November / December 1995 The President’s Column – What a comfort for us Christians as we begin another year of grace to know that God is unchangeable!
From the November / December 1995 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
The President’s Column
Saul was a changeable man! David experienced Saul’s mood changes. At first David had found favor in the sight of King Saul who would often call for David to come and play the harp for him. Later when David slew Goliath Saul was well-pleased with David and set him over the men of war. But Saul’s high regard for David soon changed to jealousy and hatred. Because of the attempts on his life David was forced to flee from Saul. Later when Saul acknowledged his sin and asked David to return, he did not do so because it was obvious to him that he could not trust Saul. David knew that Saul was a changeable individual. But is this not true with men? We need but recall the change that came over the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem from Palm Sunday to Good Friday! Remember how the people openly welcomed Jesus as the promised Messiah even spreading their garments in the way and waving the palm branches in their great joy? How their mood changed when Pilate brought Jesus forth and they shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”(Luke 23:21).
People are just as changeable in 1996 in their thoughts and actions. Even we Christians, because of our sinful flesh (Rom.7:18), are all subject to various mood changes depending upon our circumstances and emotions. One day we may be happy and joyful – the next day depressed and sad as the woes of this life seek to overwhelm us.
What a comfort for us Christians as we begin another year of grace to know that God is unchangeable! The Lord says of Himself, “For I am the Lord, I change not”(Mal.3:6). “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb.13:8). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). In 1996 God’s love, kindness and mercy, remain ever the same as in the past. “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee” (Is.54:10).
But someone may ask: What about those Scripture passages which ascribe to God a change of mind? After the Fall of Man into sin the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thought of man’s heart was only evil continually. And Scripture then tells us, “And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart”(Gen.6:6). And when Saul, the first king of Israel, disobeyed God’s clear command, the Lord said, “It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments” (1 Sam.15:11). When Jonah told the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh that they were going to be destroyed in forty days, then they all repented in sackcloth and ashes. And then we read in Scripture, “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not” (Jonah 3:10).
When Scripture ascribes to God a change of mind, then it does so to conform to our way of thinking. The Scriptures plainly state, “God is not a man, that He should repent” (1 Sam.15:29). God is indeed unchangeable. He is not the one who changes, but rather man! In everyone of those passages which I have given that speak of God’s repenting, we find that it is man that changed and not God! Man was created in perfect holiness and righteousness, but he changed by falling into sin. When the Lord told Samuel to anoint Saul to be the king of the Israelites, then everything went well until Saul changed by no longer keeping God’s commandments. When the Ninevites were told of their destruction in forty days, then they changed by repenting before the Lord. Thus in every case it was not the Lord who changed, but man himself! (Cp. Christian Dogmatics by F. Pieper, Vol. I, page 440)
God is unchangeable. What a warning to the unbelievers since God’s wrath remains the same. “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). It is a lie of the father of all lies (John 8:44), that the wrath of God will change and He will not vent forth His righteous wrath upon the unbelievers. God will not change! The Lord Jesus says concerning the destruction of the unbelievers, “Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44). Whoever refuses to humble himself before God by sincerely confessing his sins and accepting what Jesus has already earned for him – forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life, such will experience the unchangeable wrath of God. Those who despise the grace of God in Christ and seek to enter heaven by way of their own works will also be told, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”(Matt. 25:41). Such is the case also with all those who dream of a second chance or opportunity after they have departed this life. They think that after their death God will not immediately cast their souls into everlasting destruction, but rather that He will grant them a second chance to repent and be saved. But the Holy Scriptures know of no such teaching. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Heb. 9:27). “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor.6:2). Whoever thinks that he can wait until after his death to repent, will only experience to his everlasting sorrow the unchangeable wrath of God!
On the other hand, God’s kindness, mercy, love and goodness, will always remain the same for those who sincerely believe in Him, in His salvation, and desire to follow Him. Everything else in this life is unstable and cannot be depended upon: riches do not last, friends often forsake us, our health inevitably gives way to various sicknesses and finally to death. But God, our gracious and merciful heavenly Father who loves us in Christ our dear Savior, remains unchanging and His gracious promises stand fast. He will continue to bless and keep us at all times. This should serve to strengthen our faith in Him and His Word so that we continue, year after year, to place all of our confidence and trust in the unchangeable God and in His unchangeable Word of Truth and plead in the words of that well-known hymn –
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see.
O Thou, who changest not, abide with me!
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor M.L. Natterer, President