I the LORD, do not change(Mal.3:6).
How great is our God – beyond our understanding! The number of His years is past finding out(Job 36:26).
From everlasting to everlasting, you are God(Ps.90:2).
Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever(Heb.13:8).
All that we know and experience within the confines and limits of a fallen creation is subject to both perpetual flux, change and decay. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is the great lament that captures the horror of life ‘under the sun’. The constant inconstancy, the relentless change, renders everything meaningless. Nothing good will remain good; and even in the moments of great joy, there is cast a shadow of knowing it won’t last forever. Life is lived under the threat of loss, and will itself eventually be lost. This is the ‘burden God has laid on the human race’ (3:10). By glorious contrast, ‘everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it, nothing taken from it. God does this so that people will fear Him’ (3:14).
Above the overcast skies of a fallen creation, the magnificent Light of the unchanging nature of God shines with undiminished glory. That is not to undermine the integrity of God’s involvement in His creation. It is rather to recognise that He interacts with it from a different place and vantage point. In staggering and amazing contrast to all we discover within the fallen and cursed world of change and decay, uncertainty and loss, is the everlasting and unchanging reality of the Living God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ‘I am God, and there is no other. I am God and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come’ (Is.46:9-10). In the midst of permanent upheaval, the Ancient of Days is the one great Rock: constant, unchanging, eternally and relentlessly secure. He is enduringly and endlessly consistent. ‘He does not change’ (Jas.1:17). He is always and forever, throughout the entirety of His Being, in His character, attributes and personality, in His motives, purposes and decrees, in His actions, covenants and promises, unchanging and unchangeable. This is so incredibly liberating. It is such a relief after our dealing with other humans, and the instability of all we know!
In terms of strengthening our faith, one outworking of the eternally unchanging nature of God is the utter confidence we can put in His promises. Hebrews 6:13-20 suggests God desires us to have unshakable trust in His unwavering and unabating commitment to us, and goes out of His way to inspire it; and to giving us the grounds to believe it. He longs for us to be secure in our relationship with Him, and to enjoy the assurance that security brings. ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed’, says the LORD who has compassion on you’ (Is.54:10, see also Ps.33:11). This proves to be the case even when we prove to be all too changeable and unreliable in our commitment to Him (Mal.3:6-7). And so James is able to use this vision of the ‘Father…who does not change’ as the basis of our confidence in His generosity and grace for the future, and for our battle against sin (Jas.1:17). When we realise this, we quickly see that lose sight of the unchanging nature of our God, is to jeopardise the whole basis of our faith. Indeed, only Someone who is eternally unchanging is worthy of a trust for eternity.
Can we really take seriously and trust the consistency of God’s relationship with His creation, when there are passages in the Bible which show God changing His mind (e.g. Gen 6:6-7; Jonah 3:10; Hosea 11:8)?
Time and eternity. Moses ‘chose to be ill treated along with God’s people, rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin’ (Heb.11:25). How does meditating on eternity and the brevity of time motivate our pursuit of holiness? How would you go about meditating on these things?
‘Change and decay in all around I see, O thou who changes not, abide with me’. Is this a bad thing? Did God create us to change? …and in what ways has that capacity for change been affected by the Fall?
If God doesn’t change, and His plans and purposes are unalterable, then what is the point of praying? Can we change God’s mind?
If you sin against God today, when would it start / stop bringing sorrow and pain into God’ heart?
If you worship Him today, when does it start / stop bringing joy and delight to His heart?
In the notes above, there is one example of how reflecting on the unchanging nature of our everlasting God affects our experience of discipleship. What are others?
How will our experience of time and change be affected when we are resurrected and enjoying the New Creation?
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain. They will all wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them, and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
For further reflection:
When people try to move away from the teaching of the Bible, and to be ‘philosophical’, they often end up thinking that if God doesn’t change, then He cannot have emotions. Their ‘logic’ is that to move from anger to forgiveness is to experience change. How would you respond to such speculation?
Throughout the Scriptures, God is seen as a fully emotional Person. He experiences joy (Is.62:5); grief (Ps.78:40); anger (Ex.32:10) etc. A moments thought brings to mind a raft of passages that speak of the deeply emotional life of God. But ‘philosophers’ reply that this is just the Bible’s way of speaking about God in ways that we can understand, rather than ways that reflect fully the reality of who God is. But dare we doubt the integrity of the Bible in this way? Can we know what God is like in a way that ‘gets behind’ the Bible, to the way God really is? There are times when the Bible itself tells us it is being figurative, but does it ever tell us this in relation to its description of the emotional life of the Trinity? We are on dangerous ground when we try to second guess the mind of the Holy Spirit (I Cor.2:10-13). Safer by far to take seriously what the Bible teaches, and to marvel at the deep integrity of the emotional life of God.
There is more at stake here than just the question of philosophy of religion. We are created in the image of God, and the reason we have emotions is to be found precisely in vast spectrum of passion with Him. Although He feels emotion with an infinite capacity, there is nevertheless continuity between the emotions of the Creator and of His creations. A great deal of our discipleship is about our emotions, and learning to be Christ-like in our experience of them. Do we have a clear vision of what a sanctified emotional life would look like? How close to that are we in our own experience of our emotions?