Some time ago I wrote a post, one that has been among my most popular (and one that has even ended up being linked on sites like Conservapedia) that discusses the implications of a familiar passage in James 1:17 that there is no variation or shadow of turning with God . It should be noted, though, that there are a quite a few verse in the Bible that speak to the unchanging nature of God and Jesus Christ. Today I would like to comment on a few more of these verses and some of the implications of this unchangability, as it is one of the more unpopular aspects of genuine Christianity in our present age. And let us not be deterred from being unpopular; there are many good reasons to be out of step with contemporary trends, for someone who is godly will always be out of step with the fashionable vices of any generation and society.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us the following: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Malachi 3:6 tells us a similar thing: ““For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” Psalm 15 makes this lack of change a quality of the godly man who shall inherit eternal life: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change; he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.” Even Numbers 23:19 tells us: ““God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” And what is repentance but changing one’s direction?
All of this suggests that the lack of change on the part of God is a part of His nature–and a part of Jesus Christ’s nature–that the Bible looks at as entirely a good thing. It is the lack of change inherent in the nature of God and in the character of God’s dealings with mankind that allows for our safety. Sinful Israel’s safety from absolute destruction, after all, was obtained not through their own righteousness but rather through God’s faithfulness to the promises made to Israel’s righteous ancestors. We would do well to reflect on the fact that our own well-being, and perhaps even our survival, depend on the same considerations. A proper understanding that we are in the same position relative to God as was ancient Israel during its more embarrassing escapades like that of the Golden Calf or that of the many incidents of rebellion and murmuring during the course of the wilderness experience, or during one of the cycles of disobedience where the godly example of a previous generation had been forgotten might serve to encourage in us a proper attitude of repentance for our sins as well as a sense of gratitude that we are not being punished for our sins as we deserve.
Yet we do not tend to reflect on the unchanging nature of God and of His behavior towards mankind with the sanguine attitude in which the Bible views it. Indeed, much of the time fashionable Christianity is in denial about the lack of change in God’s nature and in His standards for humanity. While our age is certainly no friend to the unchanging nature of God’s moral law, we can sometimes blind ourselves to the recognition that other aspects of God’s unchanging nature have been just as unpopular in other ages. Many ages of human history, and many contemporary societies, would find just as unpopular the understanding that God holds no truck with the various human claims that some part of humanity is superior by nature to other parts of humanity and worthy of honor while the dignity of others created in the image and likeness of God is to be held of no account. No human society has ever conformed itself to the whole ways of God, and we cannot expect any to do so until the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom, something which not all people look forward to with any degree of fondness.
Yesterday while I was at church I had a conversation with our pastor’s wife, and she commented that one of the kiddos in the highest level of Sabbath School had commented that it seemed unfair that God should have judged the Egyptians for holding the people of Israel in slavery and that it should have been sufficient to set Israel free. Yet there are two unchanging aspects about God’s nature that we must keep in mind, and the tension between the two provides a great deal to reflect upon. On the one hand, there is the unchanging nature of God’s love for us, something that many people like to think about, but something that can be far from our attention during moments and times of trial and tribulation and evil. On the other hand, there is the unchanging nature of God’s hatred against evil, and the reality of God’s future and (occasionally) even present judgment against it, something that can be far from our attention when we are the recipients of God’s unearned grace. To the extent that we receive blessings now, we do not wish to put our attention on the fear of future judgment, and to the extent that we suffer the evils of this present world, we long for justice to be exercised against those who have committed evil against us, and may not be quick to recognize that we ourselves are in need of mercy for our survival even as is the case for our enemies. The unchanging nature of God’s love for us as well as His fierce justice are not matters that are easy to understand or emulate, nor are they very popular in this or any age. For who can sleep easily in his (or her bed) knowing that God is just and that His justice does not sleep forever? And who can feel sanguine about having loved others as God has loved us?