Arminian Today

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So the Lord Changed His Mind (Exodus 32:14)

One of the precious doctrines of the faith is the immutability of God.  This doctrine teaches us that God does not change.  In other words, God does not change like we humans do.  He is not “learning” nor is His character based on what happens around Him.  God is loving and good no matter what.  God is long-suffering toward us.  This is all true because of the nature of God and the fact that He does not change (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 12:29).  God’s will does not change because His will is based on who He is (Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 46:10).

The positive of this doctrine is that God is not a man.  He is not one day happy with me and the next day He is angry toward me.  God doesn’t hear my prayers today but He ignores me tomorrow.  Because of the nature of God and what He has done regarding our salvation, the Lord will not cast us away tomorrow because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  Our adoption as children of God comes through Christ Jesus and His eternal work (Hebrews 9:14).  The Lord does not cast us aside because He has said that all who come to Him He would not cast away (John 6:37).  The promises of God are sure because of the nature of God and the fact that He is immutable.

That said, I don’t fully grasp God.  I am thankful for that.  I have often said that cults have their god figured out.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses can explain their god.  Why?  Because their god is made in their image.  Their god is a false god.  Our God, the true and living God, is a mystery to me in many ways.  The Bible does not fully reveal God.  The Bible reveals enough about God to save us (John 20:31) but even John records about the Lord Jesus that not everything about Him was written down (John 21:25).  Enough of Jesus was written down to save us but the biblical record is not revealing all about Jesus.  It never could.

God is beyond our logic and understanding.  His ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).  There is much about the Lord that I don’t fully understand.  How can I?  He is absolutely holy but I am sinful.  My sinfulness gets in the way of my thinking about God.  I tend to view God through my own limitedness.  I view God through my sinfulness.  The biblical record often confronts my sins, my views of God, and my understanding of Him.  Whenever I tend to think I have God figured out, the Lord will open His Word to me and show me more about Himself that counters my flesh.

One area of God I have no true understanding about is prayer.  In Exodus 32 we read the account of Moses interceding for Israel after their rebellion against the Lord through the golden cafe (Exodus 32:6).  The Lord says that He is going to wipe them out for their sins and He will raise up a new nation through Moses (Exodus 32:9-10).  Moses goes to praying in Exodus 32:11 and he prays according to the promise that God has given through His servants (Exodus 32:13).  Interestingly Moses appeals to the unchangeable nature of God in that He had promised to bless His people through Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.  I also point out that Moses uses Israel in verse 13 rather than Jacob.  The Lord Himself had changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  Moses uses the name of Israel to remind the Lord that He is faithful to keep His promises as He is a covenant keeping God.

Then we come to Exodus 32:14.  The Lord changed His mind.  This is the New American Standard.  The ESV uses “relents” while the KJV uses “repents.”  I find it amazing that the Lord changed His mind.  The immutable God changed His mind.  Some suppose that God did not really change His mind but instead this is anthropomorphic language to describe God.  They suppose that God allows the biblical writers to use human language to describe Him who is not human.  How can God change His mind?  How can the Lord who knows all things from beginning to end change His mind?  Is He not an eternal God who dwells outside of time?

Yet the clear reading of Exodus 32:14 is that God is moved by the prayer of Moses.  Can prayer really change God’s mind?  The divine determinism view of prayer is that prayer is really God working through means to accomplish His will that He has determined beforehand to accomplish.  In other words, prayer is not able to move the heart of God.  The divine determinist view is that God has fixed what He will do and He even determines the praying of the saints to accomplish His will.  Yet when we read Exodus 32:11-14 and we read the prayer of Moses here I don’t see  the divine determinism coming into play.

God has said that He will answer prayer.  We are to pray according to His will (1 John 5:14-15) but He has said that He will answer prayer (Jeremiah 29:13; 33:3).  Jesus taught us to pray because God knows beforehand what we need (Matthew 6:8) and He hears our prayers and responds.  I find nothing in Scripture to suggest that prayer is just a religious ritual.  I see in the Bible the promise of God that He hears our prayers and He responds.

The example of Moses here shows that God allows us by His grace to be co-workers with Him in accomplishing His will.  No doubt God could do whatever He desires.  If God wanted to save everyone He could.  If God wanted to damn all He could.  If God wanted to save sinners without the preaching of the Word or the prayers of the saints, He could.  Yet God has fixed certain conditions that if we meet them, God works through His Church to do His will.  For example, the will of God is to save sinners.  This is the will of God (1 Timothy 2:3-4) but He will only save those who come to Him in faith (Romans 4:5).  The Lord could have sent Jesus to die for all sinners and that one sacrifice could have atoned for all sin and that would end that but God has made faith part of His plan of salvation (John 3:16, 36).  We have to have faith in Jesus to be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:9 that he was a co-worker with God for His Church.  Paul could not save anyone nor could he build the Church apart from the grace of God.  The Lord worked through Paul to save sinners (Acts 16:14-15).  Paul preached the gospel and the Lord was faithful to add people to His Church (Acts 2:47; Romans 1:16-17).

In a sense, prayer is our working with God.  Intercessory prayer is how God has allowed His children to co-work with Him in this world.  The Lord heard the prayers of Moses and He changed His mind.  That is mind-blowing in of itself.

In Ezekiel 22:30-31 we read these sad words (NKJV):

30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.

The Lord has said that He would heed the prayers of the intercessor.  That is mind-blowing theology.  Yet because none was found, the Lord said He is sending judgment.  Not so with Moses in Exodus 32.  Moses stood in the gap and he prayed for Israel and the Lord changed His mind.

Only when sin has reached its limit will God not hear the prayers of His saints (Jeremiah 15:1; Ezekiel 14:14, 16).  If God has determined the judgment of God because of sin, the prayers of the saints will not change the mind of God.

Prayer is a mystery.  God uses the prayers of the saints to do His work.  He has called us to prayer (Matthew 9:38).  The Church is strongest when she is on her knees.  Leonard Ravenhill wrote:

“No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.”

If God has said that He would hear our prayers and He would answer our prayers, how can we not pray?  How can we waste time with this world when God has called us to co-work with Him through prayer?  Imagine Exodus 32 if Moses had not prayed.  God no doubt uses the prayers of the saints to do His work but we need people who will be like Moses and stand in the gap for the world.  The world is dying and going to hell yet the Lord has called His people to pray for sinners (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  The prayers of the saints rises before the throne of God like sweet-smelling incense (Revelation 5:8).

My longing is to pray.  I want to stand in the gap for sinners.  I want to pray for the Lord to do great things in this world for His glory and honor.  I want to be an intercessory for the glory of God.  I may never be known in this world and I’m okay with that but I want to be known by the Lord.  I want to stand up before His holy throne and cry out to Him and know that He hears my prayers and He answers according to His will (Mark 11:22-24).  There is power in prayer because there is power in the Lord.  This leads my heart to cry out (Luke 18:1).

Oh let me pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)!

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/15/2015 at 9:00 PM

3 Responses

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  1. Another interesting example of “God changing His mind” can be found in Jeremiah 18 in the example of the potter and the clay – an illustration that is often used to support the idea of God’s sovereignty and His alleged unilateral, unbending decision-making about the fate of individuals (taking Romans 9:21 taken out of context).

    However that misguided view of the Potter and clay is in complete contradiction to what Jeremiah reveals.

    “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

    Here God reveals that He is willing to change His planned actions according to the decisions of man. God’s intention to destroy those committing evil acts can be changed and mercy shown if they turn away from evil. Likewise those chosen for blessing can lose that intended blessing if they turn to evil.

    Onesimus

    11/15/2015 at 9:31 PM

  2. God is immutable as to His character. Immutability as to the inability to react, respond, offer alternatives is more Koranic than Biblical.

    Richard Lawson

    11/16/2015 at 1:00 PM

  3. Only a determinist needs to see immutability as incapable of reaction. Those who believe in freewill, which entails choice, can attribute it to both God and man, and wonder what all the fuss is about.

    stephenwinters

    11/17/2015 at 8:30 AM


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