Some have said that the only constant is change. We experience this to be true in our own bodies, where we are continually aging, growing, maturing, expanding or contracting, strengthening or weakening, throughout our entire lives. Certain periods in history seem to be (from our perspective looking back) fairly static, without much change. While change may be more rapid today than in the past, it is not new. God built life with change as its core. Organisms change and grow. Seasons change to advance the cycle of life. Weather changes. Even the rocks and hills change – usually slowly, but then suddenly and violently. Change is neither good nor bad, it simply is.
One tennant of orthodox Christianity has been that God does not change. Some of the texts thought to support this include:
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie. He is not a human, that he should change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
1 Samuel 15:29 – “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.”
Jeremiah 26:13 Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you.
Malachi 3:6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Hebrews 6:17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given us both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to his promise with confidence.
James 1:17 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.
Psalm 106:45 And the LORD remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.
Psalm 135:14 For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.
Jonah 3:9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 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.
While in His divine nature God does not change, and while God’s ultimate and final overarching plan remains constant, God does indeed make adjustments along the way – developing, enhancing, transforming the means of accomplishing His purposes. Within that broader plan, God even changes the divine mind from one course of action to another, as the text from Jonah suggests.
Jesus embraced the Law of God given to His people through the lens of God’s unfailing love, setting aside His own wants and His own rights in order that the World might know. The Law had not changed, nor had God’s will changed. God’s application of the Law changed with the advent, the birth of incarnational love into the world, beginning with Jesus, and continuing with the church through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews elaborates on this shift in God’s plan from the covenant of Law to the covenant of Love: 11 And finally, if the priesthood of Levi could have achieved God’s purposes and it was that priesthood on which the law was based why did God need to send a different priest from the line of Melchizedek, instead of from the line of Levi and Aaron? 12 And when the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it. 13 For the one we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members do not serve at the altar. 14 What I mean is, our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never mentioned Judah in connection with the priesthood. 15 The change in God’s law is even more evident from the fact that a different priest, who is like Melchizedek, has now come. 16 He became a priest, not by meeting the old requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. 17 And the psalmist pointed this out when he said of Christ, “You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.” 18 Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, and now a better hope has taken its place. And that is how we draw near to God. 20 God took an oath that Christ would always be a priest, but he never did this for any other priest. 21 Only to Jesus did he say, “The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: ‘You are a priest forever.'” 22 Because of God’s oath, it is Jesus who guarantees the effectiveness of this better covenant. 23 Another difference is that there were many priests under the old system. When one priest died, another had to take his place. 24 But Jesus remains a priest forever; his priesthood will never end. 25 Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him. He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf. 26 He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has now been set apart from sinners, and he has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. 27 He does not need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he sacrificed himself on the cross. 28 Those who were high priests under the law of Moses were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:11-28)