So… Does God Change His Mind Or Not?

Daily Scripture readings for August, set #6:

Numbers, chapters 12-14
Psalm 53
Matthew 23:1-12
Romans 5:1-11

Numbers 14 contains another passage sometimes cited as an example of God “changing his mind.” When the Lord tells Moses that he will punish/destroy the people of Israel for their unbelief, Moses pleads for the Lord to not do it. Moses says this to God in verse 19: “Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” The Lord responds in verse 20: “I have pardoned, according to your word.” Seems pretty cut and dry, right? The text even states that the pardon is according to Moses’ word. I feel like the only conclusion one can come to from these verses is that God does in fact respond in real time to the prayers/petitions of his people, in such a way that he even changes his mind/plan. BUT… the only problem is that Numbers 23, only 9 chapters later, says this: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind” (vs 19). So much for cut and dry.

Psalm 53 is a familiar passage to anyone following along with the daily reading schedule, because Paul quotes it in Romans 1 (which we just read 5 days ago). Note how direct and repetitive the text is: “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (vs 2-3). The point is clear.

It’s interesting to me that Jesus, in Matthew 23:2-3, acknowledges that the Pharisees do have, at least on some level, legit authority. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you.” Clearly Jesus’ overall intention in the passage is to point out the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, and yet in the process he also gives them a little cred. I wonder if there’s any significance here.

Romans 5:3-5 makes a bold declaration about suffering: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It’s a pretty big deal to suggest that suffering is actually a good thing, mainly because Paul’s logic suggests that there’s a big-picture intentionality behind the suffering. The trials we experience, rather than harming us, are meant to strengthen and empower us. My knee-jerk reaction to these verses is to wonder if they apply to any/all suffering, or only some suffering. For example, I can make a bunch of really stupid decisions and get myself in deep trouble real fast. Do the “sufferings” of paying the consequences for my bad decisions build endurance/character/hope? My head spins when I start thinking about the ramifications of this.

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2 thoughts on “So… Does God Change His Mind Or Not?”

  1. I propose a solution to the verse which reads “that he should change his mind”. I propose that we have misunderstood what “change of mind” means. The first hint is that this changing of mind condition is found in man and in the son of man. When the bible uses the term ‘son of man’ it generally doesn’t mean ‘male offspring’. It typically means ‘the one who will come after to take the fathers position’. For example Abraham had two male offspring, but only one son.

    Why would God bring up the father son (or in our mindset President, Vice-President) idea when speaking about this matter. I propose that the ‘change ones mind’ actually has a meaning closer to ‘submit ones will’, or ‘decide now to follow, though I don’t know the details’. I could go into greater detail explaining this concept and how the concepts of submission and changing can be easily confused with each other. But I will leave that for a later time.

    1. Whoa, Lyle… I think you lost me. Is there somewhere online that I can read a more developed version of the idea you’re describing, or is it something you thought of yourself?

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