see things the way God sees them. We need help, and that help comes in the form of the Holy Spirit but also in the way the Spirit of God authored or wrote the Holy Bible by using men who were under the inspiration of the Spirit. The Book of Proverbs reminds us that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12), and “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). Hopefully, that’s godly advice. But without God’s Spirit, “who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).
Can God Repent?
When God brought His judgment upon the people of Israel for making a golden calf, which was an idol that was worshiped in ancient Egypt, He said He was going to utterly destroy them, use Moses as a replacement for Abraham, and build another nation through him (Exodus 32:10). However, Moses interceded for them, and only then “the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people” (Exodus 32:14). But didn’t God already know Moses would act as a mediator for the nation? Of course He did. Some translations render the word “relented” to repented, but this is not a good translation because God cannot repent since He has never sinned. Only those who are sinners have a need to repent. In the Bible where it says “God repented” simply means God relented or stopped. But did Moses change God’s mind? No. Nothing or no one can change God’s mind about something He plans to do because whatever He wills to do, that He does. God already knows the future. Why would He change His mind if He already knows what’s going to happen?
Does God Change His Mind?
We are commanded to pray (Luke 18:1). But do our prayers actually change God’s mind from what He was going to do to what He will now do? There is no evidence that God changes, which would certainly include His mind. Malachi the Prophet wrote, “For I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6a). Moses also wrote that “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it” (Numbers 23:19)? Some would then ask, “Why pray if God is not going to change His mind?” God uses our prayers as a means to do what He had already planned to do anyway. When we pray for God’s help, He will help us; however, from ages ago He already knew when we’d pray for something and what we’d pray for. This doesn’t mean God changed His mind because of our prayers; rather, prayer changes our minds to be in alignment with His mind, His purposes, and His will. The only thing that changes is us! Aren’t you glad God doesn’t change His mind? What if He changed His mind about John 3:16? Or what if He decided to change Acts 4:12? What kind of God would we worship Who always kept changing His mind? To me it’s comforting to know God doesn’t change.
God was going to destroy Nineveh unless they repented. Indeed, they did repent; and it was written that “when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened” (Jonah 3:10). This didn’t mean He changed His mind. God knows the future, and He already knew that Nineveh would repent. That’s why He called Jonah to warn them. Only God can see “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isaiah 46:1), saying, “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isaiah 46:11b).