We are told that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and that he never changes his mind.
Yet, we are also told that God wanted to destroy the Israelites for the sin of the Golden Calf but Moses made him change his mind (we’ll explain what really happened later), and what about the destruction God said (through Jonah) he would bring on Nineveh, but didn’t?
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In fact, there are a number of times in the Bible when we are told God changed his mind (Jeremiah 26:19, Amos 7:3, and 2 Samuel 24:16), but we are also told that God does not change his mind (Isaiah 31:2; and 1 Samuel 15:29).
So, which is it? How can we trust the Bible if there are places where it negates itself?
The answer is this: God does NOT change his mind, but when there is a change to the conditions for which he stated he would do something, then he adjusts his plan to fit the conditions.
For instance, God decreed the coming destruction to Nineveh because of all the evil they performed, which they did willingly and, most likely, enjoyed doing. He sent Jonah to give them a chance to repent, in other words, to change their condition.
And what happened was that they did repent, so God did not change his mind but adjusted his plan to fit the new conditions. God’s decree was that because of the evil they would be destroyed, but the evil stopped, so the decision to destroy them for their evil- which never changed- did not occur because there was no more evil.
Of course, later on, when they returned to their evil ways they were destroyed. So, you see, God never changed his mind about destroying them for their evil deeds: when they stopped doing evil, the reason for God’s destruction was no longer there, and when they returned to their evil ways, God’s original decision still stood against them, and what God said he would do, he did.
Let’s look at 1 Kings, Chapter 13.
God sent a prophet (he doesn’t even get to have his name mentioned) to Shomron to tell Yarov’am that his altar to Ba’al would be destroyed. God also told the prophet that he was to leave by a different route, not stop for anyone or drink or eat in Shomron.
When Yarov’am ordered to seize the prophet, God shriveled his hand. The king asked the prophet to pray for him, and God restored his hand.
That wasn’t God changing his mind, it was God forgiving the sin after the sinner repented and the condition for which he was punished also changed (although that didn’t last long).
Later the prophet was resting and another prophet lied to him and coerced him to go to his house to eat and drink with him. Because the prophet from the south disobeyed God, God had the northern prophet tell the man that he would be killed by a lion, which did happen.
So, even though the prophet was fooled, God did not change his mind about his warning not to eat or drink anything in Shomron.
And what about Moses after the sin of the Golden Calf?
In Exodus 32:9-10, after God tells Moses about the calf, he says this:
“Adonai continued speaking to Moshe: ‘I have been watching these people; and you can see how stiffnecked they are. Now leave me alone, so that my anger can blaze against them, and I can put an end to them! I will make a great nation out of you instead.‘”
But Moses pleads with God not to do that, and in Exodus 32:14 we read:
Adonai then changed his mind about the disaster he had planned for his people.
So, here the Bible is clearly saying that God changed his mind, but I disagree.
Why? Who, after all, do I think I am to disagree with the Torah?
I’m glad you asked.
First of all, for the record, I am nothing. I just try to teach God’s word so that people can make an informed decision about where they will spend eternity.
As for why I disagree, my reasoning is that God never really changed his mind because he never said that he was going to destroy the people; he asked Moses to “leave me alone”- in other words, do not interfere with me.
I believe what God really meant was this is what I would like to do and I need you, Moses, to not try to stop me. I believe this because God did not say he was going to do that but for Moses to leave him alone so his anger CAN blaze against the people, and he CAN put an end to them.
What I can do (if you don’t stop me) is not what I am going to do.
God is saying this is what he has in mind, but not what he is going to do.
Moses then came through and stopped God. In a way, he was being tested as God tested Abraham, and (like Abraham) Moses passed the test by standing in the breech, so to speak, between God and the people, interceding for them so that the thing God was thinking of doing, he did not do.
The standard translation we read in most Bibles at Exodus 32:14 says that God changed his mind, but in the Chumash it says that God “repented of the evil he said he would do”, and in my copy of the Tikkun, it says that God “reconsidered regarding the evil that he declared he would do.”
So, you see, it isn’t that God changes his mind (even if some translations use that terminology), but rather that God intends to do something based on the current situation, but is willing to delay or change his plan- which, unlike the 10 Commandments, is NOT written in stone at that time- if the conditions change.
And what changes the condition under which God plans his punishment?
And, even in some cases, repentance will not change God’s mind about punishment, but it may delay his action. On example the case of Manasseh causing God to think “לא עוד!” (“No more!”) and decide to punish Judea (2 Kings 21:10-15). Yet, even with the repentance of the people when, two kings later, Yoshiyahu was king, God did not change his mind about the punishment Judea would suffer, but he delayed it so that Yoshiyahu would not have to deal with it.
And why does God take so long to deal out his punishment? Because he is merciful and desires to forgive, so he waits as long as he deems possible in order for us to change the conditions of his decisions.
The good news is that we can save ourselves; the bad news is we never know when God will say “Times up!”
God does not change his mind, so if we sin and continue to sin, he will not allow us in his presence for all eternity. BUT- if we change the conditions under which that decision was made, repenting and asking forgiveness through Messiah Yeshua, we are creating a different set of conditions, and under that set of conditions we can be forgiven, and the punishment we would have received (had we remained under the previous conditions) would absolutely have been carried out against us.
God’s decisions are based on the condition of one’s life at any given time, therefore, make sure that you are always in the right condition.
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So, that’s it for this week: l’hitraot, and may I wish you all an early
שנה טובה שמח! (Happy New Year).