Immutability and sensitivity

Immutability and sensitivity
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. – Lam 3:22 1Sa 15:29 “Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”
1Sa 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (ESV)

“I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but holding it a sound maxim, that it is better to be only sometimes right, than at all times wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them” (Abraham Lincoln).

Difficult as it may be to admit at times, we all make mistakes. Even the best of us including the likes of Abraham Lincoln. But what of God the Father? Does He make mistakes? Does He find it necessary to change? And what about this immutability thing? If God is immutable what actually changes?

Immutability is an attribute of God. God is unchanging in His character, will, and covenant promises.” God does not change in His being, perfections, purposes, or promises (Berkhof). The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that “[God] is a spirit, whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” Those things do not change.

What can change? We are often puzzled, if not perplexed regarding this.

The confusion has to do with the difference between the Father’s divine attributes and His characteristics as a person. His attributes never change. But in personal interactions with people He reacts. He feels joy and sadness. He feels satisfaction but also regret.

Stop to think about it the Father, the Lord God omnipotent, truly interacts with mere humans in space and time. He is watching and paying attention. He is sensitive and aware of the smallest details. He cares. He becomes personally involved. The Father responds to us when we respond to Him. He chooses to be in a personal relationship with us. He reacts.

How can we possibly describe this interaction? The human intellect is limited and unable to fully comprehend it. Also there is the paucity of the human language to describe it. We can only make feeble attempts to explain our limited understanding of the personality and characteristics of the Father and His interactions with us. But a place to start might be to think of Him as responding and reacting, rather than repenting and changing His mind.

When we change, He changes.

Father thank You that You are always willing to receive me just as I am.

There are several Scriptures that refer to the Father changing His mind. He relents and often reveals a sense of regret (Genesis 6:5-6, Exodus 32:14, Jonah 3:10, 2 Samuel 24:16).

The English word rendered regret, repent, relent, change one’s mind comes from the Hebrew nacham. This word is an onomatopoeia, it sounds like the action that connotes: to draw breath forcibly, to pant, to groan. Imagine a disappointing loud sigh. The term reflects and extends the idea of “breathing deeply,” hence the physical display of one’s feelings, usually sorrow, compassion, or comfort (TWOT).

The Hebrew term nacham signifies a state of sorrow or regret regarding a perceived wrong. Embedded within, is the desire to change or cease a particular course of action.

Basically it is a response, a change of heart, in reaction to the actions of others. It has the sense of. to change one’s mind, to be sorry, repent, relent, rue, regret, grieve, be moved to pity, have compassion.

While nacḥam is translated repent, relent, or change mind, a somewhat wordy paraphrase that better captures its meaning might be the Father being sensitive and in relationship with man, interacts and responds.

Immutability has nothing to do with it.

It is like trying to compare apples and oranges. On the one hand, immutability has to do with the attributes of God. While interacting and responding to people has to do with the personality of God.

In the book of 1 Samuel 15, the Hebrew word nacḥam expresses two contrasting, seemingly polar opposite sentiments.
1 Sam 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.”
1 Sam 15:29 The Glory of Israel does not go back on his word or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind.

People are fickle and capricious. They flip-flop. The Father does not. He does not capriciously change His intentions or ways of acting. When people or circumstances change, the Father responds to the changes. As a result of Saul’s change in behavior, the Father expresses regret. Often the Father graciously responds to changes in people’s circumstances and condition.

In the book of Jeremiah, when the people repent and change their ways, the Father repents and changes His mind in response (Jer 8:6, Jer 31:19) The same is true of human prayer. The Father responds to the pleas of Amos in behalf of Israel (Amos 7:3, 6).

The Father delights in responding to our change of heart, our repentance. He interacts and responds and richly pours out His love and forgiveness on the undeserving. It matters not what we have done or how many times we did it. He takes great pleasure in restoring His children to close fellowship with Him. God is always willing to begin again. Do overs are an ever-present reality from His loving heart.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

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