I have often mused, mostly to myself at least, about the subject of God with regards to his approach to matters of tactics and strategy. One of the supposed weaknesses of God alluded to in 1 Corinthians 1 is that as He has committed Himself to certain courses of action that are without a variation or shadow of turning–such as an absolute refusal to engage in falsehood (see Titus 1:2)–necessarily implies a certain inflexibility in the approach to God in certain areas. Our retired pastor gave a Bible Study about this very subject last night and I thought it would be a worthwhile subject to discuss here as a way of pondering how it is that God operates and where He shows immense flexibility to go along with His inflexibility in ways that were not directly brought up in the Bible study itself.
Let us ponder first that in the realm of tactics that God has a high degree of inflexibility in ways that people would want Him to be more flexible. God refuses to engage in lies or to compromise on His standards, and that prevents certain approaches to dealing with the problems of the redemption of sinful man. It is also true that God is of inflexible ends, in that He has chosen to go about accomplishing certain tasks and is resolute in so doing, and that these plans and goals have been in process for eternity and extend into eternity yet to come. We only know these plans and goals to a very slight degree insofar as they involve ourselves, and not even completely there. Where there is considerable flexibility, though, is in the realm of operations, or how those plans are to be completed. God cannot lie, but a lying spirit (presumably a demon who has some degree of loyalty to God) can lie on His behalf to someone like Saul or Ahab who has been appointed to judgment to accomplish His will. The Word as God is all-powerful and all-glorious, but He can come to earth as an infant and grow up as a physically unremarkable human having emptied Himself of His divine dignity for a time in order to accomplish the will of the Father. Again, the will of bringing mankind to salvation and accomplishing His will remains constant, but how this brought to pass can vary considerably. The speaker admirably discussed this matter with regards to issues of the tabernacle, temple, and church, and no further commentary about that is necessary here.
It is also to be noted that God possess a great deal of flexibility when it comes to matters of logistics and diplomacy, although in the latter the flexibility is a great deal more restrained by God’s refusal to betray His promises. This sort of diplomatic inflexibility in that God will not go back on His promises may at first appear as a disadvantage, but it is a great advantage in demonstrating God’s loyalty and the confidence we can place in His trustworthiness to fulfill that which He has promised to do. Yet even here there is a great deal of flexibility in that outsiders can find themselves attached to His promises long after the fact, through the reality that those who obey God and commit themselves to following His ways (people like Ruth, Obed-Edom, the Kenite Rechabites descended from Jonadab, Gentile converts in the New Testament and so on) find themselves given a new identity as Israelites and citizens of the Jerusalem that is and that is to come. Similarly, even the presence of a righteous remnant of those descended from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, and others to whom promises have been given allows those promises to be fulfilled even if the unrighteous majority must be punished and disciplined for flagrant and unrepentant sins thanks to God’s inflexible moral code. (This is true even though God desires for all to repent and escape that condemnation and judgement.) When it comes to God’s total flexibility in logistics, God can do whatever He wants in terms of providing miracles and in creating and distributing resources, as is amply demonstrated by scripture, and so logistical difficulties to human beings are irrelevant to what God can accomplish if He so chooses. If he can provide manna, separate rivers and seas and make them dry land, turn water into wine, heal illnesses, slay armies single-handedly, provide for tax payments from the mouth of a fish, multiply loaves and fishes to feed large crowds and provide leftovers to the disciples, or any other number of miracles, such matters are easily managed by God.
What is the point of this sort of discussion? Why does it matter that we ponder on how God is flexible and how He is inflexible? It matters a great deal. If we are believers in God, it matters a lot to know that God is inflexible as to His own living according to an inflexibly righteous character and that He demands the same sort of righteousness from us. It matters that He is inflexible in where He is going and what plans He has for us, that we can depend on and that we can rely on. It also matters, though, that He is very flexible about how He is going to help us to reach His kingdom and His righteousness. The institutions of mankind that serve God’s ends are mere tools in His hand that can be used or discarded based on their own usefulness to Him. God can have family patriarchs and firstborn sons serve as His representatives on earth. He can have leaders of villages and tribes and families of priests and Levites. He can have judges and kings. He can have prophets and ministers and apostles. He can work through nations or through righteous minorities who serve heathen rulers. He can work through tabernacles or temples or churches, which can be built up through righteous leaders and cast aside to destruction under ungodly leaders. How God builds us up as His children is entirely flexible, and any institution can be useful to that end or rejected as useless when it is corrupted by the evil one and replaced by something else. God will not abandon those whom He has chosen who have accepted His calling and committed themselves to living according to His unchanging ways. It is everything else that remains in flux.
This is an exceptional blog. “For I am the LORD. I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). His inflexibility arises from His perfection and life-inherency, but He wisely created us from soil “after His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26-27). Our physical essence–dirt–is tangible but God’s is not. He also created our minds with the ability to make decisions and choices for ourselves. God’s perfection is absolute and His plan is inviolate, but man has–and often does–change his mind. But it works to God’s will, because His timing is also perfect and He will not be thwarted.
Yes, our ability to change does not thwart the will of God, and the changes that God makes are not changes of his character or goals but merely how he choose to address the flawed nature of humanity.