God Changes His Mind?

I think scholars refer to something like “God changes His Mind” as anthropomorphic. In her comment to yesterday’s post, Andrea described immutable God by comparing Him to the sun, pointing out that our perspective is something other that what is actual.

In that vein, Bible scholars are saying that the language of the Bible refers to what we see, not what God actually does. Hence, from our perspective God changes His mind.

It’s hard to argue against that because God knows the end from the beginning and is sovereign over the affairs of men.

And yet, clearly He gives humans some measure of control in our world and over our lives.

For example, He told King Hezekiah he would die from an illness. Not wanting to die, the king prayed, and God immediately sent the same prophet who just said, Prepare to die, back to him to say God heard his prayer and would heal him.

Before that, this same Hezekiah prayed about the enemy laying siege to Jerusalem, and again God responded by saying “Because you have prayed to Me … I have heard you.”

When young King Josiah found the Book of the Law and realized how the nation of Judah had strayed from God, he repented. God responded by saying that He would indeed bring all the curses about but because

“your [Josiah’s] heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the Lord. “Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, neither shall your eyes see all the evil which I will bring on this place.”

The Bible is full of such instances. God clearly wants Man to be in relation with Him and He responds to us. James says, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. The implication is that the opposite is also true. So a Christian (because that’s who James is addressing) plays an initiating role in our relationship with God.

In Genesis, Joseph said an interesting thing to Pharaoh after he interpreted his dream:

Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God …

Which suggests that some things God said through His prophets weren’t “determined.” Like Hezekiah dying or like God wiping out the Ninevites even though he sent Jonah to tell them that’s what He was going to do.

But that brings me back to the thing that troubles me about Balaam’s story.

In a comment to yesterday’s post, Dana described well Balaam’s first mistake—not taking God at His word but toying with trouble and going back to see “what else” God would say when he already knew what God had said.

My problem is that God told Balaam that second time to go, then sent an angel to kill him for going. Of course, as I pointed out yesterday, He also opened the eyes, and eventually the mouth, of the donkey to spare Balaam’s life, but why did He give him the OK to go?

Was He giving Balaam enough rope to hang himself? And if so, and Balaam had already determined to help the Moabite king regardless of what God said, then why did God wait? Because Balaam did die. When Israel defeated the Moabite king and his allies, they also killed Balaam.

I think this is where we have to say, God is God and there are things He does that I don’t understand. And He doesn’t owe me an explanation.

But the more I think about the story and read references to it from other parts of Scripture, the more I see God’s long suffering at work.

He gave Balaam a direct command, then words of blessing to say and opportunity after opportunity, reminder after reminder, to speak only what He told him to speak.

At some point, or more likely, at several points, Balaam decided to go his own way instead. To his own destruction.

Published in: on October 1, 2009 at 10:53 am  Comments (5)  
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