The Bible records, certain instances where it appears that God changed His mind or changed His course of action based on certain circumstances, actions of men, or events. While these facts suggest a change in God’s actions or decisions, they are hereunder reconciled with the immutability or unchanging nature of God.
Some examples are found in the following scriptures:
a. 2 Samuel 24:16 – God relented from the calamity that was to befall Jerusalem and instructed the angel to “relax his hand”.
b. Jeremiah 18: 10 – God stating that He will change His mind about the good and blessings on Israel if they do evil in His sight.
c. Exodus 32:10-14 – God changed his mind about destroying the Israelites after Moses interceded.
d. Jonah 3:10- God relented from the disaster that He had said He will bring upon the people of Niniveh.
From the examples above, one common fact is the changes and dynamics of human behaviours and intent of heart which in turn necessitates certain consequences. We have a situation where one Supreme and Immutable God with unchanging perfections, purposes and promises, rules and reigns in the affairs of the entire mankind consisting of the “bad the good and the ugly” all susceptible to varying kinds of changes at any and every time.
While God remains unchanging, Henry C. Theisson states that His immutability should not be confused for immobility. He is an active and dynamic God, and of necessity, He changes in His dealings with changing men in order to remain unchangeable in His character and purposes. I’ll briefly consider this discuss under three ambits of God’s immutability.
1. God’s Immutable Character or Perfection: While it may seem that God’s actions changed, His character and nature remain constant. The Bible describes God as Love and as being merciful but also as a just God. These attributes remain constant through all the occasions where it appeared that God changed His mind. A very good example is in His dealings with the children of Israel on their journey to the promise land. The “changes” always reflected God’s response to changing human conditions and His desire to bring about a greater purpose while remaining consistent with His character. Another example is in the story of Jonah, God initially planned to destroy Nineveh due to its wickedness, but when the people repented, God relented from His judgment. This demonstrates God’s responsiveness to the choices and actions of His creation without compromising His nature.
2. God’s Immutable Promises: The example of the Israelites’ journey to the promised land also features here. In spite of everything that happened, actions, consequences and the length years, God’s promise was unchangeable and unbreakable. It came to pass in the most just and righteous manner thus preserving the character of God as well as His revealed promise. God is not man. He watches over His Word to perform it. Numbers 23:19. In Jeremiah 18: 5-10, God Himself made promises and gave all the conditions and variables associated which would depend on whether the people shun evil or not. In Malachi 3:7 God says to the descendants of Jacob, “Return to me and I will return to you”.
3. God’s Immutable Purpose: Flowing from the last example above in Jeremiah 18, one thing is evident. God’s purpose, intent and desire for His people was righteousness and holiness. While God’s actions may appear to change, His ultimate purpose remains consistent throughout Scripture. In spite of all that happened in the Old Testament, how God made a covenant with the Israelites, but due to their disobedience, they had to face consequences, His ultimate plan of redemption and reconciliation was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, demonstrating His unchanging commitment to the salvation, righteousness and holiness of His church.
Conclusively, God made us and therefore knows all the intricacies of our dynamic lives and free choices. God’s character, purpose, love, justice, mercy and His Word have remained and will remain constant and consistent for all time.