Someone asked a question that seems worthy of a wider response. If one reader speaks up about being puzzled, a dozen more are puzzled without saying anything.
If you do a quick search in English translations of Scripture for just the words, you’ll find passages that say God cannot change His mind, and about as many passages that say He does. English is a terrible language for moral truth, because we who use that language tend to lock things into literal meanings regardless of context. The Ancient Hebrew people would never have done that with their language. You could make two statements that appear contradictory on the surface, and everyone would have known right away that you are referring to two entirely different things.
And then, there’s this long sad tradition of mixing Greek philosophical thinking into Hebrew organic faith. Systematic theology is an Aristotelian thing; it is foreign to Scripture. The Bible doesn’t make too many categorical statements that are always true in all contexts. When you think you have found such a statement in the Bible, you are probably mistaken. The nature of Hebrew writing is to discuss how God does things in terms of our human experience. There is precious little attempt to talk about the underlying ultimate truths of God without turning it into parables and symbolism. You don’t need to know God’s attributes and His nature; you need to know how He will relate to you individually.
I wrote a few days ago that I was sharing with you a moral impression of where things were headed at that time. I said you should take me with a grain of salt because God could change His mind. When your English Bible uses such language, it refers to God who wisely prepares both blessings and curses for the same people. Then He tells them about both sides, and He makes clear that it’s pretty much a sliding scale in most cases. But He is more merciful than He is wrathful; if He can tell you are trying to please Him but just can’t get it, He’ll cut you some slack. Which way you go has no effect on His divine moral character. He doesn’t regret like we do, and He has no trouble making up His mind. Rather, it is we who struggle with such things. And in our experience with Him, we can be warned bad things are coming, repent, and He will shift His plans for dealing with us. Only in that sense does He “change His mind” or as some translations have it, He “repents.”
But quite often in our faith experience, we have no clue what changed from God’s perspective, and suddenly we find things are on a different track. That’s part of the lesson with Job, particularly the opening and closing explanations about God and Satan. Job had no clue, but his whole life was turned upside down. He would never imagine that God was unstable and fickle, but it sure did feel that way to his flesh. And Job’s friends simplistically argued the Job must have sinned when that wasn’t the point at all. It was the simple case that God had placed Job’s life on a different track for reasons no human could know.
Some of you may remember that I wrote more than a year ago that “reality had shifted.” I said that the US was no longer on an apocalypse track, but that God had changed His plans, and I meant that in the same sense that Job experienced it at the end of the book. For reasons I could hardly comprehend, I knew that God was taking us into tribulation, but nothing like an apocalypse. And when I wrote about similar bad expectations a few days ago, I left the door open for my limited understanding. God revealed one thing to me, but that was a mighty miraculous blessing that by no means did I or anyone else deserve. And it could easily happen that something from His point of view can change and He will then surprise us with different plans. It’s not that God’s moral character changes; His execution of plans among us might change, and for reasons we can’t possibly understand. That’s the thing with trusting Him, you know?
And frankly I could slip off track and no longer have a clear view of His plans when they take a turn I had not previously seen. I don’t take myself that seriously, so you shouldn’t either. If something I prophesy doesn’t click with your sense of God’s moral character, than don’t pay attention to what I write. Prophetic things like that aren’t written immutably into the fabric of the universe. That’s the wrong mental image. Has anyone noticed that Daniel’s prophecy never panned out in a literal sense? Yet what Daniel wrote did witness to the faith of those in his time, and things did turn out as he predicted in a parabolic sense. He shared it in his best understanding at that time; it’s up to us to recognize that God communicates to the heart, not the intellect.