Lesson 385: "I the Lord Do Not Change"
There are many passages affirming that God is unchanging and unchangeable. However, it can SEEM that there is a contradiction between what is taught by these verses and other verses such as Genesis 6:6; “And the Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth and His heart was filled with pain”! “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened” (Jonah 3:10). Both of these verses speak of the Lord repenting of something and can seem contrary to verses that teach that God is unchanging. However, close examination of these passages reveals that these are NOT truly indications that God changes. The key is the word “repent” (used in the King James Version) which in the Hebrew language means “to be sorry for”. Being sorry for something does not mean that a change has occurred in a person; it simply means that there is regret on their part for something having taken place.
In Genesis God had regret for creating man but obviously He did not reverse His decision, instead, through Noah, He allowed man to continue to exist. You and I are living proof that God did not change His mind about creating man. Also the context of this passage is a description of the sinful state man was living in and it is man’s sinfulness that triggered God’s sorrow, not man’s existence. God was sorry or repented for what He had planned for the Ninevites and their change of ways and heart saved them; just as our change of ways and heart and repentance will save us the wrath of God. All men sin and fall short of God’s standard (Rom. 3:23) and the consequences for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). So the people of Nineveh were deserving of punishment as are we if our choice is to sin and separate ourselves from God.
Do not misunderstand! God cannot be placed in a position of obligation to men but He is good and righteous and chooses not to punish (the Ninevites) and people today when they turn back to Him in repentance. The bottom line here is grammar and context. The word that is translated “repent” simply means to be sorry for and does not indicate change. And even if you “read change” into these passages there is no change in God’s character. “But You (God) remain the same and your years will never end” (Ps. 102:27), “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly light, who DOES NOT CHANGE like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). This gift is salvation and we receive it through faith and by the grace of God, ONLY if we change and God, our Savior remains the same (Eph. 2:1-10).