Our Unchanging God
I read a story a few days ago about the author Lloyd C. Douglas who wrote the novel entitled 'The Robe' as well as other books. When he was a university student, he lived in a boarding house. Downstairs in that house lived an elderly retired music teacher. Because the old gentleman was infirm and unable to leave the house, Douglas would go down to visit him every day and inevitably ask the same question of the teacher. He would say: "Well, what's the good news!." And each time the old music professor would pick up a tuning fork, tap it on the side of his wheel chair and exclaim: "That's middle C! It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat, the piano across the hall is out of tune, but, my friend, THAT is middle C!
The old man had discovered the one thing in life on which he could depend. It was the one constant in an ever-changing world. Well, for the Christian our Middle C is God.
We are living in a world that is full of changes. We can always be sure that nothing will stay the same. A new car today, will be in the junkyard in a few years. People who are our best friends could move away, or even decide they no longer like us. Our healthy young bodies, turn into, out of shape, old bodies. Even if we take care of ourselves and exercise, it usually adds just a few short years to our lives.
We lose jobs, we get new ones. We work hard to grow a business, only to eventually turn it over to someone younger who may or may not be able to keep it going and growing. The truth is there is nothing and no one in this world that we can continually count on, for even the most reliable person doesn't live forever on this earth.
While we can count on nothing else in life, we can count on God. He is immutable. That simply means that God does not change. This has to do with both God's essence and His character.
In looking at His character, God is never cranky. We don't ever have to worry that the Creator of the Universe may be in a bad mood. I have had to work for a supervisor at a job once that told everyone to wait an hour in the morning before asking him something because he needed to wake up and prepare himself for the day. On the other hand, we have a God who never slumbers nor sleeps and is always prepared for every situation.
God never has to readjust His plans to fit the world and its demands. He never says one thing and does another. For us to say that we never change can be a bad thing, since it may mean that we never learn from our mistakes and never grow. However, He doesn't make mistakes and is complete in every way. Our Lord never has to grow and doesn't have to change.
I. The Bible and God's Immutability
The attribute of God's immutability is emphasized in Scripture in several places. Malachi 3:6; says: "I am the Lord, I change not." In the book of Hebrews, we find that: "Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail" (1:12). James calls God the Father: "The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (1:17). The book of Hebrews also tells us about the Lord Jesus Christ. It says: "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
In contrast to God's immutability, all created things are mutable. They change. Animals and plants all go through life cycles and finally decay and die. Even the rocks are worn down over time and sometimes are violently removed by natural and unnatural forces. However, that cannot be said of the eternal God who formed the universe by His word. There are at least three aspects of God's nature which point to the fact that He is unchanging. They are as follows:
1. God's Existence is Unchanging
Here is what the Psalmist tells us about our Creator:
"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 passed on. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end" (Psalm 102:25-27).
As we can see from this Psalm, our God is eternal. There never was a time when He didn't exist. That indeed would be a significant change if He had a beginning. However, He always was, always is and always will be. He is self-existent which means that He exists by His own power. When Moses asked God what to tell the people of Israel when they asked who sent him to deliver them from Egypt, the Lord replied:
“I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also told Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered in every generation" (Exodus 3:14-15).
The name Yahweh here, which is translated "I AM' shows both God's self-existence and eternalness. Some have suggested that the Hebrew phrase can also be translated "I Will Be What I Will Be' or even 'I Create What I Create.' The actual traditional English translation within Judaism favors 'I Will Be What I Will Be' since there is no present tense of the verb 'to be' in the Hebrew language. But whatever the translation it is a name unique to the eternal, unchanging, self-existent God
It is also a name that the Second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ gave to Himself on more than one occasion. Here is a confrontation in the book of John with some Jewish leaders in which He says it very plainly. The text tells us:
"Then the Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself, but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” At this, they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I Am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.' (John 8:48-59).
Without getting into a lengthy discussion of the Trinity, only the one God, eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can say those words spoken by Jesus. Part of His unchanging nature is that He has always been and always will be God.
2. God's Knowledge is Unchanging
One thing that you will never hear out of the mouth of God is "Oops! I didn't know that!" He has perfect or complete knowledge of everything and everyone. It cannot be added to because He knows all there is to know. God knows what you will think and do even before you think and do it. This is how the Psalmist describes God's knowledge of man:
"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." (Psalm 139:1-6).
Not only does He have a knowledge of all of us but he also has complete knowledge of everything that will happen from now until eternity (Isaiah 46:9,10). He has knowledge because He has planned things to work out according to His will (Romans 8:28).
We come into this world knowing nothing and continue to acquire knowledge throughout our lives. And sometimes as we get older our mental state can change, depending on what diseases we may acquire. It is a horrible thing to see a person with Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia as they slowly lose their cognitive functions and abilities. But the God of the Ages will never lose His abilities to think and reason. His knowledge is as perfect and eternal as is He (Psalm 147:5; Job 37:16).
3. God's Decrees, Counsels, and Laws are Unchanging
God has always worked with his people through laws and decrees based upon His perfect character. He wishes His people to become holy like Himself and therefore gives them commandments that He has them follow. God's character never changes and therefore He holds his people responsible for their obedience. And in the Old Testament, God gave the people of Israel blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience of his laws. Indeed, in Malachi 3:6 he was referring to the laws and decrees under the Law of Moses when he told them:
"I am the Lord. I do not change."
He told them that because He was an unchanging God, he expected them to continue to obey the laws set forth. And, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:17, Jesus said that He didn't come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them. Then our Lord goes on to emphasize in verse 18 the eternalness of God's Word when He said:
“For truly I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
For those unfamiliar with the Hebrew language, jots and tittles have to do with very small letters and pen strokes in the Hebrew language. In other words, God's Word will not pass away but will be fulfilled completely. What God says He will do. When He commands He expects perfect obedience. And when He promises He will bring it to pass.
4. God's Promises are Unchanging
God's promises will never change or fail. Whether it be the promise in Genesis 3:15 which talks about the seed of the woman crushing the head of Satan, or whether it be the later promises given to Abraham that God would make of him a great nation and that all of the nations of the earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3), or the promises given to David about a person from his line occupying his throne forever (II Samuel 7:12-16), or even to all of the promises made to the Church today, God is faithful in doing what He has said He would do. . His promises either have been fulfilled, are in the process of being fulfilled, or someday will be fulfilled. God is not a liar. And Scripture says that He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). When we can trust nothing or no one else, we can trust the promises of the unchanging God.
II. Consequences of God's Immutability
So, what does it mean to us that God is immutable? Among many things, It means that our God is dependable. In a world where public opinion changes like the wind, we can count on God to always be what He always has been.
His evaluation of humanity has not changed. His offer of salvation to those who come to Christ in faith has not changed. The certainty of life beyond the grave has not changed. Literally, all of His promises to us who are His children remain constant in our generation and in any other, that may follow.
Further, God's immutability means that His love for us will never diminish. Romans 8:38,39 says that absolutely nothing can separate us from that love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Nothing which we can do can cause God to love us more. And nothing which we can do or have done can make God love us any less. The Lord has a perfect love for us which cannot fail. His love is part of His character. It is what makes God, God. If His love could be diminished, He would cease to be God.
In a world of shifting values and uncertain alliances between people, we can say that we have a foundation on which we can rely totally. He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Our Unchanging God
The question is, who or what are you placing your trust in for this life? Is it wealth? Is it other people? Or maybe it's your possessions. Or it may be that you are trusting simply in your own limited human potential. No matter what it is, if it isn't the unchanging God, then you're building your foundation on shifting sand and not a solid rock. And trust in something other than the promises of Christ for salvation will lead to eternal destruction and separation from God.
No one else is as reliable as the God who never changes. As we have alluded to before, even the most faithful companion or friend cannot say that they will be there for you your whole life. People get old and sick and death is inevitable for us all. And many people make promises to us and later change their minds about fulfilling them.
Only God is totally reliable and doesn't change. He can be trusted for your whole life and into eternity. The Lord has made many promises to us about eternal life and a home with him forever. We can rely on those promises as if they have already come to pass because He will not reverse His decisions or His decrees concerning those who place their trust in Him.
Let us all remain faithful to the one who will always be faithful to us. Our God truly is our Middle C. He is our Holy, Loving, Righteous, Never Changing Lord! He alone deserves our total honor and allegiance!!
© 2012 Jeff Shirley