“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num 23:19)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
God’s unchanging character, his immutability, is not revealed in scripture in the creation accounts directly, but it is implied by his status as creator. In order to create, one needs to stand outside of that being created. When God created the universe, he stood outside of the time and space of the universe. While the universe had a beginning and will have and end, God is eternal. While God’s internal nature is veiled to us; his character is immutable relative to his creation.
God’s immutability is also implied by his attribute of being omniscient. Because God is omniscient, he does not need to learn like us to be humble or meek.
The attribute of meekness appears in the Third Beatitude only in Matthew and in the Greek, the language of the Old Testament, meek means: “… Not [being] overly impressed with a sense of self-importance, gentle, humble, considerate” (BDAG 6132). Meek is like “poor in spirit”, which we find in the First Beatitude, and at least three other times in Matthew (e.g. Matt 11:29; 21:5; 26:62-63). These three events—the invitation of Jesus to be disciple, his humble entrance into Jerusalem, and his silence during his trial—demonstrate the humility of Christ. The humility of Christ is also observed in the writings of the Apostles—Peter, James, and Paul.
From this evidence, it is obvious that humility is important to Jesus in the New Testament. But, no one normally wants to be humble—we have to learn to be humble. Is it possible that God also learned to be humble?
No. God did not learn to be humble and we are told at least twice in the Old Testament that God does not change (Num 23:19; Mal 3:6).
More specifically, God looks meek and gentle. For example, in Genesis before “God sent him [Adam and Eve} out from the garden of Eden” (Gen 3:23), “God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen 3:21) like a mother prepares her kids for the first day of school. God had every right to kill them both and create new people, but he did not do that. He did not do that because he had compassion on them and made provision for them, in spite their sins and against his own rights and power. In this context, God seems meek both in the Old and New Testament because he does not change and has no need to learn.1
God does Not Change like Us
Tozer (2014, 63) writes:
“To say that God is immutable is to say that He never differs from Himself…[He never goes] from better to worse or from worse to better…[or] change within himself.”
Again, standing outside of time and space God sees all of human history before him. We change and grow but God’s character remains immutable. By contrast, confronted with an unmovable, immutable Holy God, we must change. This is why every divine appointment transforms us.
We Care A Lot About God’s Immutability
It is fashionable to argue that God somehow learns like we do. Frequently, it is said that the God of the Old Testament is full of wrath and vengeful while the God of the New Testament is loving, but this interpretation inconveniently suggests that God could continue to change. What if God decided that he made a big mistake in creation, forgot about his promise to Noah, and sends another flood? (Gen 9-17) Or what it God decided that the atonement of Christ was a mistake? (I Cor 15:2-3) Clearly, God promises are tied to his immutable character (Exod 34:6). Otherwise, we are without the assurance of salvation.
1 God also shares his meekness with Moses (Num 12:3) and is prophesied in Zechariah 9:9 to be meek.
Tozer, A. W. 2014. Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God. North Fort Myers: Faithful Life Publishers.
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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.